Re: participating in community
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2009 10:04:23 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 19, 2009, at 5:53 PM, Kay Wilson Fisk wrote:

- Who does the orienting of renters? Do you have a certain person or
committee to do this?

We have two people who do orientations. One before move in and one after.

We have a person who does occasional group orientations, too. He does them when he has gotten a number of calls from interested people. This way we have a waiting list. When a unit is up for rent or purchase, he emails them.

He also emails the community when someone wants a room to rent, although we have fewer and fewer of those as households grow.

- Is completing orientation a pre-requisite of signing a lease?

Yes but legally we can't require it.

- Is there a participation agreement they sign?

No, but it is included in the packet of information and stressed in interviews and orientations.

With one exception, people who have rented full units have been very involved in the community, so this hasn't been a problem. The one that was a problem rented from a young woman who had not been here long and participated very little herself. And she had purchased from one of our less involved persons as well.

So the message about participation trickles down in the same way it was received. We have a resident who was on the board of a condominium with an experience manager. His experience was that "once a troublesome unit always a troublesome unit." The way this happens is that people sell to people like themselves and communicate their view of the community. We have discovered that it is better to have someone other than the owner do the orientations and to get involved quickly after people move in.

It has also been my experience that other than general market conditions or oddities in the property, units with disorganized sellers are also hard to sell. Some people hire agents without interviewing them or having good recommendations. If they are selling themselves they don't return phone calls, seem confused when communicating vital information, or don't remember when major appliances or HVAC units have been serviced or how old they are. Buyers just give up unless they are really committed to cohousing, and often they don't know enough about it to stick it our. In cases like this, I think communities would be wise to intervene if they can. It would help the community.

In one recent case, the seller never returned phone calls and was totally vague on sales price, etc., but the buyers knew another resident very well so they just waited it out.

We are now going to assign a buddy to new people also so they get a consistent message. Our last move-in contacted me because she was being given contradictory information. Everyone she talked to told her something else. Some of the things she was told, I could understand were just incomplete or old information. Others were things I had never heard of and I've been here since move-in and tend to pay attention to the policies and general flow of things. And some were just the way that person wanted it to be but it had never been that way.

This poor woman was so frustrated, I think I would have moved out before I moved in.

Renters of rooms are much less involved. Another message on that.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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