Re: Property Managers In Cohousing
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 12:47:59 -0800 (PST)
Cornerstone Cohousing (Cambridge, MA) hired a management company (two different 
ones) for about eight years.  It finally dawned on us that the accounting and 
bookkeeping services were crappy, and all their other offerings were simply not 
being used.  So we learned Quickbooks (no big deal), and took over the full 
responsibility for doing our own chores, finding and hiring contractors, 
keeping the legal docs up to date, and running the annual meeting.  That -- 
plus ditching the "Annual Report" that nobody read, and did not reconcile with 
the accounting anyway -- now saves us more than $11K a year.  With no 
perceptible loss of quality or benefit.

Yes, making even simple decisions can be pretty slow, and some households have 
dropped away from participation in governance because of that.  Sometimes one 
wishes the level of expertise were higher, but our community is convinced that 
people of good will and ordinary intelligence can (eventually) solve almost 
anything.  And like many of our peers, we are aging in place, so rounding up 
enough labor for a day of yardwork is getting iffy.

But on the whole, we still agree: We'd rather do it ourselves.

R Philip Dowds AIA
Cornerstone Cohousing
32 units in Cambridge, MA

Sent from my iPad

On Dec 11, 2012, at 3:17 PM, Holly McNutt <holly.mcnutt [at]> wrote:

> OK, I'll chime in on this one. I AM a property manager by trade, managing a 
> number of single-family homes, condos, and a couple of HOA's.  I am 
> constantly comparing the two very different worlds of regular HOA management 
> and CoHo-style self-management. In terms of where I choose to live, well, 
> that is a no-brainer - you will not find me living in a "regular HOA" any 
> time soon!   I love it that we make our own decisions and deal with all the 
> day-to-day issues ourselves.  BUT it is WORK and it is SLOW.  Being a 
> "get-it-done" kind of gal, it can be frustrating to watch Nyland struggle 
> with small things that a hired mgr (working with a Board of Directors) would 
> just crank through in nothing flat.  We need better lighting in the yoga 
> room?  Great, I run out and buy lights, hire someone to install them, and 
> it's done.  No discussion needed as to how many lights, where to place them, 
> which lights to buy, etc..  In cohousing, as buildings and people age, and 
> community service wanes, 
> I can see where hiring a manager would have some large advantages, but it I 
> think it would need to be a qualified resident who receives decent 
> compensation for this, or an outsider who really wants to take the time to 
> learn about cohousing and its specific needs and practices.  Very clear 
> communication would be super important.  
> Example: An outside manager might walk around and see trees in need of 
> trimming and sick trees in need of removal, hire someone, pay the bill, and 
> be done.  In a CoHo community, this might not go over so well.  "Where is the 
> Russian Olive?!"  a residents might exclaim the next day.  "It was my 
> favorite tree here and I remember when we planted it on my son's 10th 
> birthday. I am devastated!"  You get the picture.  
> An outside manager may, in all honesty, not have the patience to deal with 
> the processes and the amount of community involvement that are so vital in 
> cohousing.  Or it would take a pretty special person.  And it might cost a 
> little more because services that could be provided internally (if 
> volunteerism is sufficient) might be out-sourced. Plus you have to pay the 
> manager.  Then again, property managers are usually pretty well networked 
> with tradespeople and can often save money by knowing who is skilled and the 
> best value. 
> In general, I think if you can go on self-managing, that's the best option. 
> But if things aren't getting done and the place is falling into a state of 
> neglect, hiring a PM could really be advantageous, IF you get the right 
> person.
> - Holly Wilder (new name) at Nyland
> On Dec 11, 2012, at 12:54 PM, Don Benson wrote:
>> Arthur
>> Great question, and wonderful to see it as developers continue to build 
>> marketing efforts directed to seniors for cohousing with little discussion 
>> of the maintenance management and the building and maintaining the fabric of 
>> community (interdependence, social cohesion, social contracts, etc.) that 
>> develop out of self maintenance.  I look forward to learning more.
>> Thank you.
>> Don Benson
>> 503.296.7249
>> It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give 
>> happiness.   (Thomas Jefferson 1788)
>> On Dec 11, 2012, at 11:42 AM, "Art Okner" <renko2828 [at]> wrote:
>>> Is anyone out there in the cohousing world  using  or thinking of using a
>>> "property manager" or any hybrids of a "property manager " we are an aging
>>> community trying to deal with issues of keeping our community maintained and
>>> as we age taking over work that we cannot do.
>>> Arthur Okner
>>> Silver Sage Village
>>> 303 444-1099  
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