Ten Tips on Joining an Existing Cohousing Arrangement

Here’s some targeted advice for people buying into existing cohousing.

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Found a cohousing community you want to join? Here’s how to to find out if this will work for you.

  1. Look at the governing documents, such as the CC&Rs, cohousing agreement, or Community Rules. Look for any restrictions that seem unreasonable to you, such as rules against subletting, painting in particular colors, or having cats.
  2. Find out whether the community has much debt, if there is a reserve fund, and whether there are any lawsuits pending against the community. Also find out whether other people in the shared housing arrangement consistently pay their mortgage and monthly fees on time.
  3. Find out what kind of improvements people want to make on the buildings, what renovations are planned, and so on.
  4. Find out about monthly dues: how much they are, what they cover, how often they rise, and when they are due.
  5. Ask what type of upkeep you are responsible for outside of your own living space or unit.
  6. Ask about the community decision-making process and governance structure. Look out for situations where one person owns a large portion of the property or units in a community; that person might have a great deal of control over decisions.
  7. Explore what kind of financing is available. Will you be able to take over the loan of a departing resident?
  8. Find out whether you are expected to assume a previous owner's debts, such as missed dues payments.
  9. When you buy in, will the property be reassessed or refinanced? If so, will you be solely responsible for paying the increase in costs to the community?
  10. Finally, get to know the residents. Find out how they like living there, what kinds of activities people do together, what types of conflicts have come up and how they were resolved, and so on.

Check out the Cohousing Association of the United States for more information on the subject.

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