Should you work with a development adviser?

Duwamish Cohousing (formerly Ciel Cohousing), West Seattle, Seattle, Washington.  Photo by Joe Mabel.

It can be a long and winding road if you go alone!  Duwamish Cohousing (formerly Ciel Cohousing), West Seattle, Seattle, Washington. Photo by Joe Mabel.

It doesn’t have to be LiveWell, but you should work with a professional adviser who can help you navigate questions like this:

  1. How can we secure a site for long enough to perform feasibility and design workshops without taking on large financial risk?  Or even more fundamental, are you sure your contract for the site is enforceable?  Believe it or not, most groups trip on this first step.
  2. How can a group of people who only met each other recently work together effectively?  Contribute and manage money?
  3. How will units be allocated to each group member?  How can this be done fairly?
  4. How can we organize and govern ourselves in a way that allows efficient discussion and decision-making?
  5. How do we balance our desire for group cohesion and unity with the need to make difficult decisions that some people struggle to consent to?
  6. Should we hire and pay people from within the group to provide services to the group (for fee)?  (Answer:  Maybe.  It depends on which role, and type of fee arrangement.)
  7. Can I customize my unit?  Will I have to pay for the customizations on other people’s unit?
  8. How can we balance personal interests of group members with the broader interests of the entire group?
  9. How can we manage people who wish to join the group who may not share our values?
  10. How much cash do we need to contribute, and when will this be required?
  11. If I drop out of the group, can I get my cash back?  How and who will pay it?
  12. What is the overall schedule of workshops, approvals and construction moving forward?
  13. How much financing will be used?
  14. Will a lender provide funding to a group that is not working closely with a development adviser?  If so, will the lender provide less funding (and require higher contributions from members)?  How much equity will lenders require the group contribute?
  15. This will be the largest investment of my life.  Who is looking after my money?
  16. If the project goes over budget, who pays?
  17. How do we set up the group from a legal perspective?  If we incorporate, should it be a not-for-profit society or other type of legal arrangement?  What will be my obligations in this arrangement?
  18. If the group has to figure out all of the above questions (and many more similar questions) then when does this adventure actually become fun?!  How can we build our community interest and passion with so many details to resolve?

Note in the early stages we help organize the group and build trust as well as momentum.  Our efforts are mainly focused on non-real estate matters.  However as momentum grows and a site is secured, the focus quickly becomes ensuring good cash management and avoiding unpleasant surprises.

LiveWell can help with all of the above.  Using templates and lessons learned from other projects.  This streamlines the whole process and moves things forward at a reasonable pace.

This process has reduced the time to complete a cohousing neighborhood from over 5 years to only 2-3 years (historically, it had taken as long as 5-8 years to build a cohousing neighborhood from the time of a group’s first meeting until residents moved into their community).

Most importantly, the group will always lead in the areas that matter – design and funding decisions.  The project is your project and we follow and implement your vision.  Our goal is to save time and money, and reduce risk.