Many founders of cohousing communities know that like most construction projects it takes longer and costs more than originally projected. So, many future homeowners find themselves without a home as they sell their house and wait for the one in cohousing to finish. It is not pleasant, but it happens a lot. Many families stayed with friends and they thought it would only be a month or two. However, torrential rains set our construction back and many spent almost a year living with friends. It could be as roommates, or a basement apartment.
Many cohousing communities build an immaculate common house. I was happy that we would save money by converting the original farm house into our common house. Yet, more than one homeowner had to live in the common house before their house was ready – and again, more months than they expected. Old farmhouses look cute but they also come with chimneys (and outside air coming in and warm air escaping in the winter), old furnaces, critters that scavenge for food you have left around (mice) or warmth underneath the house (groundhogs). Let’s just say, those that lived there now understand all the repairs needed. They also didn’t like that their house was common – common meals, meetings, loud kids running around. Being in limbo is never fun but it seems worse in a house for the whole community.
Others take big sacrifices – up and moving across the country. Living in small apartments renting while still paying the mortgage back home as well as investing in a new construction house in the cohousing land. For me, I qualified for a first time home owners loan and a local program which even gives you the down payment. I had been waiting for over 8 years for cohousing to get started in my town but that one is still glacially slow so I looked into this one that was about to break ground, in another county. The assistance program had a catch – you had to live in the county six months ahead of buying the affordable house.
My cohousing sacrifice was trying to find an apartment in this desirable town. Plus, I may had to sign a year long lease and overlap with my house being ready and pay a mortgage. I started looking in November and luckily found a place that it looks like the renter didn’t care about breaking the lease and escaping. I got the lease until end of May. It was one bedroom which is tough for me and my two sons. It was also cost the same as my mortgage would which is way more than rent in my previous town.
In May I had to sign a year long lease or gamble that my house would be ready that month like promised. I knew it would be delayed but I didn’t want to sign a year lease so I moved out and put everything in storage (another cohousing thing – most of us used that same storage for all our stuff as we stayed somewhere temporarily).
The gamble paid off. My house was ready in mid-August. I ended up not qualifying for everything in that program for a loan so it didn’t matter where I stayed (back in my original town).
Now I think of second generation. The people who want to buy a house and just turn the key. They don’t know what the first time homeowners had to go through to build and take ownership of that house in cohousing. For me, I”m trying to work with someone who wants to live in cohousing but wants to try it out first. I”m willing to give them that chance and rent a bit but they are getting worried of the price of the sacrifice – paying rent and a mortgage plus not sure how long repairs on their house will take and if it’ll sell when they are done.
I should just say – welcome to the world of cohousing!