What they do? Process and Relationship Professionals help you build the interpersonal aspect of your community. They will support you as you learn to make decisions using consensus or sociocracy. They will help you make the shift from competitive culture to collaborative culture. They teach communication skills, conflict transformation, and basic relationship skills. A good relationship professional will help you build trust and belonging.
When to hire them? Many cohousing experts believe the first person to hire is a process professional. The more work you do to become skilled in collaborative decision-making before you start trying to make high-stakes decisions, the less painful and more efficient those decisions will be. On the other hand, it’s never too late to get help.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? Yes and no. Cohousing or intentional community experience is ideal. Experience with consensus or collaborative decision-making is essential. Conflict and relationship work is different within a consensus culture than in other environments, so you want to be sure to hire a professional who has that expertise.
Most common mistake communities make: Too little, too late – they focus first on land and buildings and wait too long to get help with relationships.
What they do? Help you in the recruitment of members including setting up web sites, advertising and promotion, setting up a cohousing sales process, organizing a marketing team/committee.
When to hire them? When you need to expand your group to move on a project.
Do they need cohousing experience? Yes and no. The more content they are providing, the more essential cohousing experience will be.
What they do? These are the people you hire to get your buildings built. They guide you in the steps needed to purchase land, prepare a realistic project budget, hire all the other professionals you need, attract members and guide you in following the long process from idea to reality.
When to hire them? Development consultants can give some advice very early on. They become essential as soon as you are considering a piece of land and need a realistic budget. You will need their expertise to determine the feasibility of the land you are looking at given your intentions for your project and available resources.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? Yes. Cohousing experience is essential in this role because cohousing development varies significantly from other types of development.
What they do? They draft the legal documents that allow you to make binding agreements within your group, enter into contracts to do things like buy land and hire contractors, get bank accounts and set up HOA documents.
When to hire them? When you need a legal document. This is usually fairly early on. One indication that it is time for your group to be a legal entity is that members are (or are about to be) contributing non-trivial amounts of money to the project. You may use different attorneys for different tasks.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? No, but it helps. Stay away from professionals who tell you consensus can’t work.
What they do? Most often they loan you money. They may also advise you about how and from whom to borrow money.
When to hire them? When you need money. Likely points include land purchase and start of construction.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? No, but it helps. Financing depends on history to determine the security of a loan. Compared to other types of development, cohousing has less history and is less well known, which can make it hard to convince conventional banking institutions to offer loans. You will need to work with someone who is willing to learn about and engage with a fairly unique project.
What they do? They help you buy land and/or sell units.
When to hire them? The amount of service groups pay for varies widely. You will need a real estate or legal professional to write up sales agreements for buying land and selling units. In addition some communities contract with a real estate professional to guide their land search. Less common, some communities hire real estate professionals to help them sell their units near the end of the project.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? No. Whomever you hire, be sure they take the time to really understand your project. This is particularly important if they are selling your units because they must understand that the buyer is buying community and a way of life more than the sticks and bricks of the unit itself.
What they do? They design the site and buildings on your property. They will also guide you through a group process for making design decisions.
When to hire them? Generally as soon as you have land. It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time so you can hire quickly when the time comes. Some communities bring in an architect to do a design program workshop before purchasing land.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? Yes. It is possible a team that includes both cohousing-experienced architects and local architects who are interested in cohousing. Be sure to have someone with experience design or review your site plan and common house design.
What they do? Developers can have fairly narrow involvement as a financial partner (they back the loan) or broader involvement with construction oversight, contractor selection, etc.
When to hire them? Before you need a construction loan, probably after land is under contract. It is also possible to do without a developer if you have a good development consultant and access to funds.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? No
What they do? They build your buildings.
When to hire them? Sometime between the start of design and the start of construction. Starting a relationship early may help with estimating pricing as you design. Waiting for the design process to be finished will allow the contractor to bid more specifically for your project. Work with your development consultant and architect to decide what is right for your project.
Do they have to have cohousing experience? No.
CohoUS Staff and Jim Leach