Guidelines for Visiting A Cohousing Community

Two resources follow:
(1) The Top Ten Guidelines for Visiting A Cohousing Community by Ann Zabaldo, Takoma Village and MidAtlantic Cohousing
(2) Advice to Prospective Coho Visitors by Bob Miller, Wolf Creek Lodge

(1) The Top Ten Guidelines for Visiting A Cohousing Community by Ann Zabaldo, Takoma Village

Are you like me?

When you travel do you love to visit other cohousing communities? I LOVE it!

Cohousers are a friendly bunch and most enjoy showing off their community. Takoma Village is an oft visited community. Not only are we located in a major metropolitan area — Washington, DC — we’re in the Nation’s capital! We are America’s “Hometown!” And we are for all intents … a capital city for the world! Everyone comes to DC.

Hence, we get a lot of visitors.

This has me wondering: is there etiquette for visiting a cohousing community?

One thing I know I dislike is people just dropping by and wandering around until they run into someone to give them a tour. I think we forget that these communities are our homes.

Here are Top 10 Guidelines I’m thinking about when visiting a cohousing community — both for visitors and host communities.

1. If you’re visiting from out of town and think you might like a tour … give the host community a few DAYS — not hours — to identify someone to give you a tour.
3. If you want to stay in the guest room … check well in advance to see how much time a community needs to arrange an overnight stay for you. As heavily used as our guest rooms are four weeks advance notice is minimum to schedule an overnight stay.
4. If you leave a message do leave your full name and contact info. It helps to be able to return a call.
5. Try to remember that each community has a life of its own. The day and hour that’s convenient for you to visit may find the community otherwise engaged: celebrating an important event, in the middle of a serious work day or memorializing someone’s passing.
6. And on the other side of the coin … one of the frustrating things I find about trying to make an appointment in advance is NEVER getting a call back or an answer to an email request. The phone number or email address on your website goes to that great black communication wastebasket. If you are unable to accommodate tours and overnight stays say so diplomatically: Sorry, we are unable to accommodate visitors at this time. Simple, direct and no on gets frustrated. (Especially me!)
7. Make visiting easier by having a team of people who give tours or arrange for guest room stays. This way the work of hosting someone doesn’t fall on just one or two people.
8. Remember how much you liked visiting cohousing communities when your community was getting started? Cohousing is more popular than ever … more and more people are yearning to visit and to learn firsthand what makes a community work well. Promote tours and visits as a regular outreach activity for your community. Scheduling tours on a regular basis will reduce the number of drop ins and the need for individual tours.
9. Build in flexibility. Sometimes folks cannot make a scheduled tour because they are only in town for a short time. With a team of people willing to offer visitors a “walk about” it’s easier to accommodate folks on a schedule.
10. Finally, giving tours to the public and hosting overnight guests can help your community create a list of interested future purchasers for resales. Wouldn’t you rather have someone buying into your community who has at least visited before buying? Use tours and visits to educate folks in advance about living in your cohousing neighborhood.

Here at Takoma Village, we have four HUGE formal tours a year — 30-40 people per tour. Plus always happy to accommodate people … with advance notice!

(2) Advice to Prospective Coho Visitors

Bob Miller, Wolf Creek Lodge

When I lived in a "normal" house total strangers did not call me up and ask to visit. Cohousing is different. This happens all the time at Wolf Creek Lodge, a senior cohousing community in Grass Valley, CA. When we were a brand new community we thought this was kind of fun. We still love to have visitors but decided to include the following thoughts in our recent newsletter.

First of all what category of visitor are you?

  1. You really want to live in cohousing, You have read "The Senior Cohousing Handbook" by Charles Durrett and have studied our website. You believe that Wolf Creek Lodge in the Grass Valley/ Nevada City area may be the right place.You also have the necessary financial resources.
  2. You are enthusiastic about senior cohousing. Your personal circumstances are such that you plan to join a community in a couple of years or so.
  3. You believe that senior cohousing would be great for Mom and/or Dad. You are checking it out for them.
  4. You are a journalist or researcher much aware of the demographic trends. Seniors are becoming an increasing share of the population but society has not adjusted to their living and social needs. There has to be a good story or Ph.D. in there somewhere.
  5. You are planning to form your own cohousing group and need to really understand what works and what does not.
  6. You have been aware of cohousing for sometime. You think it's a neat concept and would like to learn more. You have no intention of actually living in cohousing. You want to visit Wolf Creek Lodge to experience it first hand.

Planning the Visit
If you are really targeting Wolf Creek Lodge (as in 1 above) then contact us and arrange to talk to one of our Marketing Team on the phone. If you are reasonably local we may recommend a first visit to confirm that Wolf Creek Lodge is a good fit and vice versa. You will probably want to return for a common meal and perhaps stay overnight. You may make multiple visits before finally deciding to buy a home. If you are travelling from a distance then we may offer you accommodation in one of our guest rooms. These are available to members' families, friends, members of other cohousing communities and prospects.

If cohousing is in your future (as in 2 above) then contact us. We will plan a visit that is convenient to both you and us. We aim to build a pipeline of interested people who will be there when homes become available, as they all will eventually.

If you are looking to find a place for Mom and/or Dad tell them what you know about us. Remember they taught you all you know. Have them make the visit.

If you find yourself in categories 4, 5 or 6 then be really friendly and accommodating. Make your visit on an Open House day. We have these every month. Let us know ahead of time so we can have plenty of hosts available. Make a point of showing your appreciation for the time we invest in your endeavor. Remember we have lives to live and mountains still to climb.

Your guidelines
Visiting has been a topic of messages on the listserv. I hope your visitors enhance your cohousing experience.