"Cohousing is intrinsically an affordable model: one of its main purposes, outside of a strong sense of community, is limiting resource consumption by sharing resources. The savings in energy, maintenance costs, and food outweigh the apparent up-front costs due to new construction. A survey of 200 cohousing residents showed minimum cost savings of $200 per month per household.
- Charles Durrett, McCamant & Durrett Architects
When most of us look to buy a home, we tend to focus on the cost of the home. Can we afford the mortgage, is it a fair deal considering nearby home prices, and how ideal is the location to access work, shopping and entertainment?
What we think about less often is savings. In a typical neighborhood, there aren't many of these to quantify - and those we do calculate are typically a factor of only our own home. We're the sole party responsible for efficiency.
Cohousing is different and wonderful in this respect. The savings to a cohousing resident come in many forms: monetarily, time-wise and socially. Let's take a look at some of the savings you'll find when living in community:
Common Facilities in Cohousing: far more generous than even upscale condominium developments. In fact, many cohousers don’t look at their home as a mere 1000 sq. ft., but as 5,000 sq. ft., because the common house is so much a part of their day-to-day living - from meals to yoga classes to their child's piano lessons. Your share of the common facilities is at least equivalent to buying an extra bedroom outside of cohousing.
HOA Dues - Savings Power in Numbers: We expect dues to be $300 to $400/mo, depending on the size of your home and how we decide to cover costs. Dues will cover internet connection, maintenance of building exteriors and common facilities, garbage & recycling, property and liability insurance, pool & spa maintenance, community landscaping, fire sprinklers, alarm systems, pest control and reserves for future building maintenance. In addition, depending on how we work it out, gas (hot water and stove) and fast internet may be included.
Energy Efficiency: Our homes will meet the most efficient energy codes in the country. Your home will use much less electricity and gas than older homes. Even with individual air conditioning, we expect your new home to have electric bills of less than $100/month. In addition, homes in Fair Oaks EcoHousing will be solar-ready. Residents can choose to lease or purchase solar for their individual homes.
Less Maintenance: When buying into a new cohousing project, your home will need much less maintenance than an older home requires.
An Extra Set of Eyes: Families tend to cooperate with childcare needs in cohousing, minimizing a family's budget for babysitters.
Aging in Community: In times of need, a cohousing community tends to pull together and help individuals who are recuperating from an accident or illness, making it easier for them to heal at home.
Common Meals: Eating with neighbors provides enormous savings when compared to eating out. Other communities report that often members go home with leftovers for the next day's lunch.
Exercise Savings: Fair Oaks EcoHousing will have a pool, a spa, and a exercise room. Joining a gym for pool access could cost you $50 or more per month, and nearby yoga studios run $50+ per month for membership.
Community Sharing: ONE lawnmower, and a common house tool shed with equipment to use, for example.
Need-it-now Backup: Need a big cooler, a car to borrow, a spare Mac book charger, or a tent for a weekend camp out? In community, one email out to the group will generally get you many options to choose from.
Neighborly Help: Ever been ready to bake a cake and realized you're one stick of butter short, meaning a 20 minute drive to the store? In cohousing, your neighbor will probably have both butter and some baking advice.
Meal Preparation: Common meals are an affordable offering for your family, or an easy social night for yourself. And for those on a tight time budget, eating common dinners can cut down on preparing for nightly, single-family meals. Many communities purchase in bulk, so it's not unreasonable to have a filling dinner for about $6 in the clubhouse.
Play Dates: Less time shuttling kids to play dates.
Hosting Guests: Guests can reserve rooms in the Common House, so you don't have to find them a hotel nearby or rush to clear out your spare bedroom.
A 2011 Survey of Cohousing Communities produced by The Cohousing Research Network reported that 96% of cohousing residents surveyed reported an improved quality of life, and 75% felt their physical health was better than others their age.
"Social isolation is as dangerous to one’s health as smoking. Or, alternatively, socializing is as good for one’s health as regular exercise."
- Jim Lubben, Gerontology and Public Health Professor at Boston College
"It turns out that what really matters [in our overall homeowner happiness] is the extent to which our houses facilitate positive social connections."
- Elizabeth Dunn, director of the Happy Lab at the University of British Columbia
"As is the case with all of our possessions, the more we own, the more they own us. And the more stuff we own, the more mental energy is held hostage by them. The same is absolutely true with our largest, most valuable asset. Buy small and free your mind."
- Joshua Becker, bestselling author of The More of Less
What's the Bottom Line?
"You can't look at a cohousing home through the “cost per square foot” perspective of the conventional real estate world. Creating cohousing communities is a lot like organic farming. We know we can create tastier fruit with a lot of hard work and good organic farming techniques. But is the market willing to pay a little more for that fruit? Can the farmer earn a living with a local organic farm that is ultimately better for the earth? That is a question only the consumer can answer...what are you willing to pay for? Remember, the value of authentic community is priceless..."
- Katie McCamant, CoHousing Solutions