Country House Cohousing Opportunity
Cohousing can take many forms, from sharing an existing house to an off grid eco build and everything inbetween. Some of our members have been working through an online course by Jackie Carpenter from Friendship Cohousing (PDF with more info). The course describes creating a countryside cohousing community by using an existing farmhouse as a starting point. The property could be split into flat like ‘units’ to provide privacy, with communal spaces such as kitchen, lounge and coworking office.
Benefits of using an existing property are that it will probably be possible for at least some members to move into the property straight away. Development can then be carried out more easily and more members added as more units become ready. The initial members are also only paying one mortgage instead of paying twice while it’s developed.
One of our members is looking to form such a community near to Nottingham, and this article shows an example of a property that could work. We’re inspired by the Trelay community in Cornwall and the Hockerton Housing Project near Nottingham.
One of the first steps is to decide who, what, where and when. To make life easier for everyone, living with people who share values and agree to a common vision is advised by people who have set up and lived in cohousing communities before.
The member interested in setting up a country cohousing project values open communication, peace and quiet and works from home so would like a coworking area. He’s not keen on small children or noisy dogs, likes things clean and tidy and is interested in off grid living, converting old vehicles to electric and producing large amounts of food to sell, using green tech.
Contrast this with a theoretical group made up of families who’d love lots kids and dogs, want to live in a city and all value a bohemian, free spirited vegan lifestyle. Both groups are equally valid but have very different wants and needs.
The members would also help run the company – taking care of property maintenance, admin and finances.
As Jackie’s course says, a clear vision is vital to attracting the right people initially and avoiding stressful clashes further down the line.
Various types of organisation can be set up to buy and manage the property; charities, community land trusts and limited companies amongst others. Each has pros and cons and a particular group can decide what would work best for them.
In this example, we might think about setting up a limited company to purchase the property. The company then obtains a commercial mortgage (from Ecology or Triodos for example) and manages funds to maintain and improve the structures. Various incomes can also be gained whether that’s offering tours, renting out rooms on AirBnb, growing and selling food or whatever other products and services we can think of.
How do we buy in and out of the project?
As the company organises the mortgage, each member buys into the project with capital and/or a commitment to paying part of the mortgage. We’d all acquire an ‘equity certificate’ with an agreed value, which we can then sell to another incoming member if we decide to move out. Some communities require that new members are approved by the existing members, join the company and agree to a code of behaviour.
A Country Cohousing Example
We’ve used an example from Rightmove to show how we might split up a property into units and see how the numbers stack up.
In this example, the property is around £700k and would require at least 20% deposit. There would also need to be funds to carry out repairs and decoration, plus the conversion work if separate units are required. There appears to be potential for at least 8 units in this property plus one or more caravans or tiny houses in the grounds. Bearing in mind the costs of other flats, this could be excellent value with the location and communal areas taken into account.
There would be a monthly service charge to pay to our cohousing company as well as the mortgage contribution. Other projects seem to charge £100-200 a month for this which includes communal area upkeep, energy and other shared expenses. There would potentially be council tax payable to the council for each unit.
Pros & Cons
We also discussed some pros and cons of this particular property;
- This property has huge potential, as there are two houses plus outbuildings.
- There are big communal areas
- There are 9 bedrooms even before the barns are converted, so could be moved into as is and then worked on from there.
- Enough potential units to make it work cost wise.
- Room to grow food and have ‘tiny houses’ and/or businesses on site.
- Bus links on main road.
- Good location near Nottingham, Derby and East Mids airport
- Needs a lot of renovation
- On a main road, close to East Mids airport & next to a shed building business so noise may be an issue.
- Living in rooms while units are completed might not suit everyone, if that option is taken
- Grade II listed so renovation costs may be higher than usual and options limited
Cohousing in an existing rural property has many benefits including quicker setup than a new build, potentially lower costs and all the other benefits of cohousing and coworking such as social & emotional support and intentional living.
We’re early on in this project and looking for potential members to plan and form a community around the vision described above. This property will no doubt sell soon, but similar places come up for sale regularly from what we’ve seen.
If this sounds like your kind of lifestyle, contact us to register your interest. There will be lots of planning and research to do before we get started. You’ll need some equity to put towards the deposit and building works, as well as a stable source of ongoing income.