by Joani Blank, Swan's Market Cohousing
Perhaps your cohousing community is located in reasonable proximity to others, so that a multi community tour would be feasible. But wherever your community is located (close to or far from other communities) you will undoubtedly want to welcome visitors from time to time even during a period when you do not have one or more units for sale or rent. Here are some guidelines for setting up a visiting program that is welcoming and informative for your visitors while having minimal or no negative impact on your fellow residents.
Prepare a fact sheet for your community with a simplified site plan printed on the back and have copies of it available at all times in the common house. If you wish to use the association's template, please tours [at] cohousing [dot] org (request one).
Some communities will choose to schedule regular monthly or bi-monthly visiting or tour days. Two hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon seems to work best and is the easiest to "staff."
Send notices of your community's ongoing tour or open house schedule to Coho/US on this form for publication on the cohousing.org website. Be sure to include time, date and contact info, including name, email address and phone number.
Place one person in charge of visitor management or organize a committee of several members who enjoy hosting visitors. Communicate with each other from time to time about visitors who are coming through and whether you feel you are being responsive.
Notify your community by email or on a bulletin board whenever you schedule a group of more than two or three visitors, especially if you don't have regularly scheduled tours or visiting days. For a large group, you should plan well in advance to avoid conflicts.
Grab a cohousing toddler and take him or her with you and your visitors on a walk around your neighborhood.
Regularly update your listing on the Community Directory on our website and include the name, email and phone number of the contact person. This individual should be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about cohousing. We recommend rotating the contact person to avoid burnout, and to provide a variety of different perspectives on the community over time.
From time to time, invite a guest to stay for a common dinner or to sleep in your guest room for a night or two.
Share what you know about the cohousing movement in North America. Show your visitors a copy of the book Cohousing or Creating Cohousing (doesn't every common house have a copy handy?) to visitors and encourage them to subscribe to this online magazine and to utilize the website if they aren't already doing so.
Joani Blank has lived in cohousing since 1992, has visited over 70 of our built communities, and has led or co-led ten Coho/US-sponsored cohousing tours in California
and eight elsewhere in the US. She was formerly the Association's national tours coordinator.