I've lived in several intentional communities and have been one of the creators of two that I've lived in. After recently securing Zendo, I wrote up some tips to a friend who is thinking about starting another Berkeley house, which Nisan pointed out might be valuable to share with the community at large, so here it is guys! These tips apply most to shared rental places, as opposed to bought property, although the stuff about vision applies to pretty much any joint venture that people embark on with shared leadership, such as group housing, event planning, and start-ups. The part about using padmapper.com and acting quickly applies a lot to Berkeley in particular, because the housing market in this city is especially messed up with rent control and thus finding good places is particularly difficult. We found our place over a month in advance of move in, and it was about $200-300 cheaper/room than similar places in the vicinity/class we were looking at that showed up during the same timeframe. Using these techniques is how we got it — I called within an hour of the posting thanks to being on email when I got the padmapper alert, set up an appointment to see the property manager right away, and while I was there in person, another person made her an offer of a downpayment on the spot. I'm pretty certain that its because of my pro-activeness and handing her a big stack of rental agreements and credit reports that we got this place rather than the several other interested parties. Many thanks to Kevin Fischer, Louie Helm, and Eliezer Yudkowsky for helping me with the rental search and acquisition information!
- Arrange meetings with people a week or two in advance over Doodle.com to find dates/times that work for large groups. You might not be able to accomodate everyone even doing that and might need to pick the day that the largest number of people can make it. You can do things like record calls or have people Skype in or do a conference line.
- Get credit reports from everyone. There are services for free reports.
- Download the standard application form and have everyone fill it out, so that you can deliver both credit reports and applications on the spot when you go to check a place out.
- Use padmapper.com to track the areas you're interested in. Contact places asap — good places will go in a single day sometimes.
- Make sure your group has a unified vision about what they want. If one person wants a pretty place, and one person wants a cheap place, they will block each other and you won't ever reach consensus. Not having a unified vision, and not realizing this, is where the majority of would-be co-housing communities fail. If there's something you want people to have as a house culture, make sure thats in agreement too. I personally requested that people be willing to chip in for a maid and hot tub and maintain a paleo 2.0 kitchen, and these things have all been adopted. Vision can include anything from over-arching life goals to never having dishes cluttering the sink. Explore what you really care about and make sure that everyone explicitly agrees to whatever goals are set and that no one is silently dissatisfied.