From scouting to purchasing a site: the process step-by-step

The purpose of this post is to provide a step-by-step overview of the process to purchase a site. It is based on our Governance Document and on additional information that I retrieved from our coach.

I propose to use this post as a wiki, i.e. to make changes in this first post whenever new information comes in or we need to make a correction.

Last update: 24/03/2024

Note: unless specified otherwise, the links in this post are publicly accessible.

1. Scouting

2. Screening of the fiches

  • Objective: provide feedback to the scouters, discard the sites that don’t meet the criteria and identify the most promising sites

  • Useful documents: manual to screen the fiches

  • Overview file of the fiches that have been screened: see Nextcloud > Fiche Factory > Sites

3. Pre-feasibility studies

  • Team Building sends the fiches of the most promising sites to the architects, who make a first assessment. This is why it is important that the screening of the fiches is easy to understand by everybody.

  • Only sites that are known to be for sale can be sent to the architects.

4. Selecting sites for a feasibility study

  • If a site gets a clear “yes” from the architects, Team Building prepares a post, and we do an online vote.

  • A sites passes if it gets 80% of the votes (2 votes per household). Further details are in the feasibility studies voting manual.

  • If a site gets a mixed advice, Team Building will present the site at the next plenary meeting.

  • Documents:

  • Some important notes:

    • The first 10 feasibility studies will be discounted by the architects if we decide to move on with them to build The Reef.

    • Feasibility studies are paid for by the hour, with a maximum of 10 hours. This means that the price of the feasibility studies will be variable.

    • We have enough budget to do up to 20 feasibility studies

    • The biggest mistake we can make is not to send a site for feasibility study that will turn out to be dud, but the other way around: it would be an incredible pity if we would miss out on a good site because we were doubtful about whether it was good enough to send it on for a feasibility study.

5. Presentation of the feasibility studies

  • Feasibility studies are presented by the architects.

  • The sites that have been presented will then be scheduled for a vote at the next plenary meeting, at least 3 weeks later (unless there is pressure from the seller). This means that Full Members have 3 weeks to learn more about the site to inform their vote.

6. Voting on the results of the feasibility studies

  • Each household gets two votes. Only full members can vote; exploring and associate members as well as owners of inclusive units do not take part in this vote.

  • The subject of the vote is the feasibility study: “do you want to participate in the purchase of site X, at the price set out in the study?”

  • A site passes if it gets 70 % of the votes (see our Blueprint).

  • Document: voting manual

  • Voting guidance (from the manual):

Please be aware that voting “no” means that you will leave the Reef should a sufficient number of Reeflings decide to go ahead with the site in question. Vice versa it needs to be clear that a “yes” vote means that you will be counted on: once the negotiators get to a deal, and somebody chickens out, the others will need to pay up for their share.

Finding a site is not an easy process and experience has shown that not many eligible sites come our way – priority should therefore be given to making this cohousing project a success. Only if there is no way you can imagine yourself moving to a certain site should you vote “no”.

  • The guidance from our coach:

    • Only allow “yes” and “no” votes, no abstentions.

    • Because the entire process is already focused on finding a site that meets our criteria (Blueprint with criteria, screening of the fiches, pre-feasibility studies) in theory everybody’s default vote should be “yes”.

    • If there is a “no” vote, it’s important to understand the reasons for this “no”, so that if there is a problem it can be debugged as soon as possible.

  • Some important notes:

    • The voting threshold is rounded off as it is done in mathematics (see numerical example (internal link)).

    • The high threshold to make the purchase decision (i.e. 70%) implies that we can’t afford to accept too many households that want to live in a specific commune. Example: if there are 10 Full Members, and 4 of them each want to live in a different commune (and only that one) it becomes technically impossible to purchase a site.

7. Negotiator

  • See role description: internal link.
  • Person selected on 19/03/2024: Marcel

8. Trying to purchase the site

  • The negotiator contacts the owner and tries to settle a deal (see role description of the negotiators ).

    • If the negotiators manage to convince the owner to sell the site at a price lower than or equal to the price set in the feasibility study, they set everything in motion to purchase the site. Yay! We just purchased a site.

    • If the seller asks a higher price, the issue goes back to the plenary meeting (Full Members), where there will be another 70% vote, either on purchasing the site at a higher price, or on amending the budget (i.e. lowering the price of the works or increasing the price per square meter). This gives the negotiator a mandate to go back to the seller and restart the negotiations.

9. Settling everything with the notary

  • Once a deal has been made, the negotiators hand over all essential information to Team Finance.

  • Team Finance works with the notary to get the compromise signed by our société simple.


Thanks Lee! It makes it all very clear I think!

I’m wondering if this shouldn’t actually be pinned at the top of the edgeryders’ Reef category?
Same for the wiki on scouting (and potentially others like the price calculations when we have worked it out?)

I feel that it would make things much easier to find the most relevant info again, and especially for new people, but not only!

I don’t have strong feelings about this, but my concern would be that we get even more pinned post, and that as a consequence people may not find their way to the ongoing posts.

Can it be an option that I make a dedicated post or document, with links to all the posts that contain essential information?


Everybody can decide for himself what to pin or not I think ?

I understand your concern, indeed!
I think a “mother post” could be helpful for everybody, but at the same time, it’s more work for you, so maybe not the best idea. Happy to let you decide if you feel that it is worth the effort or not!

Ah, I’m not aware of that; how do you do it?
But maybe we are talking about different things? I’m talking of the first few posts that appear when you go to the Reef categorie page (from clicking the hamburger menu on the right upper corner for example)

Well @Sarah I could unpin some posts in my first page but I don’t find the way to pin new ones … :face_with_monocle:

I was planning something along those lines anyway, so if it can wait a little I’d be happy to take care of it.

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Thanks @Lee for updating this! Commenting as per your request :slight_smile:

I think you mixed up pre-feasibility and feasibility in this? And also the step about sending it to the architect shouldn"t be there yet, itmakes it a bit confusing I think.
Shouldn"t it read something like:

4. Selecting candidates for a feasibility study

  • Objective: discard the sites that got a negative result from the pre-feasibility studies and identify the most promising sites (And i would remove: and send them to the architects for a possible feasibility study.)
  • Overview / summary of all the pre-feasibility studies: internal link

@reef-building decided to do that before sending for pre-feasibility

I feel that these are elements to be worked out in the voting helping circle? Is it urgent to write it down already?

We shouldn’t wait to have voted on the first study, but appoint the team in advance. Maybe it doesn’t matter here, but we should keep that in a corner of our heads…

And the numbering got a bit funny :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot @Sarah!

It was a mess :upside_down_face:, thanks for spotting that! I fixed it by just removing that point, which also solved the numbering problem.

You do you, but I think you are going to save us a lot of time if we only look for the owners of pre-feasibility studies that come back with two or three plusses. Can we talk about this?

For me the aim of the helping circle was mostly to focus on procedural issue: how many households are voting, what is the threshold, how do we handle proxies etc.

The points listed here are those that are recommended by the coach, so I would personally prefer to not start from a blank page. Let’s talk?

There’s a bit of a trade-off I think: the longer we wait, the more Full Members we’ll have and so the more candidates we have.

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Just a small remark about this: @reef-building decided to look into sites that don’t seem abandoned before sending them for a pre-feasibility study (contact the company/asbl that seems to occupy the building to discard sites that are definitely not for sale) - to me, this is not equivalent to contacting the owner/entering into negotiations which we would, indeed, only do for sites that receive a positive feedback from the architects during pre-feasibility.

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Thanks for the clarification Sophie.

We can take in his advice but I still think we need to clarify what voting no means and how we deal with it… At least that was one of the aims of the circle for me. But yes, let’s talk :slight_smile:

Ah yes, good thinking…

Ping @reef-governance: I updated the original post (almost completely revised it) as per everything that has changed.

Would you have a moment to see whether everything is reasonably correct?

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Will have a look at it tomorrow :slight_smile:

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Hi @Lee !

The revisions look good :slight_smile:
Just one comment/clarification:

With regard to the subjective variables we discussed recently (safety for women, accessibility for cyclists, liveliness of neighbourhood), I can’t remember where we landed on that. Is it in the 3-week period between presentation of feasibility study and voting that it is the responsibility of Full Members to inform themselves about these types of things?

In the voting manual helping circle, we proposed two additions to the process: a Full Members meeting a week out from the vote to touch base on everyone’s reflections on the site; and a thread created to signal the beginning of the 3-week countdown, with a link to a document to documents if households will be voting in person or via a proxy (and who that is). In my head, we consented to these two things at some point, but I could be wrong, because I can’t find a record of that in any plenary or Full Members meeting minutes.

Tagging @reef-governance - So the first question is if the FM meeting after 2 weeks and the thread are agreed policy? And the second is if either of those things need to be included in the post above, or anywhere else?


Thanks for that @ChrisM!

The first quote that you are mentioning is a bit deceiving because in the line above it says “guidance from our coach”. The reason I left this bullet point in, is that for me the purpose of this post is twofold: 1) get clarity for ourselves, and 2) pass on all the knowledge that we have to anybody who wants to read it. This is why the links to the documents (manuals etc) are almost all publicly accessible.

So I left this bullet point just because I wanted to leave a trace of all the advice that we gathered. For us what matters is the voting manual, which is linked above.

The idea of having a Full Members meeting a week ahead of the vote I didn’t see in the manual. Did I get the wrong copy?

For me it’s not very important for this post to go into this level of detail, but happy to add 1-2 sentences if you like.

No need to make any changes if you’re happy with it. Just wanted to check those things :slight_smile:

I lost track of this a bit. We discussed adding the interim meeting and thread re countdown and ‘presence or proxy’ indication at a plenary, and there were no objections. I think I was waiting to have a Team Governance meeting before adding them to the Voting Manual, but if you, @Sophie_B and @Sarah are all happy for me to do so, I will add them in. I’ll also edit the bit about voting yes, in line with the hand signals proposal. I think that the document is good to go after that, and the title can be changed from proposal to manual…