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Before Jim and Judy Jorgensen moved from north-central Iowa to North Liberty in July 2020 to be closer to their grandchildren, they researched different housing options, including cooperatives. A traditional housing cooperative consists of a multi-unit development, often with common areas such as a community room, fitness area and an outdoor patio. Unlike renting an apartment or buying a condominium, residents buy shares in the corporation based on the unit’s relative square footage and the size of the entire development. For example, a member in a cooperative with 65 units would own 1/65 of the stock. State law in Iowa requires 80% of a senior living cooperative membership to be 55 or older. The remaining 20% must be at least age 18. When they first moved to North Liberty nearly two years ago, the Jorgensens lived in a rental as they considered their long-term options. They were interested in Vintage Estates, a senior living cooperative in Coralville and Iowa City, each with a three-story building of apartment-style housing. But when they heard about Vintage’s Estates of North Liberty, a new cooperative development that offers individual homes rather than apartments, they quickly signed up. “We really liked the more independent house,” Ms. Jorgensen said. “We like more deck space and the yard.” Construction on the nine-acre North Liberty development located at 175 S. Jones Blvd. began in late 2020. The Jorgensens were among the first to move into their completed home in December 2021. The development will eventually include 30 individual homes and a clubhouse, which is currently under construction. “Since we moved here, there have been three other homes that people moved in,” Ms. Jorgensen said. “When we moved down here, we didn’t know anybody but our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids. That part has been nice — to have a community where we’ve met some great people already. When the clubhouse is done, it will be great to get together to socialize.” Filling up As of the first week in April, only nine of the 30 homes planned in Estates of North Liberty were still available, said Heather Ropp, regional director of Ewing Properties, the developer of Vintage Cooperatives. “As far as we know, we are the first ones to do standalone homes. We are taking the same financial structure that is typically done in a co-op,” she said of the North Liberty development. “This is attracting that younger senior, if you will. Somebody that is an empty nester or is still working and easing into retirement. It’s also really great for those who are snowbirds who want maintenance-free living. We will basically take care of everything inside and outside of the home, except for housekeeping.” Maintenance includes everything from lawn care and snow removal to repairs on the roof, windows, siding and doors. Inside the home, the coop takes care of any appliance, HVAC system, water heater, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing issues. “If somebody has their furnace go out, it’s as simple as letting your community manager or maintenance technician know, and they will get it scheduled to be replaced or repaired at no cost to that member,” Ms. Ropp said. Vacation services are also available at most co-ops. “If you are gone for the winter, I will go in and check your unit and water the plants, make sure your refrigerator is running, that kind of thing. So, when you’re gone, you don’t have any worries,” said Val Steuber, member services manager of Village Cooperative of Cedar Rapids. “It is pretty easy living.” The Jorgensens, who are 71, appreciate the maintenance-free living and the zero-entry single-level home. “A lot of the places around here have stairs, and because of our age, we wanted a place that we didn’t have to deal with stairs anymore. We wanted to downsize; we came from a pretty large house when we moved down here,” Ms. Jorgensen said. “We don’t have to shovel snow; we don’t have to do any maintenance on the house. Now we can spend our time doing whatever we want to do.” Four floor plans are available, with the smallest, 1400 square feet, the most popular. “We can only build so many homes, so we have sold out of our smallest plan, and I know there are some people who are interested only in that small plan,” Ms. Ropp said. “I anticipate the North Liberty community to be sold out within the next three or so months.” The other Vintage Estates co-ops in Johnson County have been “sold out since the day they opened, although units do become available once in a while,’ she added. Iowa City opened in December 2019, and Coralville in July 2017. Village Cooperative of Cedar Rapids, a 65-unit cooperative that has been open since 2014, is also consistently full with a waitlist. Realtor-free While a benefit of cooperative housing is its maintenance-free living, buying and selling shares is also attractive for residents. The developer sets the price upfront, depending on the size of the space, and the appreciation schedule is included in the bylaws, Ms. Ropp said, adding that share value in the North Liberty cooperative appreciates at a rate of one and a half percent. “It’s compounded annual interest on the full share value,” she explained. “The financial model in a co-op is unique in that membership purchases a share at a little more than half the value, so they don’t actually ever pay their full value outright. It really opens up our buying pool; it’s a lower entry point. That’s really good for your future buyers. They are buying it at a low price point, and then you have a nice slow, steady appreciation. The 100% value goes back to the seller or their beneficiaries when they decide to move out.” At Village Cooperative of Cedar Rapids, share value increases 3% every year, Ms. Steuber said. If a member decides to move, they put in a request to sell their share. Current members are contacted first to see if they want to move internally before the board reviews the waitlist. “The resale process is all handled in-house,” Ms. Steuber said. “When somebody wants to move out, they let their community manager know, and that new share price will be what they paid plus what it appreciated over the time they live there. If they chose to do any upgrades or improvements inside their home, we can add that into the new asking price for their share.” While larger alterations have to be approved by the co-op’s board of directors, members can make aesthetic changes to their spaces. “We allow members to make it their home,” Ms. Steuber said. “If people want polka dot walls, they can, but when they move out, they have to return it to the standard.”