Last month in our newsletter we talked about how Denver is in the midst of a boom. U.S. News ranked Denver #2 in the 100 best places to live in the US. A report that analyzed employment trends in the nation's 100 largest cities, also ranked Denver second in the nation for job seekers. The local multifamily housing market hasn't hesitated to take advantage of Denver's reputation.
Over 80 new projects were completed in the last 5 years. 25,000 units are currently under construction and will be completed this year with 3,246 new apartments already delivered in the first quarter. In a typical market, that might push vacancies up and drive rents down, however Denver isn't a typical market and properties like Dakota Ridge, a Berkshire Community located in Littleton, CO. know this. Despite increases in inventory, rents are up. In March, metro Denver rental rates were 3.2 percent higher than last year. This exceeds the national average of 2.4 percent. Unincorporated Arapahoe County, Littleton and South Lakewood were among several other areas that saw increases at 5% and more. Given the market, existing projects need to look at ways to compete and hold their market share. And that's exactly what Dakota Ridge, a Berkshire Community located in Littleton CO, has done.
Stonebridge Builders has been fortunate to work with Berkshire Communities on several multifamily renovation and rehab projects. Their current project, the ongoing renovation of 480 units at Dakota Ridge, is a true partnership, with top to bottom oversight from Stonebridge and consistent timely feedback from Dakota Ridge. Property manager, Kelsey Carter explained that in order to justify rent increases, maintain their share of the market and compete with other complexes, they needed to update the look and feel of their units as well as improve function and efficiency. Based on market research, Dakota Ridge was anticipating adding an average rent premium of $65 - $225 based on the number of bedrooms in the unit. With the project a third of the way complete, a premium has been added to the rent for renovated apartments, however it exceeds their projections by as much as 37% in some cases.
Dakota Ridge deliberately chose specific upgrades based on industry and market trends as well as feedback from residents and prospects. Certain upgrades were selected more for aesthetic purpose. For example, outdated bar level counter tops were replaced with single level surfaces to align with more desirable current kitchen design features. Other upgrades were chosen for improved function, durability and reduced maintenance long term, in addition to appearance. Vinyl blinds were replaced with 2-inch wood blinds. According to Carter, resident misuse has a greater impact on vinyl blinds and from the outside looking in aged vinyl blinds give a dated, unpolished look and feel. Replacing them with wood reduces maintenance costs, extends the life of the product and provides a more cohesive appearance between the interior and exterior. In first floor units, plank hardwood flooring was installed to replace carpet and vinyl. According to a survey done by Multifamily Executive's Concept Community, the current renter wants hardwood flooring over carpet and they are willing to pay extra for it. Aware of this trend, Dakota Ridge believed they could achieve an additional rent premium of $15-40 for first floor units with plank hardwood over second and third floor units where it is not yet an option. Given market conditions, on average they were actually able to achieve premiums 40-75% higher than projected.
Choosing the right builder is one of the most critical components when undergoing a major renovation project. Berkshire Communities chose Stonebridge Builders for the Dakota Ridge rehabilitation project based on a long standing relationship and proven track record of success on previous projects. About Stonebridge, Carter says that the main thing that sets them apart from other builders is how they handle situations with unexpected outcomes. Even with a perfect plan, things can still go awry. She explains, "Stonebridge works to make things right rather than placing blame where things went wrong. They are solution focused versus situation focused. Stonebridge's attitude is, it doesn't matter how it happened or who's fault it is, it's about how are we going to make it right."
Stonebridge's President and CEO, Chris Tolar, says, "Our client relationships are equally as important as the quality of our work. Communication is paramount to the success of any project and we make that our number one priority from our first contact with the client, throughout construction and long after the completion of the project. That's how we do business."
As an industry expert and leader, Stonebridge is the natural choice for any multifamily community or apartment renovation and rehabilitation. Contact us for industry insights, planning and execution of your next project.
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