experts in making you feel at home
Offering a variety of move-in-ready properties, AvenueWest ‘houses’ the best corporate accommodations
These days, corporate housing is unapologetically blurring the lines between rental and real estate market segments. And whether it’s the new pandemic paradigm increasing the demand for hybrid home/work spaces or a shift in the opportunities identified for profitable investment in real estate, this fluid category of fully furnished (and often serviced) temporary lodging is getting ready to boom as an attractive alternative to extended-stay hotels for executives, with much greater rental and lease flexibility.
“We’re providing them with a more residential feel than a hotel,” remarks Angela Healy, CEO and Co-Owner of AvenueWest, a corporate housing management company specializing in move-in ready, month-to-month rental products. “AvenueWest’s niche is that we’re a franchise of real estate brokerages spread across the country, so we’re not only able to offer service apartments, but also homes, townhomes, condos, and any kind of larger property with more occupancy, maybe a fenced-in yard for the pets, or in a desired school district.”
Although corporations make up their traditional clientele, AvenueWest also sees movement with insurance companies, personal travel, and during that interim period between the sale of a home and the purchase of the next one.
“Maybe it’s an insurance claim where someone’s had a flood or a fire and they’re going to need a property for a longer term,” Healy notes. “It could also be someone building or buying a new home and the home isn’t ready, so they need a transition home. We also see clients in the vein of travelers or individuals who want temporary housing arrangements to suit their work-anywhere lifestyle. The only requirement is that they sign a minimum 30-day lease agreement.”
When vital first responders and medical industry folks were asked to relocate to assist with public health emergencies during the pandemic, AvenueWest was able to offer temporary housing solutions and help reduce public health and emergency response costs.
“There were definitely a lot of protocols that were put in place that shook up the whole corporate housing world in terms of how to prepare those corporate units and houses to be guest-ready,” recalls Brit Bemis, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “And yet, there was actually quite a bit of entertainment business still happening in certain markets. Boston, for instance, never shut down for production companies coming in.”
Another Covid trend deserving honorable mention was that of corporations reaching out to employees who were trying to move out of vulnerable cities “Whether it was for the executives personally, or for their families, we were able to accommodate those employees during that critical time frame,” Healy shares. “The other thing we saw was the companies themselves relocating their headquarters. A lot of folks from California were moving to Arizona, Texas, and Colorado. You saw that inward movement from both coasts, with businesses choosing more suitable areas, to give their employees a better life.”
“Lots of people were also looking for larger homes because their kids were moving back in,” Bemis injects. “They weren’t empty nesters anymore—the whole family was back living under one roof.”
Now, with housing availability and affordability becoming increasingly stretched as part of the long-term impacts of Covid-19, AvenueWest will certainly be a key player in offsetting the issues with tight housing markets, allowing both their corporate-side and property-side clients to reap the benefits of most transformational business shifts stemming from our post-pandemic environment.
“There was a huge housing shortage, especially last summer,” Bemis remembers. “When we started to come out of Covid, the REITs, the large property management companies, there were a lot less of them offering to corporate leases because so many providers had to give back their inventory when Covid hit, and they felt like they got burned when thousands of units got returned to their properties. We’re starting to see these companies be more willing to work with us now. We’re starting to see oil and gas businesses come back, different types of sectors starting to move people.”
“We also had the wording changed in the bylaws, to be able to include our homes, townhomes, and condos as corporate housing,” Healy mentions.
“It really opened some eyes to the industry, that there are other options, besides apartments, for corporate clients. Some smaller companies are doing similar things to us now, so I think it’s catching on, especially with the shortage of inventory Brit talked about, and we’ve had to go out and look for alternative opportunities to find that inventory. But our corporate clients have been asking for it. I don’t want to put an executive and their family, with their two dogs, in a 3-bedroom apartment that’s 1600 square feet. If they’re used to coming home to a much larger space, our goal is to find them a similar product in their new location.”
Being a network of real estate brokerages is what gives AvenueWest its competitive edge when it comes to securing that huge, flexible inventory of precisely these kinds of ‘unicorn’ properties. With offices across the country currently servicing around 150 cities nationwide (and partners that help them accommodate and fill in the rest of the footprint), the firm officially has boots on the ground in every major market.
“It’s so that we can be on top of things like inventory, and the trends in the local areas,” Healy says. “Each one of our offices is a brokerage, so they’re licensed in that state, and some of us are cross-licensed in multiple states. It’s one of those pieces that makes us unique and also lets us do the destination services for our relocating customers. If they need tours of the city to get acclimated, try to figure out the school districts, to purchase a property after the corporate housing lease, we can walk them through it all.”
Each of AvenueWest’s properties is individually owned by an investor, with several of them coming from ‘fix and flip’ situations in which the buyer is stuck holding inventory they can’t sell at the current rates due to the potential for lost profits.
“We’ve stepped in and we’re renting those properties to help bridge the gap between when the market might pick back up, paying for some of the carrying costs to where they can get a better sale price,” Healy explains.
“From a housing shortage perspective, what we’re finding is that people have their primary residence, with a really excellent mortgage at a 3% interest rate, and when they move they don’t want to release it. Maybe they’re planning on coming back to the area eventually, or they’re going to retire there in the future. Or, they just see the market increasing in that area. So, they want to turn it into a rental property instead of selling it.”
“Then there are those who’ve sold their home and are trying to purchase their next property. They need a transitional home while they try to bid to find the right property at the right price. We’ve housed quite a few clients that way. As long as there’s change, change is good for corporate housing. People are moving, people are switching jobs. Whatever it might be, it creates an opportunity for us,” Healy added.
Nothing has slowed AvenueWest down since Healy became CEO in 2017; the company has grown to manage $150 million in residential assets (supporting $10M annually in residential leasing) and ranked 435th on the Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Company list for 2021.
“We’ve actually made the list a total of five times now, but twice consecutively in 2020 and 2021,” Healy proclaims. “So, even though we faced the pandemic with that initial slowdown in the March/April timeframe because we have that 30-day notice in place, people were pretty much ready to start moving their employees once those expired. It was a very temporary dip.”
Creating solutions and making business possible through innovation are special vendors who contribute before, during, and after all leasing transactions. Topping the list for AvenueWest is their high-profile PR firm, Anna Stallmann Communications, and their social media and advertising firm, Hanamedia.
“We’ve really increased our presence from a social media perspective—LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, they’re all additional channels that let us communicate with our particular customer bases, whether it’s our tenants or our property owners,” reports Healy.
“Anna Stallmann has been instrumental in helping us develop the right messaging. Because we’ve got several customer bases in terms of trying to find property owners, trying to find tenants to move into the properties, the corporations that are moving people, we have a lot of different audiences. On top of it, we’re selling franchises, so we have a pretty complicated business. iPoint Technologies handles all of our website development, and when we did a full relaunch of our website, they were a pivotal partner in getting that job done. And, certainly, we’re always looking at the core reservation software that we use, always interviewing different companies, to see who’s got the latest and greatest bells and whistles.”
“Our goal for 2024 would be to double our franchise markets from 15 to 30,” adds Bemis. “With these great partnerships, it’s definitely achievable. AvenueWest is such a unique product, that we’re able to offer our corporate client a variety of services from destination to rental. It’s one-stop shopping. No other corporate housing company does that right now.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A corporate accommodations service offering a wide range of options for its clients
Where: Headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado
CORT – www.cort.com
CORT, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, is the nation’s leading provider of transition services, including furniture rental for home and office, event furnishings, destination services, apartment locating, touring, and other services. CORT makes a house a home, an office a great place to work and an event a memorable celebration.