Aug 1st, 2017
Welcome to the Student Housing Insight podcast. This IS the podcast that connects you to the people who bring student housing to life. What do I mean by "bringing student housing to life?" Well, it's simple really. This niche of the real estate industry that 30 years ago was only defined as landlords who offered individual bedroom leases and disappeared from family and friends for a couple of weeks every August... has now turned into a niche that offers luxuries that few vacation resorts offer and is considered the incubator of ideas and services that conventional multi-family operators must consider in order to stay relevant in the next decade when those students become their customers. This niche has "come to life" especially in the last 10 to 15 years. It's my ambition to introduce you to the people that are making that happen. I'm your host, Wesley Deese, and welcome to our first podcast.
So a little bit of my background. I've been in the student housing industry for 20 years now. I'm not going to run through my resume of how I got into the industry and people I've worked for. That stuff will be discussed in future episodes and you can always check that stuff out at my LinkedIn page. What I do want you to know is that I have literally "GROWN UP" in this industry. I got started when I was in college. I've gone from being a student worker at the site level to spending 8 years with a small merchant developer of student housing to being a COO overseeing an 11,000 bed portfolio spread from California to NY. What you need to understand (and why I feel like I'm qualified to do this podcast) is that my perspective is very unique. I understand the "deal" side of this sector as well as I understand the "operations" side. Most importantly, I understand that MY strength, what I bring to this industry, is the ability to put puzzle pieces together and help make connections to get a deal done or decide quickly if a deal doesn't make sense. So I started my own consulting and business development firm focused on the student housing industry called Providential Student Housing. Now enough about me, let's talk about the podcast.
Simon Sinek is famous for encouraging people to "start with why." It's the best way of understanding a company or organization's reason for existence and helps develop a "true north star" of how to approach situations. So let's start there... why does the student housing industry need a podcast? Let me first say... I believe every company, university, and every student community should be doing a podcast... or a youtube channel. It is one of the best ways to develop helpful content for your customers to consume and understand how they can best enjoy your product, service, community, etc. I believe AUDIO is actually going to be the preferred method of content consumption over the next decade. You don't believe me??? then tell me why Alexa and Siri skills is one of the highest sought after and paying positions in the tech world right now.
But enough with that, WHY a student housing podcast...
- There is a voice missing in the noise. There are publications and conferences that talk a lot about the deals in the industry and touch on some of the blocking & tackling of operations but no one is telling the stories within the industry and it's by hearing the "story" that we learn. My wife and I homeschool our kids and I see the difference in how they remember something when I use a story to explain a concept or why something was invented vs giving them facts and formulas to memorize. So # 1 reason is to tell the story.
- Since going out into the consulting world earlier this year, I've been bombarded with folks (mostly developers new to the industry) who are asking a lot of questions that honestly I feel bad charging them an hourly fee for. I want my clients to be educated on the industry so that:
- We (me and the client) are wasting as little time as possible.
- We are spending our time finding real solutions and not spending time explaining why certain options won't work.
- Example: "Do I need to offer wi-fi at my community?" I could spend 3 hours explaining why it should be included and how to future proof it. But I would rather have a recorded podcast on the subject so I can say "hey I have some time tomorrow to discuss, in the mean time here's a podcast I recorded answering this same question. Take a listen and this will help our conversation be more productive." Because the real answer is not DO THEY NEED WIFI...there real question is HOW MUCH IS IT GOING TO COST ME AND WHO CAN MANAGE IT. And that is where I can provide value.
- This way I can spend the time learning about their company and their project. Because the better I understand that, the better I will be at figuring the best way to help them.
So #2 is that I'm using podcasting to leverage both my time and the client's time that will allow us to cut to the chase when we meet.
- Drive traffic to my website. Plain and simple. And this is another reason I believe everyone should be podcasting. In 2008 everyone was including a blog page on their website and recruiting residents to talk about things going on in the community in order to seem engaging and relevant. But no body has time to read that crap which brings me to the #4 reason why I'm starting a podcast...
- I think podcasts allow people to consume the content much easier than any other medium. No one wants to spend their time reading a blog about SH. AND watching a 40 minute video on YouTube requires attention of both your ears and your eyes... and trust me you don't want to watch my face for 40 minutes. With a podcast, you can listen when you're driving and flying or working out. Personally I like to to listen to them when I'm mowing the lawn.
So let's talk about form or format and what you can expect to get out of this podcast...
I'm constructing these podcasts in "series." Each series will contain 4 to 8 episodes. I'll likely upload these episodes 3 to 4 at a time (at least initially). There's 2 reasons for this. (1) I think people like to binge on podcasts just like they do with Netflix and (2) is a bit more strategic when it comes to how iTunes works with new podcasts. You know that "new and noteworthy" section in iTunes... well there is a little known hack for getting into that section and the window of opportunity is only open the first 8 weeks of a new podcast. Getting into that section is based on the number of downloads a podcast author gets. So if you hit the subscribed button when you found my podcast and started playing... well you actually downloaded 5 podcasts instead of just 1. So if you haven't hit that subscribed button yet... it would be really cool if you would do that now. Like, right now.
So this first series is really speaking to the part of my audience who have been clients over the past few months. Many are new to the student housing sector. Some of those have developed conventional or commercial and looking to move into the sector because of a "1 off" opportunity. Others are looking at rehab and value-add opportunities that are coming available in the sector and they really want to understand what makes the most sense for their dollars as they try to reposition a property. WHICH, brings me to something I want to point out that is a recurring theme in this first series. I'm not sure everyone understands the # of CMBS loans that are maturing in the next 5 years. I want to read an analysis that Four Point Investments put out earlier this year in their year-end publication recapping the 2016 year in student housing.
So I bring this to your attention and bring it up often in this series because if you are not careful on how you research these value-add opportunities and understand their positions in the markets they serve... you could end up making some drastic mistakes.
Now back the reasons behind this first series... I really wanted to give the audience members who are diving into student housing for the first time a basic understanding of things they need to be familiar with. I'm amazed at the number of developers (and some of you have been in this sector longer than I have) who never speak with the head of Institutional Research at their target university or have never asked "what is Gen Z's perspective on tanning beds?" This stuff is important and you have to keep your customer in mind.
So I'm lining up these 1st episodes completely opposite from the way they were recorded. And you'll tell it because the audio quality will get worse going from episode 2 to 4. Hey it's a learning process OK! Anyway, let me break these first 4 episodes down for you.
1st up is Gretta Dare with the Status Agency. Gretta has an intuitive yet methodical skill set of being able to drop herself into a market and a community and within 48 hours she can verbally paint a picture of that market, it's needs, and how your product will or currently is perceived in the market. I'm amazed at how deadly accurate she can be as well. I can say that because she worked for me as my VP of Marketing & Leasing in a previous life. Last year, Gretta left the day to day operations of a large student housing company to start Status Agency which is a marketing agency that not only serves student housing and multi-family clients, but she has a huge focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs. In the episode with Gretta we focus on the fact that marketing is more about the research and less about the design and feel of the product and your logo. And that's why I start with this podcast 1st because this is really where developments and rehab projects need to be conceived... after the research has been analyzed and you understand the needs of the market.
After that... we move into the design phase. Todd Meckley from BSB design comes into the studio to talk about trends and obstacles he's observing in the industry. Todd's firm is different from any other architecture firm I've dealt with because of 2 things: (1) his approach to the design process that brings all of the important players together during the process and he'll get into the details of that; (2nd) is his ability to understand the physical obstacles that have to be resolved in order for the operational needs of a student community to be met.
3rd on the list which was a lot of fun recording, Lisa Brooks and Brooks Short from South Park Interiors. SPI is an interior design firm that has specialized in student housing. Their president, Martha Thomley, was actually an active partner with a student housing developer... so these ladies really understand the developers point of view. That specialization in student housing over the past decade has now made them a "go to" source when it comes to consulting developers of conventional apartment communities that are targeting millennials. But it was great having them in studio and really understanding how important it is to have an interior designer be a part of the design process from the beginning of a project.
Last but not least, the 4th podcast discusses the #1 question I get as a consultant... WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET?!?!?! Seriously, it is the question I get asked the most and it is followed by a list of interrogatories about how much speed is needed, how long should the contract be, and how do you handle wi-fi. So I brought in a consultant to the industry on this specific topic. Jerry Presley from Extensive Networks out of Colorado. In that episode we really break down these questions and give you some of the terminology you need to be familiar with before having a conversation with a service provider.
So that about wraps it up folks... as to WHY I'm doing this podcast and what to expect in this first 4 episodes. Let me know what you think and suggestions on topics you want to hear more about. In upcoming episodes for this series we will be interviewing players on the debt and private equity side as well as some university administrators that will help you understand what problems institutions are looking to developers to solve.
And please please please, go rate the podcast! Even if you don't like it, go rate it. Also, if you want to follow us on social media and other outlets:
- Facebook: @StudentHousingInsight
- Instagram: @StudentHousingInsight
- website: www.StudentHousingInsight.com
- email: wes@ProvidentialStudentHousing.com