Donna Preiss

RALEIGH, NC—It’s official. An independent industry source has ranked The Preiss Company, one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing student housing owners, as the nation’s fourth-largest, privately held student housing owner-operator in 2013.

“Over the past two years, we have grown from the eighth to fourth largest, non-public student housing company and still see substantial room for additional growth,” Donna Preiss, Preiss founder and CEO, tells GlobeSt.com. “We and our partners have invested $431 million in the past 18 months.”

In 2013, Preiss acquired seven properties, refinanced five existing properties, upgraded six, and participated in two developments. Preiss says she has an aggressive appetite for growth and is working to meet or exceed our record 2013 growth.

“We are bullish on 2014 because we expect it to be a transition year for the industry with the mix of student housing owners changing due to a variety of reasons, the expected increases in interest rates and a substantial number of properties coming to market that require renovation investment capital and strong management, as well as a noticeable number of either newly developed properties or ones that are well along in the process,” she says.  “We are looking coast to coast with an emphasis on the southern half of the U.S., especially in markets where we have experience and can achieve economies of scale.”

On the acquisition front, Preiss is optimistic that her firm will meet or exceed last year’s student housing transaction volume. She bases that optimism on the firm’s momentum coming into 2014.

“There are opportunities both on campus and proximate to schools that are appealing,” she says. “Location, existing product in the target markets and demand are key factors.”

In 2013, the company budgeted approximately $9 million in capital upgrades over six projects and plans to have that work completed this summer. Preiss currently is reviewing its student housing portfolio to determine value-added upgrades.

Student housing is a unique real estate type, compared to other multi-housing segments,” Preiss says. “As a result, it is one of the least understood and most poorly managed. Student housing has a significantly different leasing cycle and tenant base with a diverse set of demands and expectations.”

Preiss sees this area as ripe for growth, given the relatively small number of quality student housing operators who really understand the business. Ironically, she says her firm is more selective in taking on a new, third-party assignment than an acquisition. Without owner investment and support, she says, it is too difficult to generate the high returns we seek for our owners.

“We are very upbeat about 2014 for our company,” she concludes. “All aspects of the industry offer growth opportunities and our plan is to be entrepreneurial and opportunistic in our approach, while remaining prudent in our investment decisions.”

“There are opportunities both on campus and proximate to schools that are appealing,” she says. “Location, existing product in the target markets and demand are key factors.”

In 2013, the company budgeted approximately $9 million in capital upgrades over six projects and plans to have that work completed this summer. Preiss currently is reviewing its student housing portfolio to determine value-added upgrades.

Student housing is a unique real estate type, compared to other multi-housing segments,” Preiss says. “As a result, it is one of the least understood and most poorly managed. Student housing has a significantly different leasing cycle and tenant base with a diverse set of demands and expectations.”

Preiss sees this area as ripe for growth, given the relatively small number of quality student housing operators who really understand the business. Ironically, she says her firm is more selective in taking on a new, third-party assignment than an acquisition. Without owner investment and support, she says, it is too difficult to generate the high returns we seek for our owners.

“We are very upbeat about 2014 for our company,” she concludes. “All aspects of the industry offer growth opportunities and our plan is to be entrepreneurial and opportunistic in our approach, while remaining prudent in our investment decisions.”