with Rebekah Baker & Courtney Lundquist
For more than 20 years, DreamKey Partners has had a strong partnership with real estate management company S.L. Nusbaum to help develop, manage and maintain the 29 apartment properties in its portfolio.
We had a conversation with Rebekah Baker, senior vice president of asset management at DreamKey Partners, and Courtney Lundquist, regional vice president at S.L. Nusbaum, about the partnership, how the pandemic impacted day-to-day operations and what the future may hold.
Q: Tell us about the partnership between DreamKey Partners and S.L. Nusbaum.
I’ve been a member of the DreamKey Partners team for 19 years and S.L. Nusbaum has been a trusted partner since before I started. We’ve worked together to provide superior affordable housing. We pride ourselves that our properties look and operate like traditional market rate properties.
S.L. Nusbaum Realty Company has been in business for 115 years of which, our partnership dates back at least 20 years. Both of our organizations’ core values and commitment to creating the best possible experience for residents and communities lend to maintaining a fantastic partnership.
Q: How has the pandemic changed this partnership and the way you work together?
We’ve always worked very closely with S.L. Nusbaum as DreamKey Partners is a hands-on organization. We have a close-knit team that supports one another and we keep an on open communication with one another. The pandemic challenged us to create new protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of residents and on-site staff with little to no interruption to business and customer service. COVID-19 certainly forced us to learn, grow and adapt on a dime which we were able to do seamlessly.
We’ve always strived to work as a team – working closely together and communicating often. The pandemic accelerated our efforts, as typical property operations needed to be changed frequently. There was a joint effort to determine best practices to maintain operations under new state and local orders while also maintaining a high level of customer service. Fortunately, our management firm was able to create new policies and procedures and modify quickly during this time offering flexibility to our clients for input.
Q: What current trends or opportunities are you seeing in property management?
Right now, there’s an abundance of new construction in the area along with many sales transactions. We were able to move to more services being offered online, including apartment leasing by offering virtual tours. The pandemic has created opportunities to think outside of traditional processes and institute enhanced virtual and electronic experiences.
We’re being pushed to think outside-of-the-box to find new, innovative ways to operate. Right now, it’s all about adaptability and flexibility.
Q: What challenges do you see today and what do you expect in the near future?
We’re certainly seeing the rising construction costs, which can result in an increase in rent. We strive for affordable rent and it becomes more challenging when prices increase on building materials. We also see that resident incomes are not rising as much as operating costs. It’s never ideal to have a resident who is rent burdened and paying more than 30% of their income to rents.
In addition to the inflation in costs and labor shortages, residents are in their homes now more than ever. School is all or partially virtual and so is working from home in a lot of cases. This has added another challenge for us on the operating and maintenance side as apartments are being truly lived in more hours per day and our residents are adapting to living together more hours per day.
Q: What is your approach for a new development and how do you ensure it will be welcomed into the community?
We listen and care about what the communities we are building in are saying. Before we start a new community, we talk to residents and community leaders. Our goal is for the residents to live, work and play together and to create an intertwined community.
DreamKey Partners does such a great job of building something everyone can be proud of that it’s easy to continue joint efforts for years to come. It’s important that affordable homes are part of an overall community.