Donna Preiss, Founder and CEO of The Preiss Company, recently participated in the “Young Turks” panel at the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) 4th Annual Student Housing Conference & Exposition held on February 22nd at the Wynn Las Vegas. Led by moderator Michael J. Peter, president and CEO of Campus Advantage, the 90-minute panel discussion centered on the student housing industry, the current economic impact on off-campus housing, student housing management, resident life, latest industry trends, and current investment opportunities.
NAA (naahq.org) is the nation’s leading advocate for quality rental housing. Its mission is to serve the interests of multifamily housing owners, managers, developers, and suppliers, as well as maintain a high level of professionalism in the multifamily housing industry to better serve the rental housing needs of the public. NAA members represent all facets of the multifamily housing industry including apartment owners, management executives, developers, builders, investors, property managers, and leasing consultants.
In his panel introduction, Peter described “young turk” as “a term used to signify any group or individual inside an organization or industry who are reform-minded, take-charge individuals who inspire others”. Preiss, who was recently appointed to NAA’s Student Housing Committee, said that she was honored to join the “Young Turks” panel, but thinks of herself as more of an “old turkey”. Still, she describes herself as a trendsetter who likes to “shake up” the status quo.
“My entrance into the student housing market was evolutional. I was doing conventional development, someone brought me a student housing deal, and the rest is history,” says Preiss. “I am passionate about college housing. I love the demographic and being involved with college living and college sports. I wanted to create a team that could work and grow together doing something that we believe in.”
Founded in 1987, The Preiss Company has been a recipient of numerous industry and association awards. Although the company is a leader in the development of new technologies, tools, and strategies for the student housing industry, Preiss says that it is challenging for a 24-year old company to keep its ideas fresh.
“First, The Preiss Company believes in ‘inverse mentoring’. We surround ourselves with the demographic that we service—namely college students,” explains Preiss. “We also celebrate ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. College students are the purest examples of what the author Florida has nicknamed ‘the creative class’. College students are natural innovators. Secondly, we try to attend as many industry conferences that we can. Innovative ideas come from two good ideas from disparate sources colliding. The best way to collide with good ideas is to go to where smart and creative people in your profession are.”
For companies looking to enter the student housing industry, Preiss says that there are many people entering the industry because they see only the positive demographic trends, but fail to understand that it is a business that is run on real estate. She suggests that when preparing for a first student housing project, make sure to partner with someone who has experienced a student lease-up, a student turn, and who has run a student housing project before. For those currently in the industry, Preiss says to “keep it fresh”.
“It is so important to remember that we have to challenge ourselves each year to raise the bar,” adds Preiss. “Three years ago, [the student housing industry] was challenged with lowered rates and concessions. This year, the challenge is making our sites feel comfortable with aggressively raising rates. Student housing professionals need to develop better revenue tools and be able to adapt to changing market conditions. Student housing has a small leasing window. It’s like parachute jumping—you have to get it right the first time. Expect to make mistakes. I have made plenty in my years in this business, but those are my learning moments. I rarely learn from successes.”
About The Preiss Company
The Preiss Company (tpco.com) is one of the largest providers of off-campus student housing in the United States and currently manages 13,000 beds throughout the southeast and Pennsylvania. The company employs over 250 team members and has formed over 50 partnerships and developed over 20 projects stretching from Maryland to Texas.