By Chris Petersen | Spring 2016
Residential properties are unlike any other type of real estate. They don’t just have to be built with quality; they have to feel like home for the people who live in them. Making a property feel like a home – especially in the multifamily sector – requires a personal touch above and beyond the typical marks of quality. Throughout the Philadelphia area, Berger Rental Communities has become well-known for providing the personal touch that makes their apartment communities feel like home, and President Dan Berger says that has everything to do with the strength and commitment of the people it has working for it.
Founded 44 years ago by Berger’s father, Steve, and uncle Jim, Berger Rental Communities has become one of the premier managers of multifamily and student housing properties in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Berger says the company’s focus is on secondary and tertiary markets within the area, and the company has 24 multifamily properties currently in its portfolio.
As Berger Rental Communities prepares to unveil its latest development, Highwoods at Toftrees in State College, Pa., Berger says the company is applying the same principles that have made its other properties successful. This, combined with the new development’s location and focus on the growing professional demographic, gives Berger Rental Communities confidence that Highwoods at Toftrees will be every bit as successful as its existing properties and further cement the company’s status as a leader in the multifamily sector in the Northeast.
The Berger Way
One of the most important things about any residential property is making sure residents feel comfortable and at home, and Berger says this is a major part of what has made Berger Rental Communities so successful. Although Berger says the company’s communities are built well, the key to making them stand out is having the right people on-site to address residents’ needs.
“It really comes down to our people,” Berger says. “Our people genuinely care about our residents, about our customers.”
Being attentive to its residents’ needs is the core of Berger Rental Communities’ core philosophy, which it calls “The Berger Way.” According to the company, treating residents with respect and attending to their needs is the core of what makes its properties successful. “Integrity is not about our own convenience,” the company says. “It’s an unwavering commitment to do the right thing in every circumstance, every time. Trust takes years to build, but can be lost in an instant. We earn people’s trust by demonstrating integrity in every action we take and in every decision we make.”
“We understand that our residents pay our salaries,” the company adds. “We exist to serve their needs. We constantly look for new and better ways to make our residents feel happy and cared for, and for them to get that ‘ahh … home’ feeling each time they enter their apartment. When we put the needs of our residents first, the business takes care of itself.”
In addition to that genuine care, the company’s newest property will bring a higher standard of multifamily living to the State College community. The first ground-up development by Berger Rental Communities, Highwoods at Toftrees consists of two buildings boasting 96 units ranging from one to three bedrooms as well as numerous top-notch amenities. Berger says these amenities include a 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, a state-of-the-art gym, a three-season swimming pool, a business lounge, a resident lounge and numerous nature trails around the property. The majority of the units are garden-style, and the property features a large amount of green space.
Berger says the company has high hopes for Highwoods at Toftrees, especially considering the large professional population in and around State College. “This property is catered to graduates and professionals, and more towards professionals than anyone else,” Berger says, noting the large demand for professional housing in the area.
Another significant advantage Highwoods at Toftrees has over other multifamily developments in the area is that it is adjacent to an existing property also owned and managed by Berger Rental Communities. “From a management standpoint, it makes it a little easier on us,” Berger says.
Even though the rental market has made big gains in recent years in the fallout of the mortgage crisis, Berger says that alone isn’t enough to make Berger Rental Communities successful. He says residents have become more attracted to rentals because of the stress-free, value-driven living they offer, but that doesn’t mean they want to trade down when it comes to features and service. That’s why Berger Rental Communities continues to emphasize those elements in its communities.
“I think customers are really starting to look for those top amenities in rental communities,” Berger says. “They’re expecting great customer service as well.”
Providing that high level of customer service is critical for Berger Rental Communities’ long-term success, and that is why Berger says attracting and retaining the highest-quality people in the business is one of the company’s top priorities at the moment. “We’re only as good as the people working for us, and the job markets in the areas where we operate are pretty strong,” he says, adding that the company has concentrated a lot of its focus on ensuring the best and the brightest employees come to the company and want to stay.
“We’re really focused on being a world-class place to work,” Berger adds.
Also contributing to the company’s positive outlook is the overall strength of the multifamily rental market. Even though construction costs have risen significantly in the last few years, there continues to be a lot of capital coming into the multifamily sector, and Berger says it’s a good time to be in the business.
Leading the Way
Berger Rental Communities is poised to take advantage of the strong market in the years to come, and Berger says the company expects to continue adding to its portfolio through acquisitions. Within the next few years, he adds, the company expects its growth strategy to bring its portfolio up to more than 10,000 apartment units.
However, all the growth in the world won’t mean a thing unless Berger Rental Communities can continue to provide residents with the at-home feeling the company has made it reputation with. As long as the company continues to be focused on delivering the best possible service, Berger says, the company will continue to lead the way. “Our customers live with us because the people who work at our properties genuinely care about them,” he says.
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