Now managing 60,000 units across more than 180 communities in the U.S., Cortland has continued its strategic growth, primarily throughout the Sunbelt region. The company focuses on a mix of value-add opportunities, core-plus communities and ground-up developments, as well as senior housing within its Attiva brand. This year, however, brought new opportunities for the firm with its recent acquisition of LIV Group, a U.K. based build-to-rent company, and its $1.2 billion purchase of Canadian REIT Pure Multi-Family. Cortland has no plans for slowing down in 2020. Cortland’s CEO Steven DeFrancis took us inside some of those complex deals and explained how they contribute to Cortland’s evolution.
What was Cortland’s growth strategy in 2019?
DeFrancis: There are several key drivers behind our growth both now and as we look toward 2020 and beyond: (1) a dedicated focus on the resident experience, truly owning what it means as a company to place the resident at the center of our business decisions; (2) continued growth in our current markets with an ongoing focus on the suburban areas of those submarkets, where we continue to see the majority of household growth; (3) a longer-term hold approach with our assets, which will ultimately allow us to plan more intentionally for the resident experience of the future; (4) a growing brand awareness and reputation through our acquisition strategy as well as our marketing and branding efforts.
How has Cortland changed as a company and a multifamily brand over the past 15 years?
DeFrancis: We’ve had quite the evolution, particularly within the past five years. When we started in 2005, we were a small, development firm focused on in-town multifamily housing in Atlanta. During the economic downturn in 2008, we decided to shift our focus from developing communities to acquiring and renovating existing multifamily communities—all with a vision to challenge the conventions of the traditional multifamily industry. By 2011, we owned and managed 5,000 apartment homes and meaningfully accelerated our plans to build a company that could deliver unique value to both our residents and partners.
Once we decided to pivot to primarily acquiring and renovating communities, we realized we could have better control over the living spaces and experiences we offered by insourcing our key functions. So, in 2013, we integrated construction, interior design, and property management into our platform. Since then, our approach to vertical integration has continued to evolve, even as we’ve grown to a global company of 2,000 associates with more than 180 apartment communities and 60,000 apartment homes.
Five years ago, our focus was more centered on the spaces our residents call home. Now we’re more focused on elevating the experiences our residents have in those spaces through programing, service, and amenity offerings that help cultivate a sense of community and anticipate the needs and wants of the people who come home to a Cortland community every day—from health and fitness to front-door trash service. To support this resident experience approach, we’ve also invested in our marketing efforts as we aim to be the brand synonymous with excellent living experiences—the brand renters search for when looking for their next home.