Like most businesses facing the recent economic downturn, Markraft Cabinets had to find new revenue sources. When construction of single-family homes declined, starting five years ago, we found that Wilmington’s many apartment complexes offered us a new opportunity, one that’s become a major part of our business.
Renovation of older multi-family projects has become one of our specialties. It has also helped provide better-quality affordable housing for the many families who rely on the rental market.
Supplying cabinets and countertops for apartment kitchens and bathrooms isn’t totally new for us. We’ve done a good bit of that “full service” work on new projects over the years, offering builders a consistent look and quality, complete with warranty. But for the biggest apartment developments, with hundreds of units, contractors tended to deal directly with manufacturers.
Where we saw a new opportunity was in the modernization of Wilmington’s many apartments that had been built in the 1980s and 1990s, and were starting to show their age.
As the housing crisis put a new premium on renting as a practical option for many families, project managers realized their properties needed updating to keep them attractive to new tenants. We got aggressive when the downtown hit, and started working out long-term arrangements with many of the apartment-management companies. This work now supports a specialized team of installers who do just apartments.
Here’s how it works:
When a tenant gives notice he or she is moving out of an older apartment, we immediately take measurements and order materials. As soon as the unit is vacant, we’re there to remove worn or outdated counters and cabinets, replacing them with more functional, contemporary styles. That’s usually done within a couple of days’ span, giving the managers plenty of time to get other work done – painting, new carpets, new appliances if needed – and get the unit rented again quickly.
We’re at their beck and call, usually knowing in advance exactly what needs to go into each apartment. Most complexes want to have a consistent look and color scheme. Since we typically are doing multiple units a month over several years, we have it down to a science. We don’t have to start from scratch with every vacancy.
These upgrades let prospective tenants compare old apartments with those that have been brought up to like-new standards. This helps the managers justify higher rents, and fill their vacancies more quickly.
As we save time for our clients, we also save them money. Even a large apartment complex may turn over just a few units each month. The management couldn’t order needed components directly from a manufacturer, and certainly not at anywhere near the prices we can get for them. Our designers help craft renovation strategies that work within an apartment’s original “footprint,” so existing electrical and plumbing connections can be reused. In some cases, we’re doing lower-cost modernizations, replacing just countertops but leaving existing cabinets.
As with any residential real estate, the most cost-effective investments are in the kitchen and bathrooms. Upgrades should meet today’s design standards and match functionality to contemporary lifestyles. These are proven to pay for themselves in higher rents, just as they do in better resale prices in the home-ownership market.
A typical apartment-upgrade deal may last up to five years, as tenants come and go. This work is approaching 10 percent of our company’s business, both in Wilmington and in our Nashville, Tenn., market. We’re hoping to grow this segment even more. Membership in the Wilmington Apartment Association has been very helpful in building relationships with the rental housing community.
I’m always happy to answer any questions about what we can do for you, in your home or for your business. Watch for more tips about how to enhance your home’s value and convenience!
Cee Edwards is President and General Manager of Markraft Cabinets. He joined the company in 1995. Since 1985, Markraft has specialized in cabinet and countertop design and installation in residential and commercial construction and custom remodeling. To learn more about Markraft, go to www.markraft.com. Contact Cee at 910-762-1986. Like Markraft on Facebook at www.facebook.com/markraftcabinets or follow Cee on Twitter at twitter.com/CeeEdwards.
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