Brothers Management grows student housing market

IMG_1865In 1981, Russell Trippet took a big risk. He had been selling apartment buildings in Dallas, but he soon saw an opportunity in Waco, Texas – home of his alma mater, Baylor University.

“There hadn’t been anything new built in years,” Trippet told Opportunity Lives. He realized that if a complex was built specifically for students, he could create an entirely new niche in the housing market.

So “The Village” was built in 1981. The first phase was 52 units, complete with washer/dryer, nicer carpet, and other amenities that appealed to students. The Village sold all of its units in the first year, and the student condominium market was born.

“The Centre” was built soon after, and Trippet developed a real-estate management company with his brother called Brothers Management. Today, Brothers Management manages about 1,400 units that provide housing for over 3,000 students.

It wasn’t always easy. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 almost drove the company to bankruptcy. Because the law eliminated tax write-offs for many real-estate projects, investors withdrew their money and development of new buildings came to a screeching halt. It was a challenging time for the real-estate market, and Trippet said that many other companies went out of business.

How did Brothers Management survive? Just barely. “I would do small deals,” said Trippet. “I had a willingness to manage assets that the big players wouldn’t take on.”

By expanding into smaller cities, Trippet built up a large enough portfolio that he could survive the crisis. As a result, Brothers Management is still flourishing today.

“I’ve always tried to change the paradigm of what being a student landlord is,” said Trippet. “In history, landlords of any type are not held to the highest esteem level.” Trippet tries to make sure both students and parents feel comfortable with their living decision, and he wants to keep his “customers” (students and parents) happy. “Without them, we don’t have an income,” he said.

Maintenance workers are trained to be quick, helpful, friendly, and professional. “Every time you walk into an apartment to fix something, I want you to think about how you would treat the student if they were your son or daughter,” he tells his maintenance staff.

Because Trippet is a parent of three Baylor grads as well, he is able to find common ground with parents that are upset. Part of the challenge is being able to walk in their shoes, he said, and many problems with an apartment stem from miscommunication. To that end, he strives to reply to every e-mail and phone call he receives – even sales calls for things he is not interested in buying. “Communication is easy if you just do it,” said Trippet.

“Whether you’re building apartment complexes or designing an Apple Watch, your customer is the key,” he said, referring to the shiny new Apple Watch adorning his wrist. It’s this philosophy that has allowed Brothers Management to revolutionize the student housing market in Waco.

Published on Opportunity Lives