WICHITA, Kan.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--He is back. At age 83, Jack DeBoer, the man who invented the extended-stay industry and his team of Wichita-based hospitality professionals are introducing a new franchise concept.
WaterWalk is a game-changing real estate investment opportunity that combines extended-stay hotels with apartment ownership, borrowing the best economics and customer service features from both. In the first month of operations at the Wichita property, all the apartments in the first building were occupied without any form of discounting. The second building opens November 1, 2014 and 15 units are already pre-leased or reserved. Results have been so impressive that investors have already claimed franchises and sites in St. Louis, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, and Louisville, among other cities.
“At its heart, we have reverse engineered both the extended-stay hotel and apartment industries, taking the best from each, while eliminating their respective limitations, inflexibilities, and inconveniences,” says Jack DeBoer, Chairman and CEO, who early in his career was the nation’s second largest apartment builder, a fact he details in his 2011 book, “Risk Only Money.”
“Apartments are still being built and managed the same way they were more than 50 years ago, without any recognition of today’s mobile workforce and changing consumer lifestyles,” continues DeBoer. “Tenants are typically forced to sign one-year leases. At the same time, prospective tenants have to make appointments to tour a rental during limited hours, put down hefty security deposits, and are even charged a fee simply to apply. Then, they have to make their own arrangements for cable, internet and every utility, and pay for them separately. None of that is consumer friendly, so we did away with it all.”
By the same token, the corporate lodging industry has a number of inherent shortfalls for both operators and guests. For operators, corporate lodging has low margin and is difficult to manage, with guests scattered across many disparate properties. “Corporate lodging is based on renting inventory throughout a given market, making it nearly impossible to deliver high-quality service to guests who are not centrally located,” says DeBoer.
WaterWalk is reinventing both the apartment and corporate lodging industries. WaterWalk combines apartments and hotel services into a gated, purpose-built community with a two-building, 116,000-square-foot, $11.5 million (plus land) development opportunity that makes sense for guests and investors alike.
Guests can choose fully-furnished one-, two-, and three-bedroom accommodations through the Gold Package that offers hotel-like amenities and services. Gold Package tenants enjoy gym membership, 24/7 shuttle and concierge services, free in-room breakfast, housekeeping, DirecTV with premium channels, Internet, on-site storage, and convenient, no-cost parking—all at a nightly rate about 35 percent less than a comparable one-bedroom upscale extended-stay hotel.
And, the same property also offers a Silver Package of one-, two-, and three-bedroom unfurnished apartments to residents based on leases as short as six months. Silver Package tenants do not face security deposits or application fees, and the all-inclusive rent includes the cost of utilities, Internet, telephone, trash removal, all kitchen appliances, a 186-channel premium DirectTV package, and in-apartment washers and dryers.
Commanding the higher revenues of an upscale extended-stay hotel and the reduced operating expenses of an apartment building, WaterWalk offers attractive economics, as well as the zoning flexibility, financing leverage, and resell advantages of multi-family properties. Apartments continue to be attractive acquisition targets for REITS and other investors. Each WaterWalk property can be fine-tuned between fully-furnished and unfurnished apartments, according to local market conditions.
WaterWalk franchisees also benefit from a complete range of services calibrated to improve the marketing and operations of the property. A national sales program targets corporate human resource departments to build a network of extended-stay contracts, which could account for up to one fourth of a property’s occupancy. WaterWalk’s proprietary CRM software also makes it easy for franchisees to solicit renters through online apartment rental sites, streamlines the application process, and tracks tenant from initial interest to first month’s automated clearing house (ACH) payment.
A proprietary construction formula emphasizing energy efficiency and smart space design helps keep operating costs to a minimum while allowing the property to be managed 24/7 with only eight employees. The on-site team is cross-trained to step into one another’s jobs, operating within a company culture that focuses on concierge standards of service and a sense of community. Because of their unique design, WaterWalk Apartments are zoned for commercial use, allowing stays for less than 30 nights in most markets.
“The option for short stays is a fundamental difference that sets the brand apart in both the residential and corporate apartment sectors,” says Mark Skinner of the Highland Group. “For example, most corporate apartments in the U.S. require a minimum stay of 30 nights or more. So anyone on a business trip for less than a month cannot go into a typical corporate apartment. They are limited to either a regular or extended-stay hotel.”
For more information on franchise opportunities, visit Waterwalk.com/franchise or call (316) 219-6060.
About WaterWalk Apartments
Headquartered in Wichita, WaterWalk is the nation’s serviced apartment brand, combining the most appealing features of an upscale extended-stay hotel with the lifestyle of apartment living. Guests may choose to stay a day, a week, a month, a year, or longer with an all-inclusive bill for utilities, TV, internet, phone, and concierge services. For the full-service Gold package, housekeeping, fully-furnished apartments, and breakfast are also provided. WaterWalk Apartments is the fifth national brand started by Jack DeBoer, founder of Residence Inn, Summerfield Suites, Candlewood Suites, and Value Place. For more information, visit www.waterwalk.com or call (316) 219-6060.