CollegeTown Properties, a property management company in Athens, acquired Eclipse on Broad and several of the Fred Historic Properties mid-August, just a few weeks into current residents’ leases. The change came with new management staff and some new policies for the apartments and lofts, which were previously owned and operated by smaller developers.Why it’s Newsworthy: A big property management company like CollegeTown Properties buying multiple locations downtown is important not only for how it affects the current resident policy, but also how it might shape pricing for student housing across Athens.
Many residents were unaware that the buyout occurred until their September rent was due.
“I learned about [the buyout] by receiving a late payment notice from CollegeTown Properties,” said Paul Kinderman, a current resident at Eclipse on Broad.
Kinderman, like many other residents, had set up automatic payments with the previous property manager, and when the acquisition occurred, the rental payments switched over to a different online portal.
“Paying rent was really difficult the first month,” said Leslie Rae Carswell, a current resident at Eclipse on Broad.
The change in payment software, along with several other policy changes, had some residents confused, since they were not informed of the acquisition until after it occurred.
“I wasn’t made aware of the changes last year when I signed the lease or anytime over the summer or the beginning of this year,” said Carswell.
Some of the other policy changes included a change in Eclipse office hours—the office used to be open on the weekends, but now is closed during that time and runs two hours shorter during the week.
CollegeTown has also shut down the previous website domain for Eclipse and disconnected the previous phone number, which added to some of the confusion of the residents when they tried to get into contact with the office.
“Taking over the management of a property is not easy. Every management company out there has a different way of handling the operations of their property,” said Jake Dzurino, leasing and marketing manager at CollegeTown Properties. “Residents of that property are used to the way the previous management company did things.”
CollegeTown Properties took over two weeks before rent was due in the four-week cycle.
“The backside of the acquisition is very complicated. Imagine auditing through hundreds of resident rent rolls trying to figure out how the last company posted and collected rent and what each individual resident’s balance should be,” said Dzurino.
While the change in management was a surprise to current residents, CollegeTown has been looking to expand for some time now, as the downtown and central Athens area is one of the property managers’ biggest focuses.
Eclipse on Broad is located just outside downtown across the street from one of newest luxury apartment complexes, The Mark. Eclipse, itself, increased in property value by $600,000 from 2016 to 2017, the same year The Mark opened.
“In order to take on the management of a property, it must be in a well-desired location and must be of a certain quality,” said Dzurino.
One of the properties that CollegeTown acquired in central downtown, located above two bars, has also increased in overall building property value, this one by more than $400,000, from 2017 to 2018.
“We cater to the downtown lifestyle of Athens,” said Dzurino.
Housing options in downtown Athens have increased over the past few years with the addition of The Mark in 2017, and Georgia Heights and Uncommon in 2015. Rent has steadily increased over the years as well.
Kinderman pays $5 more a month for this year’s lease than he did for last year’s. He would have had to pay more if he waited longer to sign.
CollegeTown is currently looking at leasing for the next year 2019-2020. Residents at Eclipse were just sent a form to decide whether they wanted to renew their lease, pass it down, or let CollegeTown list it as available.
“I’m not living at Eclipse next year,” said Carswell. “I’m hoping to get a house not downtown for money and space reasons.”
Lauren Funk is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.