We recently interviewed the manager of a larger apartment building in Chapel Hill. We were curious about their experience, because some people in Chapel Hill say that our apartment buildings are largely vacant – which isn’t true.
We also wanted to learn more about who is served by the newer apartment buildings in our town, which generate a lot of tax revenue. These apartments serve a very specific population — mostly new-ish college grads who are here for graduate school or medical residency or because they got their first job in our region.
It turns out that there are many misnomers about larger apartment buildings and who lives in them. The manager, who asked to remain anonymous, helped correct some of the common misconceptions floating around the dark corners of NextDoor.
Thank you for chatting with us. Who is your typical tenant?
I would say in the Chapel Hill market, especially the farther you get from campus, there are a lot more graduate students, professionals, and people who commute to RTP. We have some people who commute to Durham and downtown Raleigh for work, but the primary market is graduate students and young professionals.
What draws them to your building?
People like the convenience of where we’re located. Some people really enjoy the vibe of Chapel Hill and the accessibility to all of the shopping and amenities. We’re close to Southpoint Mall, close to a lot of grocery stores. The pool of people who commute outside of Chapel Hill is much, much smaller — it probably makes up 2-3% of people total out of our tenants. Sometimes a couple lives here where one is at UNC and one is elsewhere.
We have a few grad students at Duke too. But primarily, the main reason people live in Chapel Hill is something to do with UNC.
Do you see any relationship between more apartments and rent amounts?
It’s a negative relationship. It drives pricing down. When you have 300 new apartments opening, that takes away the pool of people from your building. We have definitely seen rates go down quite a bit this year. But there’s a lot of new jobs popping up all of the time – so there’s definitely still demand for all of the apartments here.
NextDoor rumor has it that you’re conspiring with other landlords to deliberately withhold housing from the market, thus jacking up profits? True?
No. If anything, most of the properties in Chapel Hill have waitlists. There’s a lot of demand.
What’s the best part of your job?
The customer service aspect and just trying my best to make people happy. When people first move to Chapel Hill for the first time, a lot of people are just out of undergrad or coming here for graduate school. They’ve never even been in North Carolina. To be able to connect with them on a personal level, to tell them how the bus system works, and the history of Chapel Hill and things to do on Franklin Street. I really enjoy delivering that experience and just welcoming people to Chapel Hill as a whole. It’s kind of extending the Carolina welcome to residents on the whole. My favorite part is just talking to people.
I would say, dealing with resident issues primarily and things that are outside of our control – like construction. I try to make people happy and try to have them leave our conversation happier than when they entered.
Unfortunately, our chat ended before we got a chance to ask him additional questions we had prepared. Here are the questions we wanted to ask but didn’t have time for:
How much do you regret ruining Chapel Hill, just a little bit or a whole lot?
How many thousands of cars, on average, leave your parking deck every hour?
Oh, many residents take the bus to campus?
Are you sure?
Oh, you’re sure. Huh.
Who is more evil: you or Emperor Palpatine?
What year did you graduate from college and how much better was Chapel Hill then?
How bummed are you that you can walk to Trader Joe’s?
Whom do you blame more, your mother or father, for your misguided belief that apartments are a viable housing option for people in need of housing?