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Kramer sells portion of portfolio

Katlyn Smith | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a two-part series about Kramer Properties and Campus Apartments, which both lease off-campus housing to students in South Bend.

Local landlord Mark Kramer said selling a portion of his portfolio to Gross and Cohen Real Estate Investors has benefitted his business.

“I believe that it’s impacted my business in a positive way,” Kramer said. “I’m able to continue with the personal service.”

Kramer finalized the deal two years ago but continued to manage the properties until the national chain Campus Apartments, hired by Gross and Cohen, took over management last spring.

Maintaining personal interactions with students motivated Kramer to sell, he said.

“You get to a point where you get too large, and then you need to bring in more staff, and I’m a hands-on person,” Kramer said. “When I was approached by Gross and Cohen to sell a portion of the portfolio, I just thought it was a good idea so that I could continue to maintain that personal level of business with my clientele, the students of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.”

Kramer gave no advanced notification to students who had signed a lease with Kramer Properties.

“It’s a sensitive process, but I did notify them once the process was complete via e-mail and expressed to them that please feel free to call me so that I could help them with any transition situations, which many of them did,” Kramer said.

Kramer said he would not hire a national chain to manage his properties, including 75 houses, Lafayette Square Townhomes and 20 apartments.

“If I decided someday that I wanted to retire, I would not bring a national chain to manage my company,”

Kramer said. “I would hire my family and that’s why we have succession plans in place.”

Living in South Bend his whole life, Kramer has been in the student housing business for 20 years. Kramer said Kramer Properties is a “family business” where his wife manages the front office at 812 East LaSalle Street in South Bend.

“That’s not a company name on my building,” Kramer said. “That’s my name. It’s not a big corporate name that’s sort of a shield, and that’s why I use my name.”

Kramer said his personal service makes him unique in light of his competitors.

“My students can call me directly,” Kramer said. “I’m the owner of the business, but I’m totally approachable.”

A security firm patrols Kramer’s properties from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. Each property has a security system, peepholes in every door and motion sensors. Kramer said incidents concerning security have decreased.

“We’ve had less incidents than we’ve had in past years,” Kramer said. “I think that has something to do with student awareness.”

Kramer said he is “actively” leasing for next year.

“To me, it’s business as usual,” Kramer said. “My business is active as it’s ever been and popular as it’s ever been.”

According to Kramer, houses lease for $425 per month, and Lafayette Townhomes lease for $325 unfurnished and $395 fully furnished.

Kramer has no plans to retire or sell any more properties.

“I still have the desire to continue on and have fun in my business,” Kramer said. “Students make me young.”

Senior Deirdre Murdy lives in a house on South Bend Avenue. Murdy said she and her roommates approached Kramer about installing additional motion sensors the morning after a security incident.

According to Murdy, the house’s security system was not on, and a burglar crawled through an open window and allegedly stole an iPod and some speakers.

“He was there later that afternoon and fixed it all for us,” Murdy said.

Murdy said students should communicate with Kramer.

“He’s really easy to get in touch with,” Murdy said.

Senior Eileen Bingle lives in a five-person house managed by Kramer on Saint Louis Boulevard.

“It was a little disconcerting that he had dropped some of the people that had originally signed with him, but as far as what I’ve experienced personally, I have no problem being under Kramer management,” she said.

Bingle said Kramer has responded to the “few” issues she and her roommates had in a prompt manner.

“We had mice, which was a little scary, but he came over and had an exterminator come in right away and took care of the problem,” Bingle said.

Bingle said she values off-campus living.

“It’s really a real-world experience dealing with paying bills, and things like that will help me in the future,” Bingle said. “It’s a lot of fun living with your friends in your house.”