Are You Looking at Multi-Family?

John G. Swanson
July 26, 2011
THE TALK...

Not too long ago, I talked to a window and door manufacturer that said his company was doing fairly well this year. He attributed his company's success primarily to growth in multifamily jobs. That jibes with a lot of what's been written about the housing market of late.

Much of the improvement there has been in housing starts this year has come on the multifamily side. On the retrofit side, there is still stimulus funding going into weatherization projects–often upgrades of low-income, multi-family apartment buildings.

Housing experts expect the rental market to continue strengthening. The economic downturn has slowed new household formations, but those can only be held back so long. Single-family homeownership is probably still not affordable for many of these new households, and more established households are likely to be content to rent longer as owning a home probably no longer considered "a sure thing" from an investment perspective.

So are you targeting the multi-family segment more?  That's our poll question of the week.  And, of course, I'd like to hear from you. Has this been a sector you've targeted all along? If it's a new focus for you, have you made changes in your products or operations? Did your company try and retreat to single-family? Post a comment or email me and share your experience.

 

Survey Results as of 08/2/2011 :

 

The multifamily market:

Is something we've always targeted.

  

 

46%

Is not a good fit for our business.

  

 

33%

Is something we're increasingly focused on.

  

 

12%

Is something we've talked about, but haven't really pursued.

  

 

9%

Nearly half of our readers' companies already target multi-family and a third don't, and probably won't.  About one in five are either increasingly focused on this segment or thinking about it. That does not indicate a huge shift, but there is definitely some movement in the multifamily business direction.

It might be a good way to go, according to many housing market experts. According to a recent NAHB Eye on Housing blog, "a sustained improvement in housing construction will take hold in the multifamily sector before the single-family market." Given weak economic and job growth, NAHB estimates that there are approximately 2.1 million potential households that constitute pent-up housing demand. "These deferred household formations will emerge as renters before existing renters and first-time homebuyers have a significant impact in the for-sale housing market," it also notes.

As Abe Gaskins notes below, however, multifamily is a very different market, involving different channel partners and different product and service requirements. Multifamily may not be a good fit for many businesses, but if ever there was a time to consider looking at the market, it could be now.  

 

Comments

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 At MGM Industries we have gained business in the multi-family segment.  Tthe channels of distribution are different with a lot of the business going through companies that specialize on this segment.  This segment requires a level of sophistication that not all companies have.  A dedicated sales engineer is not a must, but a real plus.  A sales engineer will have the ability to create submittal drawings and provide job specific installation details.  Moreover, the sales engineer will be well versed in the International Building Code as it relates to the fenestration industry.  Detailed knowledge of the American Society of Civil Engineers standard 7 (ASCE-7)  window performance standards are also not mandatory, but is a suggested element of knowledge.  This market is a combination of knowledge, testing and a sharp price point.