Unlocking Value in Hermsdorf: Hohefeld 58

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Why we invested

Located in the verdant northern region of Berlin, Hermsdorf offers a perfect blend of urban flair and natural serenity. With its superb infrastructure, diverse leisure opportunities, and charming town center, this neighborhood has evolved into a coveted residential locale.

Enclosed by the prestigious Frohnau and the continuously expanding Glienicke, the growth of this borough is nothing short of inevitable.

In 2004, this certainty was not as pronounced when the property at Hohefeldstraße 58 was presented to us. At that time, while many investors were financing price escalations in districts like Prenzlauer Berg, we recognized the potential of a location that was not yet on everyone’s radar.

We were aware that we would find undervalued properties in this (still) emotionally neutral setting – such as the one on the corner of Hohefeldstraße and Oswinsteig, just a few steps from the picturesque Waldsee lake.

This investment was conceived less as a speculative venture and more as a long-term holding property.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • Due to suboptimal management (nowadays almost a prerequisite for Whitestone properties), our initial task was to establish a positive relationship with tenants who understood that our investment necessitated adjustments in rental rates.
  • Thanks to the financing conditions at the time, it was possible to secure 100% financing, entirely covered by rental income.
  • Nevertheless, it was foreseeable that reinvestments would be necessary in the future, both in the property itself and within the apartments, in order to justify higher rental rates.

Results

We were able to finance both the property itself and the necessary investments in the subsequent years entirely through external capital, making it nearly impossible to calculate a return on equity.

Within three years, we successfully raised previously neglected rents by almost one hundred percent, thus ensuring sustainable refinancing.

To convey a strong message to the tenants, we promptly dispatched a craftsman to the property on the very day the purchase agreement was signed. The purpose of this immediate action was to have the aging fence freshly painted prior to our first on-site visit.

This proactive measure aimed to demonstrate our commitment to the tenants and their well-being. Our efforts were met with positive responses.

In friendly cooperation with the tenants, we were able to steadily improve both the standard of the property and the rental rates over the years.

Eventually, after nearly 15 years, we possessed an asset that had appreciated in value by more than fourfold.

Continuing our activities as Whitestone Capital in the USA led to the sale of the property at the end of 2018.

This project, too, inspired us to implement our strategy and methods in different market conditions. We were confident that we would achieve even greater success within the legal, jurisdictional, and political framework of the United States.

Today, we know that our confidence was well-founded.

Nonetheless, we shall never forget our humble roots in Hohefeldstraße, which gave us the confidence for our great leap forward.

Patience is a virtue: Berliner Allee 4

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Why we invested

The house in Berliner Allee Nr. 4 in Schönerlinde stands as our first significant investment project, undertaken without external partners.

While not particularly spectacular, it represents a crucial milestone that demonstrated our capabilities and was our personal “proof of concept” to our idea of real estate investing.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it became evident that several Brandenburg towns bordering Berlin would experience significant appreciation as part of the city’s “outer belt.” One such town is Wandlitz, renowned as a retreat for the former GDR leadership.

Just a few meters beyond Berlin’s border lies the small town of Schönerlinde. Within a short drive, the large hospital complex in Berlin-Buch serves as a magnet for many medical professionals, for whom we aimed to provide new homes with this project.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • At the time, public transportation connections were abysmal. The nearest S-Bahn station was a 15-minute walk away.
  • Additionally, even after reunification, the village remained largely undeveloped.
  • Furthermore, several old outbuildings had to be demolished, and the courtyard had to be repaved.
  • The development of the location was uncertain and not without speculation. It was by no means guaranteed that the small village would attract the necessary tenants.
  • Consequently, the initial square meter rents were around three euros. At the same time, in our early stages, we were not yet equipped with the financial resources we have today.
  • This also ensured that it would be a long-term project, where gradual increases in value would have to be awaited rather than annual ones.

Results

Leveraging the low initial rents, we were able to negotiate favorable terms with tenants and implement the renovation of the exterior spaces and individual apartments in a phased manner.

This allowed us to continuously reinvest the ongoing rental income and essentially grow the property organically without the need for further equity or external financing. This approach enabled us to cultivate the necessary patience and composure to observe the developments in Buch and Wandlitz.

Thus, we continuously enhanced the property, culminating in the complete renovation of the facade, serving as the building’s calling card.

With this comprehensive refurbishment, we were able to sell the property, albeit after 12 years of patience, at a profit of over 350%.

While this initial project was situated in a price range below one million euros, it served as a catalyst for our firm, not least in terms of percentage return.

We gained the confidence to identify sound investment opportunities and learned valuable lessons in assessing the viability of a property’s location.The decision to focus on future projects in more attractive locations also stems from the lessons learned in this seemingly unassuming suburb.

The Schönerlinde project exemplifies our ability to identify undervalued assets, implement a patient and strategic investment approach, and capitalize on long-term value creation.

This success instilled confidence in our ability to find sound investments and underscored the importance of careful location assessment.

Transforming a Berlin Treasure: Haubach 37

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Why we invested

Berlin-Charlottenburg’s Haubachstrasse is undoubtedly a prime location. Situated just a few minutes’ walk from Charlottenburg Palace and ending in Schustehruspark, it is nestled within a “Gründerzeitviertel” (late 19th-century period buildings) in the heart of the capital.

Surrounded by historic buildings in a vibrant neighborhood, we came across this charming corner building at number 37.

Dealing with inheritances can be complex, as we have experienced in our appraisal work in and around Berlin.

Such challenges also led us to this project: A daughter had inherited her father’s property comprised of 11 apartments and a commercial space, which, due to his age (understandably), he was increasingly unable to manage. It was perfectly reasonable for the daughter to consider selling the property.

Consequently, this situation led to a foreclosure auction, at which we were able to secure the property.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • Fortunately, the property had already been divided into individual condominium units. This would have been difficult to do in retrospect at that time, as the government had begun to enact subdivision bans.
  • The house was still largely stuck in the post-war era in terms of its technical condition. In addition to various structural defects, the plumbing systems needed to be renovated, and the facade required a complete overhaul.
  • To increase the property’s value, an elevator was to be installed. This presented not only financial but also significant bureaucratic hurdles.
  • Following the recent business failure of his father as a construction contractor, a variety of building materials were found scattered throughout the property, including the basement, and required complete removal.
Haubach_alt Haubach_neu

Results

While the location was undeniably desirable, the existing structure required a comprehensive rehabilitation to fully unlock its value. However, the presence of established tenants presented a crucial challenge. Recognizing the inevitable disruption that significant improvements would cause, we prioritized open communication and actively addressed tenant concerns, fostering a collaborative environment from the outset.

Our vision for the property was ambitious. The once-weathered facade would be meticulously restored to its former glory, regaining its architectural dignity. The building’s internal infrastructure, the unseen lifeblood of functionality, would undergo a complete overhaul of its utility lines, ensuring optimal performance for years to come.

Functionality and aesthetics would be equally emphasized in the renovation of the stairwell, transforming it from a utilitarian passage to a visually pleasing element within the building. 

However, the most transformative aspect of the project would occur within each individual apartment. Outdated and potentially dysfunctional bathrooms would be replaced with modern havens, substantially elevating the overall living experience for residents.

One final obstacle remained – a bustling Asian takeaway restaurant occupying the ground floor. While the vibrant atmosphere and enticing aromas held a certain charm, they didn’t align with the envisioned upscale aesthetic. We negotiated a relocation of the restaurant, minimizing disruption to the building’s operations and paving the way for a more suitable tenant. A real estate brokerage firm was ultimately selected, acting as a silent partner that would seamlessly integrate with the residential community.

The rehabilitation process itself presented its own set of challenges. The integration of an elevator into the existing structure of the older building proved to be a complex undertaking, requiring innovative solutions and unwavering determination. Nevertheless, we successfully achieved our goal, ensuring accessibility for all residents.

Upon completion, the results spoke for themselves. The once-tired property was revitalized, transformed into a vibrant addition to the neighborhood. Initial tenant apprehension was replaced with genuine satisfaction regarding their upgraded apartments and the overall improved living environment. The commercial unit, now occupied by the real estate brokerage firm, fostered a newfound synergy with the residential atmosphere.

The true test, however, lay in the market’s response. We strategically offered the rehabilitated units, encompassing a mix of apartment sizes and configurations, to both investors and owner-occupiers.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with units selling at exceptional prices that exceeded our initial projections. While the rehabilitation had been a considerable undertaking, both in terms of cost and labor, the favorable purchase price we secured and the booming demand for renovated properties within the Berlin market ultimately tilted the scales in our favor.

The project yielded a remarkable return on investment, solidifying the efficacy of strategically implemented rehabilitation coupled with a commitment to tenant well-being.

Potential into profit: Wildenbruch 46

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Why we invested

The Wildenbruchstraße/Kiefholzstraße property investment stands as a compelling testament to the fact that achieving a 50% return on investment doesn’t necessitate an extravagant property.

This 1930s-era building is nestled within the vibrant “Kreuzkölln” district, where the trendy neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln converge. Despite its somewhat unassuming appearance, the property’s proximity to the Spree River, the S-Bahn ring, and popular tourist attractions convinced us that its location far outweighed any initial shortcomings.

A consortium of Scandinavian private investors, eager to capitalize on Berlin’s burgeoning real estate market, possessed both the financial resources and the willingness to invest. However, the previous owners found managing the property from afar, without a deep understanding of the intricacies of the German market, to be far more challenging than anticipated.

While they had engaged a local Berlin-based property management company, the collaboration proved problematic, leading to their desire to divest from the investment. This presented an opportune moment for us.

Opportunities and challenges

  • Our primary objectives were to subdivide the property into individual residential units and market them to capital investors. This involved creating 30 largely identical two-bedroom apartments.
  • Additionally, we had to transform the attic floors into coveted shell spaces ripe for further development.
  • Optimizing the profitability of the rented apartments was paramount to maximizing the sale price.
  • To achieve success swiftly, we needed to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles of property conversion and the extensive formalities, ensuring that capital was not tied up for an extended period.
  • Marketing the non-viewable apartments to investors across Germany under our then-unfamiliar name posed a significant obstacle.
  • Moreover, tenant skepticism and apprehension regarding the sale demanded a delicate and sensitive approach.

A well-defined investment strategy and efficient execution were crucial for achieving the desired return on investment.

Results

While some investment projects present formidable challenges, the Wildenbruchstraße/Kiefholzstraße property proved to be a relatively smooth operation.

Building trust and rapport with the tenants was crucial to their satisfaction and cooperation. We achieved this through consistent, open communication and a commitment to delivering on our promises. In contrast to the previous management’s shortcomings, our approach was met with relief and appreciation from many tenants.

To further enhance the property’s value and attract potential buyers, we installed additional balconies, effectively increasing both rental income and overall return on investment.

This subsequent installation on the existing structure presented significant legal challenges and demanded considerable negotiation skills and assertiveness. Despite these obstacles, that endeavour was ultimately successful as well.

In 2012, we recognized the growing importance of digital marketing and created an in-house website to showcase the property. This website was then promoted through various popular real estate portals.

Our marketing strategy also emphasized transparency, providing potential investors with detailed information about the property and the investment opportunity.

While we engaged external partners to assist with the sales process, we ensured that they were well-equipped with comprehensive digital and analog marketing materials. This combination of transparency and effective marketing enabled us to sell the apartments and attic shell spaces within a short timeframe.

The Wildenbruchstraße/Kiefholzstraße property investment demonstrates the importance of fostering positive tenant relationships, embracing digital marketing strategies, and leveraging external partnerships.

By prioritizing transparency and open communication, we were able to secure tenant satisfaction, enhance property value, and achieve a successful sale of the property, ultimately delivering a substantial return on investment.

Neglected to Prime: Danziger Str.

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Why we invested

Danziger Straße is a well-known thoroughfare (and Bundesstraße 96) that runs through one of Berlin’s most sought-after neighborhoods, Prenzlauer Berg.

With an oulook at the famous TV Tower at Alexanderplatz, we were offered an ensemble of 50 apartments and a retail store in a new building and a typical Berlin garden house with corresponding side wings in this then and still popular trendy district.

Opportunities and challenges

  • Since 2012, prices had already risen rapidly in this location. Due to the city’s continued growth, we were aware that massive value increases were still possible here almost on a monthly basis.
  • The previous owner had managed both the property and the rentals in a state of disarray that we had never seen before. The mailboxes were partly misused as fictitious addresses for criminal activities, conflicts smoldered even among the tenants, and garbage from all possible tenants accumulated in the courtyard.
  • Some tenants had not paid rent in a long time and were under the impression that they could continue this practice.
  • The two-decade-old, moderately constructed new building suffered from moisture damage, both on the façade and in the basement.

The property presented a significant challenge due to its neglected state, tenant problems, and structural issues. However, its prime location in a popular district with strong market growth potential offered the prospect of substantial value appreciation through renovation and professional management.

Results

A Tale of Speed and Targeted Marketing

This project’s success hinged on a strategic combination of swift execution and targeted marketing. While our rental consulting team navigated legal and financial aspects, handled tenant terminations, and resolved conflicts, we simultaneously coordinated with various trades to renovate the building and vacant apartments as quickly as possible.

We ventured into uncharted marketing territory, directing traffic from major real estate portals to a custom-designed website featuring detailed property descriptions, floor plans, and continuously updated photographs.

This strategy revealed a significant demand from West Germans and Europeans seeking homes for job relocations or their adult children. These out-of-towners, drawn by the prime location and first-occupancy status, were willing to make pricing concessions.

As a result of our synchronized efforts, the time between completion, listing, and buyer reservation was reduced to a remarkable 10-14 days.

The installation of additional balconies on the historic garden house undoubtedly represented the most challenging phase of the entire project. The approval process alone proved to be extremely complex and time-consuming. For the actual installation of the balconies, it was essential to have Danziger Strasse temporarily closed.

This was necessary as the components had to be lifted over the front building using a crane. Since Danziger Strasse is a federal highway, approval for the measure lay not with the local authority but with the responsible state authority.

Despite an additional investment of approximately half a million euros, within 18 months, we not only established a vibrant, international community of residents from countries like France, Sweden or Italy, but also achieved a near doubling of the investment. Moreover, we left behind a transformed piece of Berlin.

West River Flats

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Why we invested

West River Flats challenged us on even different levels than other projects. Intrigued by the relatively good state of the 135 apartments, we had to deal with a few situations uncommon to our usual work. 

Opportunities and challenges

  • Being conceived during the COVID crisis, it became troublesome to meet lenders in person and secure financing.
  • The previous owner had maintained a relatively high state of renovation. Kitchens were mostly renewed, had black appliances, granite countertops, shaker cabinets, tile flooring, and shiplap siding.
  • Regarding rent-increasing amenities, a swimming pool put West River Flats well above average.
  • While the treatment of the premises was rather diligent, the administration lacked discipline and sustainability. We found a significant amount of back rents as well as unoccupied apartments.
  • It became obvious that marketing and management would be crucial to success here, where usually building measures are needed in advance to release a project’s potential.

Results

Although circumstances were unusual, we managed to acquire West River Flats in November of 2020.

Aside from our regular activities to improve the premises as a whole, we set our focus on marketing the vacant apartments since their state was flawless.

After circa six months, every single apartment was rented out, already improving the cash flow greatly while several apartments were renovated in a higher standard.

Further Improvements like the remodeling of the exterior walls along with considerate management allowed us to increase rent for current tenants, further improving revenues.

Our effective and enduring improvements lifted revenue expectations greatly, thus enabling us to yield a greatly increased sales price. In a short 18 months, the asset exceeded the proforma estimates and the property was listed for sale well ahead of schedule.

Sabal Palm Portfolio

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Why we invested

The Sabal Palm Portfolio with its 127 apartments was one of our larger projects, consisting of seven separate properties located along 4th Street South, distributed over a quarter mile.

The opportunities of this project were striking but not easy to implement. 

Opportunities and challenges

  • As it is often the case with opportunities, they come as a blessing in disguise, meaning the premises and apartments were gravely neglected.
  • As a consequence of mismanagement, a noteworthy number of residents had started to withhold rent payments.
  • A fraction of the apartments were already untenable.
  • The community was demoralized with police being present almost daily and may tenants had given up on it as well as prior management.
  • Still, we were aware that the ensemble was very close to bustling Downtown St. Petersburg with many attractive places of work.
  • Since the entire package represented 75% of the neighborhood, we felt optimistic to make a real change.

Results

During our previous projects we had recruited our own team of craftspeople instead of relying on third party contractors, giving us the manpower a project like this needed.

Once again we commenced the renovation of dozens of apartments while sorting out which tenants to keep and which could not be kept any longer.

Our investors were not the first to appreciate our work as only two months into the project, local police forces visited our property manager to state the drastic reduction of police operation on the premises.

Within 17 months, the majority of the apartments were renovated. Almost every facade was refaced and various roofs exchanged.

Aside from impressive returns and satisfied investors we were once more able to keep our promise to leave an intact and viable quarter to hundreds of people in the heart of St. Petersburg.

Altura Largo

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Why we invested

Altura Largo, consisting of 232 flats had an intriguing past. The previous owner intended to merge the condominiums and convert it into a single property in order to resell it.

After having bought the majority of the apartments already, the investor acquired more and more condominiums from their respective owners.

Opportunities and challenges

  • Solely focused on the idea of creating an easy fungible package of condominiums, maintenance was not taken care of. 838 complaint tickets were unprocessed.
  • Consistently, not only the interior of the apartments lacked maintenance, the entire premises needed substantial renovation.
  • We found several obvious improvements which would lift the overall appearance of the estate.
  • As in almost every project, communication with the tenants was crucial in order to clear doubts in the new management and to cement new hope.

Results

During the first three weeks, we took great effort in addressing the many complaints, order them by priority and send in our maintenance technicians.

We had to replace more than 40% of the roofs. After having dealt with these pressing matters, the facades were renewed and new balustrades and blinds were installed on the balconies. During the first year, the majority of the apartments were completely redone.

The bathrooms received water saving toilets and armatures to save water as well as running costs.

The maintenance office was also refurbished in its entirety to create a contact point for our tenants.

Later we laid our attention to energy savings by replacing all windows with modern and energy efficient windows.

A fitness center for the tenants is due to be opened in early 2023.

We are very proud to have proven that we were able to manage a project with more than 200 tenants and apartments once given the chance. The realized rent increases is as satisfying as the many pleased people living at Altura Largo.

Madison at 4th

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Why we invested

“Madison at Fourth” comprising of 21 apartments was Whitestone’s second project. While we are primarily focused on great investments to create great homes, in this project we also relieved an overburdened owner.

Opportunities and challenges

  • The premises had not been maintained for a long period of time. The decay was so advanced that some apartments could not even be rented out anymore.
  • The present tenants were left discouraged and frustrated by their former landlord, thus treating the premises with little respect also.
  • Because of the lax management, payment practice had also lowered over time, burdening the low cash flow even more, giving us the opportunity to part ways with conflicting tenants.
  • The owner was ready to sell the premises on progress payment with an owner financing, allowing us to only refinance a fraction of the asking price, recouping the unpaid balance while and by improving the housing estate.
  • Our analysis conducted that severe investing would be needed to renovate the building’s face and roof as well as the apartments themselves but that the estimated rent increases would outweigh these investments by far.

Results

After becoming familiar with the tenants, we were able to establish our common goal to create a better place to live for everyone involved and embarked the voyage to a “new Madison” together.

The facade was renewed and the roofs were rebuilt in their entirety.

We also renovated every single inhabited and vacant apartment within a few months, thus assuring that renting out could start as early as possible. That was another opportunity to proof to ourselves our ability to act very quickly whenever needed.

We also installed a new fire alarm system in increase the overall feeling of safety.

We and our investors were very pleased with our results in rent increases as well as the sale price two years after our acquisition.  This encouraged us further to apply our concept to more and larger projects.

Wildwood Way Villas

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Why we invested

“Wildwood” was Whitestone Capital’s first endeavor. We saw an immense potential for rent increases the previous owners neglected.

Wildwood way was the perfect ground for our company to proof our concept to ourselves and our first investors.

Opportunities and challenges

  • The premises were in a rather good condition that did not require substantial renovation. In fact, we were surprised the property was for sale – its potential seemed almost too obvious.
  • When interviewing the tenants we sensed tensions with some of the residents which was troubling and needed attention. Our managers had to mediate some conflicts, showing and challenging our social skills.
  • Some of the apartments had not been renovated in a long time, giving us the chance to offer renovation against an increased rent.
  • We found several obvious improvements which would lift the overall appearance of the housing estate.

Results

We immediately took care of the tenant management. We held meetings with tenants as well as in groups as face to face. Our professional yet friendly appearance helped to restore an agreeable atmosphere for everybody.

This did not keep us from evicting a small number of tenants who were notoriously disturbing the peace.

Whenever lessees did not continue their contract with us, we took the opportunity to renovate the respective apartment, setting a new standard for Wildwood Way.

We also reconstructed the entire roofing, installed an attractive outdoor lighting as well as a video surveillance system for everyone’s safety and peace of mind.

Within about 40 months, we were able to hand over a well run apartment complex to a grateful buyer, paying a markup of 26%, proving the “Whitestone way” is a success and giving us the first entry in our track record.