Landlord fills ODU student housing niche
ODUrent.com started out as an alternative investment for tech company entrepreneur Thanos Polizos, but these days it’s a full-time career. His Norfolk-based ODUrent.com now rents to 500 students and owns more than 100 properties in the Old Dominion University area.
Polizos says he felt comfortable investing in properties near ODU in the late 1990s because he was familiar with the region (he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school) and except for banks, he didn’t need business partners. “Old Dominion University was growing feverishly, and it was in dire need of off-campus housing for students, and somebody needed to come in there, acquire the right properties, redevelop them and have them properly managed,” Polizos says.
Today, ODUrent.com’s properties are valued at $25 million, and the company is the largest private off-campus housing provider in the ODU area. Although The District, a large apartment complex, was built by ODU in 2010, Polizos says ODUrent.com caters to a different clientele. His tenants are looking for more privacy but still want to be close to campus. “Most of the other competitors either have smaller, older homes or live far away and manage the units part time,” Polizos said in an email.
Acquiring 100 properties took time and patience, Polizos says. “There were owners who did not want to let go of properties that were mismanaged, but, you know, we kept persevering and bugging them yearly, and their situations would eventually change. It might be three, five or seven years later.”
ODUrent.com continues to acquire and refinance properties. Polizos hopes for it to grow strategically, having recently refinanced $10 million in debt. The company currently employs five full-time workers and an extra two to four employees during busy seasons. Aside from ODUrent.com, Polizos also owns more than 100 other units, which have separate property managers.
Last fall, ODUrent.com received a Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award from the Initiative for Business in Society at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. The awards recognize companies that have overcome significant economic obstacles to grow and create jobs in their communities. Polizos says the recognition has helped with major refinancing because banks like the third-party acknowledgement.