‘Making a difference in someone’s life’ by providing them with a home
She’s not demonstrating layups or running plays, but in some ways Janet Riddlebarger has realized her high school dream of becoming a basketball coach.
As senior vice president for apartment living for real estate developer HHHunt, Riddlebarger is constantly jumping through hoops — at least figuratively. She oversees operations for 15 apartment communities throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. She also helps develop new multifamily communities, including three currently under construction and two scheduled to break ground in 2017.
One of the things she likes most about her job is coaching younger colleagues. “When you work with people, you have opportunities to develop them as leaders, and coaching is part of that,” she says. “Devoting time to values-based leadership is part of coaching, but instead of athletics, it’s everyday life.”
Riddlebarger joined Blacksburg-based HHHunt in 1983, eight years after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in political science. She had spent five years as executive director of the Virginia Safety Association in Richmond before deciding to switch gears. Returning to Blacksburg, Riddlebarger enrolled in business courses at
New River Community College and Virginia Tech. “I knew I wanted to do something different and needed to understand finance, accounting and economics,” she recalls.
Riddlebarger was living at Foxridge Apartment Homes in Blacksburg — HHHunt’s largest apartment community — when she learned Foxridge was looking for a leasing agent, so she applied. “I needed to support myself, and it had a little bit of everything — sales, marketing and management.”
From leasing apartments, Riddlebarger worked her way up to regional manager, director of operations, vice president and senior vice president, a position she has held for the past 16 years. “What we try to do every day in housing is truly remarkable, and I get to be a leader in that — making a difference in someone’s life by providing a home.”
Founded by Harry H. Hunt III in 1966, the company initially provided housing for Virginia Tech faculty and students. As its apartment living division grew, HHHunt expanded into single-family homes, town homes and senior living communities. “We can house you from the time you are in college until you are in your golden years,” says Riddlebarger.
Riddlebarger relates to apartment residents, having lived in a multifamily community until she was in her 40s. Then she bought a house in Christiansburg with a fenced-in yard for her Labrador retriever.
Apartment dwellers generally range from college students to retirees, with most between 24 and 40 years old. “More people are renting apartments in the U.S. than ever, and the demographics point to more renters in our country over the next few years,” notes Riddlebarger. “The millennial generation is the biggest renter group, and that group is growing and continuing to look for apartments.”
To stay on target with consumer trends, HHHunt regularly surveys residents to determine amenity trends, such as resort-style swimming pools, fitness centers and nature trails. The company also encourages employees to become involved in their communities.
As the number of apartment communities increases, so does the demand for property managers. Virginia Tech offers a degree program in property management and a minor in residential property management, one of only a few offered in the U.S. Riddlebarger chairs the program’s advisory board. “There’s a diverse mixture of men and women in this field, and there are great opportunities,” she says. “Students graduating in our program are virtually guaranteed a job.”
Years in the industry: 33
Where did you grow up? Brookneal, Va.
Family: Mom (94 years young), three brothers and their families, 7-year-old yellow Lab named Otter.
Hobbies: Riddlebarger describes herself as an avid sports fan. She also collects Pez dispensers and “anything Notre Dame.”
Favorite app or mobile site: ESPN
Favorite reads: Anything by David Baldacci, John Grisham or Janet Evanovich
On the bucket list: Meet Pope Francis, Tom Brokaw and Coach K. See the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Visit Normandy, Ireland and Germany. Travel the U.S. and be a season ticket holder for Notre Dame football.