Quick Q&A: Joseph Gurth, VP and general manager, Premier Furnished Solutions

George Sell By George Sell
Uploaded 10 September 2015

Serviced Apartment News talks to Joseph Gurth, vice president and general manager of New York-based Premier Furnished Solutions.

• What's your background?
"I started as an intern for Weichert, realtors in Morris Plains,  NJ, in 1988 and was hired upon my graduation from Rutgers University to work in the  relocation/mobility division. In my years spent working at Weichert Workforce Mobility, I witnessed the company expand service deliveries and become a fully outsourced relocation company, serving as an arm of corporate clients. From counselling transferring employees to managing  a team of mobility counsellors, I moved through the ranks to director of client services.  Working in mobility exposed me to the corporate housing industry and I was given the opportunity to head up the Premier Furnished Solutions branch of Weichert Corporate Housing, based in Manhattan, in 2013.
• What changes have you seen since being involved in the sector?
"The major change occurring over the past few years has been the continued recovery of the housing and rental market in NYC that has spurred major development of commercial, mixed use and residential high rise buildings. One of the largest projects in NYC is the Hudson Yards Development. This will bring  17 million square feet of commercial  and residential space in five office towers, 100 retail shops, a multitude of restaurants and over 5000 new residences. Look around all of New York City and you will find development in each borough. Our company has taken on more inventory outside of Manhattan because of these new facilities, the amenities they offer and the ease of subway commute to employment hubs in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan."
• What do you see as the biggest threats and challenges for your business over the next 12 months?
"With many of the NYC's largest landlords operating at the highest occupancy rates in years, we find many buildings who are not leasing new apartments to corporate housing companies and are looking to have long term individual tenants. One challenging tactic being used by the landlords is to offer renewal rates upwards of 10 to 12 per cent and not agreeing to formulate any negotiations for a lower amount. This creep up in monthly rental costs has placed pressure on our business to devise ways to market properties with added features in an effort to keep our profit targets in place."
• What do you see as the biggest threats and challenges for the corporate housing sector over the next 12 months?
"NYC has a minimum occupancy rule of 30 days for apartments that are not hotels. The biggest threat is the ongoing use of illegal apartments by long term residents who rent out their units for less than 30 days. This causes great unrest with property owners and leasing managers because the leases to long term residents do not provide for the subletting program that we operate by being licensed and insured. Local governments are trying to enact rules and regulations to curb residents from creating the illegal apartments but have a uphill battle since enforcement is very challenging."
• Have you any suggestions on what the sector can do collectively to overcome these challenges?
"Involvement in our industry association to stay abreast of local regulations  and utilising this information to educate the apartment communities as to the legitimacy and professionalism corporate housing brings to their communities. Assisting communities in converting our temporary residents into long term full time residents.  Our industry  need to bring value and information to the apartment industry leaders. In addition, our recent attainment of the ASAP Quality Assurance Accreditation, in my opinion, is one of the best tools we can use to overcome these challenges.  Managing our inventory holdings in conjunction with providing outstanding customer experiences will always continue to be our main goals but being judged by our industry piers is equally important."
• How do you quantify success?
We judge our success on three fronts - our customers, our people, and our client satisfaction scores. We truly believe, to stand out in a crowded field, we must fully understand our customers and continually support their needs with best in class service. Our people are key to this success, they engage our customers, providing ongoing support through consistent communication. Our overall customer service satisfaction rate is 98.7 per cent. This is attributable to the best customers engaging the best people. Client retention year over year remains at an all time high providing further proof that our dedication to our customer and our people is recognised by our client base."
• What's next for Premier?
"Expansion, organically and through strategic acquisitions. Our client base has continually requested our level of service in multiple regions throughout the globe.  We consider this a great compliment and responsibility not taken lightly. We are working with several clients on a global support initiative which will be centric to the success of their serviced apartment program."


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