Growing real estate firm sees potential in rise of rental market

With homeownership showing signs of decline, particularly among first-time homebuyers, one real estate firm has grown its business by focusing on rental housing and private investment options.

This approach helped DLP Real Estate Capital move from its headquarters at 701 W. Broad St. in Bethlehem to 95 Highland Ave. in Hanover Township, Northampton County.

“In general, I think renting is continuing to grow and homeownership is declining,” said Don Wenner, founder, president and CEO. “I don’t think in the foreseeable future we will see the trend turning anytime soon for homeownership.”

Wenner, who lives in Center Valley, began DLP (short for Dream, Live, Prosper) in 2006 as part of the Don Weller Keller Williams Real Estate team. He left Keller Williams in 2009 to build the DLP Real Estate Capital family of companies.

The company celebrated a grand opening of its new space last week.

With about 115 employees in its new building and 310 across its different locations in all, DLP Real Estate has shown about 70 percent to 90 percent revenue growth year over year, Wenner said. Right now, the company is at $100 million in annual revenue.

“So far this year, sales are just a tad less than they were last year,” Wenner said.

As a whole, he sees the real estate market slowing down a bit in the region.

A recent report from the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors buttresses his view.

The real estate market in the region got off to a slow start this year, which has continued, according to March data from the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors.

“We are still dealing with all-time low inventory,” Wenner said.

At 80,000 square feet, DLP’s new office building is larger than its former location of about 20,000 square feet in West Bethlehem.

The extra space allows for more employees under one roof and potential to grow the four companies under parent company DLP Capital Real Estate:

The four companies are:

• DLP Realty, a company that sells and buys homes.

• DLP Capital Partners, a private investment group that focuses on income-producing real estate backed debt and equity investments. DLP Capital has more than 700 investors, with about 500 of them in or near the Lehigh Valley, he said.

• DLP Real Estate Management, which owns and operates more than 8,500 apartments and townhouses along the East Coast and in the Midwest.

• DLP Builders, which handles all types of construction from residential subdivisions to custom-built homes to residential and commercial renovations.

The new space also adds more natural light through large, clear-glass windows and panels for offices.

“It’s much more of an open floor plan,” said Matthew John, controller for DLP Realty. “It’s better for engagement, flow of communication.”

Its older space in West Bethlehem was a little outdated, he added.

Jason Battestelli, president of DLP Real Estate Management, said for the first time since he’s been working there, the company’s space matches the work the firm is doing to improve the experience for its employees.

The market for real estate employees in the Lehigh Valley is not as competitive as it is in Philadelphia, but the market is strong, he added.

And DLP Has been hiring. Each year, the company has added 20 to 30 employees, bringing the company’s total from 100 to more than 300 in about three years, Battestelli said.

DLP created its diversified business model by design; Battestelli said it helps contribute to the company’s growth.

“If the rental market keeps growing, we have a property management part that can grow,” he said.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108.

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