In just five years, Mark Hafner grew HASTA Capital into a $1 billion company. Today, he is expanding their multifamily operations abroad.
Mark’s fascination with where people live, and building something new, began early in life. Growing up in Rochester, New York, he would stare up at buildings and cranes from the car window and wonder: Who built those? And what were they for?
“Even today when I’m driving, my wife yells at me, ‘You’ll crash the car if you don’t stop looking at all those cranes,” he laughed.
Mark’s interest in construction and cranes led him to Harvard Business School to study business and real estate. He then moved to Charleston, South Carolina to work for a budding company called Greystar, now the largest operator of apartments in the U.S.
While at Greystar, Mark’s role expanded significantly, and he ultimately led the company’s international expansion into Europe and Latin America. He oversaw the investment and development of over 30,000 residential units and over $9 billion of multifamily rental properties and student housing.
As I spent more time working in multifamily, I grew to appreciate how it directly impacted people’s lives.
When Mark created HASTA Capital in 2016, he focused on investing, developing, and managing residential multifamily assets that are “purpose built,” or designed to be communities of all renters. These communities, often in urban city centers, are under common ownership and managed to be operated as rental apartments.
The common thread to making them successful, according to Mark, is experience: both for him and his staff and for the people who live there. “Ultimately it really all comes down to customer experience.”
I try to stay for at least one week at each of our properties with my family. Living there as a fellow resident, seeing everything through our customers eyes and experiences, I’ll get more insight and analysis than I did over the previous months of due diligence.
For example, he said, “I took my dog to one of our properties and went out to its dog park and realized there was no bench to sit down on. It’s something you don’t realize until you’re there every day.”
“At HASTA, learning is very integral,” Mark said. “All of our new employees spend the first six weeks working onsite at a property, regardless of their role in the corporate organization. They spend time onsite doing things like leasing apartments and handling maintenance service requests because we want them to learn and understand what drives an apartment community.”
The same way that Mark saw a chance to improve the resident experience with a place to sit, he is spotting and addressing a need on a much bigger scale. Mark and his team at HASTA are currently introducing the purpose-built multifamily rental concept in cities outside of the United States, where rentals are more commonly owned, managed and operated as individual apartments.
“In Houston, a market of 6 million people, there are about 650,000 purpose-built apartment units. By contrast, Mexico City, with about 25 million people, has only about 2,000 purpose-built apartment units,” he said.
By formalizing apartment development and management in cities like these, “We’re building multifamily in countries where they don’t yet have an existing industry,” Mark said.
Walker & Dunlop has been integral to HASTA’s growth, he said. “They’ve been there every step of the way, from the first deal on. And as we’re trying to continuously improve and do better, they’re thinking proactively and outside the box in creative ways.”
“Attention to detail and continuing to improve the customer experience is what drives me,” Mark said. Wherever HASTA’s properties are at in the world, “I want people to love where they live.”