The Skyline’s not the limit; it’s just the view
Pictured Above (left to right) Jason Castellan, Wayne Byrd, Roy Ashdown and Martin Castellan
words by Brendan Louis
When the Castellan brothers, Martin and Jason, bought their first property, they were addressing a simple need for student housing, like everyone else in Guelph. Sure, they aimed a little higher than most of their classmates, finding a student rental property that offered them the ability to supplement their university tuition. But along with their homework, they had to collect rent, deal with contractors and maintain general upkeep like every other landlord in town. What they didn’t realize at the time was that they were on to something big; they just needed to get there first.
“From the very beginning, we always looked at things differently. We always saw opportunity first, and then figured out how we could make something work. But opportunity would mean different things at different times, and it still does today. We look for opportunities in properties that are undermanaged, undercapitalized, under-rented and more,” says Jason.
What they found out in that first dry run was that not only did they love real estate, they were also really good at the business of it and needed to find out how best to harness this talent.
A few years later, enter Roy Ashdown, who joined the team with a focus on operations that allowed the brothers to grow their holdings and eventually incorporate Skyline in 1999.
If 1999 was the revolution for Skyline, 2005 was the evolution that saw the team grow into a Real Estate Investment Trust (‘REIT’) that would allow the organization to grow exponentially while offering the public the ability to diversify their investment holdings through their various portfolio offerings.
“From an operations standpoint, we gained economies of scale and the ability to draw from the resources of a well-performing building to help reposition a lesser-performing building,” says Ashdown. Wayne Byrd, Chief Financial Officer at Skyline, adds, “the REIT structure allowed not only for capital, but also the performance of properties to be pooled. We have the flexibility to make improvements to a property that, as a standalone, wouldn’t have been completed without a specific cash call from those individual investors. It allowed us to grow the portfolio at a more accelerated pace without limiting our investors to the decision on having to pick one syndicate over another.”
Today, Skyline’s private REITs serve the investor market, unlike their publicly traded peers, as they are not only protected from public market volatility but also provide consistent returns that are well above the public market average.
Achieving these returns is never easy but what makes Skyline successful is a unique combination of their business practices and social values that stand above all others in the industry. On the business front in particular, Skyline maintains a competitive advantage by offering the best in fee structure, accessibility and predictability.
Moreover, complimenting these business practices are various social initiatives that have seen Skyline adopt ‘green’ property management practices, as well as develop strong bonds with the community that has already given them so much.
“Building strong communities is so important to us. We think it is crucial to give back to the places that welcome us and help our business to thrive,” states Martin on Skyline’s passion for giving back. “We have three key charity partners in our hometown of Guelph, Ontario: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph, the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington, and Shelldale Better Beginnings, Better Futures. We don’t forget our roots, and these organizations are doing incredible things for thousands of kids and families.”
Today the Skyline Group manages over 300 properties with over $2 billion dollars in assets, making the humble story of two brothers and their journey a very worthwhile endeavour.