I’ve never had any patience for the standard Hollywood “ugly duckling” story line.

You know, those movies about shy, bookish girls who suddenly become sexy when they take off their glasses and let down their hair? Or when a gaudy hooker becomes a refined, pretty woman through a rich man’s attention? I’m not a fan of the genre.

Just think about how the movie Grease ends and you’ll see where I’m coming from. But there are countless other examples—My Fair Lady, Sabrina, Miss Congeniality, The Princess Diaries, Love Potion No. 9, Never Been Kissed, et al.

The joke, of course, is that the actress playing the Cinderella character is always beautiful to begin with. And sometimes, as is the case in Grease, a strong argument could be made that she was actually more attractive before the climactic makeover.

In real life, though, it takes a certain level of vision to find beauty in what others overlook. Not everyone sees a potential race car in a jalopy or imagines a gleaming new community in the worn-out husk of an old structure.

But looking beyond what is—transcending the prejudices of the here and now—isn’t just about owning a pair of rose-colored glasses. It’s also about having the skill and the confidence to back up that vision.

And it’s not for the faint of heart: Rehabbing also takes a certain level of intestinal fortitude, as you’ll see in our cover story on Home Properties, “One Man’s Treasure.”

The REIT has rushed in where others fear to go, targeting suburban communities that house mostly middle-income, and below, populations. The company targets Class C acquisitions and is almost always the only REIT bidding on such properties.

They aren’t sexy assets, they’re not in sexy markets, and, compared with all the gleaming, shiny towers owned by their fancy-pants REIT brethren, it’s not a sexy strategy.

And yet, nothing is sexier than success. Sometimes, you have to carve out your own opportunities, and that goes double during an upturn.

One of the happy offshoots of Home’s strategy is that, by targeting renters of modest means, its properties see very little turnover. As Home’s CEO, Ed ­Pettinella, notes, many of the company’s residents have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage. In the wake of the single-family meltdown, Home has posted some of its best years on record—a trend shared by many in the multifamily industry.

That trend certainly isn’t lost on single-family builders, some of whom have adopted an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Some of the for-sale industry’s most well-heeled titans, such as Lennar and Toll Brothers, are looking at the multifamily industry as their next sexy market.

Is this new competition a real threat? Time will tell. But multifamily developers and operators face countless other threats every day. Some endure union protests that turn incredibly ugly. And many owners in hard-hit neighborhoods have to guard against the explosive problems presented by the possibility of there being a meth lab in their community.

There was a time when our industry was that ­homely, bookish girl—I guess the single-family folks took off our glasses and decided we’re beautiful, as you’ll see in our feature article “New Lease on Life.” 

While we’re flattered by all the attention, truth is, we didn’t need anyone’s attention to realize: We’ve always been beautiful.