As president of Western National Property Management, Laura Khouri oversees a multifamily portfolio of more than 170 apartment communities that are home to over 23,000 households in Nevada and Southern California as well as a team of 750 associates. She shared with MFE her top industry concerns and what she’s most optimistic for in 2024.
How did you get your start in the industry?
When you’re young and in your early 20s, you’re fairly indiscriminate as to what job you’ll take—at least that’s how I’d describe my entry into adulthood. I first started in the multifamily industry by accepting a position advertised in the local paper as “Gal Friday.” It was a fancy position description for my actual duties of gofer, a mostly entry-level office role.
Early on during this time, I discovered my fascination with real estate and providing homes for individuals and families. My gofer responsibilities soon evolved, and as we fast-forward through my 38 years with Western National, I find I’m raising my hand volunteering for almost anything and everything, from acquiring my real estate broker’s license to serving as president of the board of directors for the California Apartment Association while leading my own team of 750 associates.
Today, as president of Western National Property Management, I am humbled to be in a position working for a company that puts people and the places where they live first and foremost. I have seen this industry grow and change into a leading real estate sector that draws all types of investors, from individual owners to family offices to large institutional partners. I’m excited to see where the industry is heading as it continues to evolve.
What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing today for the industry, and how are you navigating that?
One of the industry’s biggest challenges is ensuring multifamily communities’ long-term value through tough economic times like now. Owners are tasked with maximizing value and income and running their properties efficiently while delivering what today’s residents want and expect from their landlords—which can be tremendously difficult to balance.
A smart way to approach this challenge is to work with an experienced property management firm like ours that has a long track record of success in operating multifamily communities.
We’re in our 65th year in business, and there is very little that we haven’t seen and triumphed through over the years. Trusted partnerships like these allow landlords to focus on their core competencies while property managers do the heavy lifting of optimizing the assets, handling residents’ concerns, and creating long-term value for owners and investors.
What are you most optimistic for in 2024?
I’m optimistic that the lending environment will ease up and enable more investors to get in the game. We are going through yet another economic cycle right now, and this too shall pass. There is a lot of dry powder out there waiting to be deployed into multifamily properties, and the pent-up demand is palpable. I would like to see deal flow increase, particularly in the workforce and affordable housing sector where investment is so greatly needed.
What differentiates Western National Group?
As an owner ourselves, we have a unique perspective that allows us to understand other owners’ goals and deliver what they want. We do this through a customized approach because we know that each property has unique needs and demographics and requires a tailored strategy.
Western National Group is known for its leading management practices across the multifamily industry, including niche asset classes such as co-living properties and affordable housing. We have some of the smartest and most talented executives and staff members in the industry on our team, and we never stop learning and growing.
Another differentiator is the reputation we have built for honesty, integrity, and loyalty—ethical principles that are ingrained in everything we do. This is demonstrated in decades of relationships with operators and asset managers who continue to entrust us with their properties.
In addition, we are recognized for our hospitality-like service toward residents, clients, and investors. We provide this service consistently and across our stakeholders and residents.
Western National Group has a history of philanthropy. Tell me more about this work and why it’s important for the company.
At the highest levels of leadership, we prioritize philanthropy because, quite simply, people are our most important asset. A charitable act toward one person has a ripple effect on the world, so we are committed to completing as many charitable acts and good works as we can.
I personally devote time and energy to philanthropic causes because I believe it is every person’s responsibility to help those less fortunate. I’ve been blessed to have served as president of the board of directors for the Prentice School, a nonprofit school for dyslexic children from 2010 to 2016, and I serve on the board of directors of Laura's House, a nonprofit organization assisting women and children of domestic violence. I also served as board trustee of Chapman University in Orange, California.
Apple pie or pumpkin pie?
Definitely apple … a la mode.
Favorite holiday tradition?
Wrapping gifts … and then watching them be opened.