U.S. 31 Business is as far west as he goes. Eddy Street is as far east. He won’t head farther north than Corby Street, and two miles south of campus is his limit.
What, you might wonder, is contained in this geographical block?
Landlord Mark Kramer’s off-campus housing kingdom.
Notre Dame students wanting to move off campus know Kramer as the man to call. His company Domus Properties owns 45 houses, dwarfing his closest competitor, who he says owns six.
“There’s a demand in the student market, and it’s growing,” Kramer says.
Kramer. who has been in the real estate business since 1989, grew up in South Bend and is familiar with the territory. In 1996 he switched from the single-family housing market to working with students looking for group houses off campus.
Contrary to the stereotype, he says, students have proven to be reliable tenants.
“In the nine years that I have been doing this, I haven’t [once] not gotten my rent from a student,” the landlord says. “Right now I am chasing three of the 300 students I work with. . . . That’s 1 percent, and once I call their parents it shouldn’t be a problem any longer.”
Legacy renters—siblings or cousins of previous tenants— make up 40 percent Kramer’s business, he says. They’ve seen how their relations were treated and apparently want to have the same experience.
“My motto is, ‘If you give someone something bad, they’ll treat it just like that . . . very badly.’ But when the students moved in and had an appreciation for the house, well, that’s when demand started to increase.”
One current Domus tenant, senior Briana Foley, says she originally worried about dealing with an off-campus landlord but hasn’t had any problems with Kramer.
“If anything he has come when called and been quite prompt in helping to fix whatever problems have arisen, from a broken drawer to a clogged drain.”
William Kirk, the University’s associate vice president for residence life, says Kramer and Domus “have really made efforts to be good, responsible landlords.”
Kramer says he stumbled into the home-rental business literally in his own backyard. He says he was running a local extermination business when he purchased the house behind his office for more parking.
“I found some Saint Mary’s girls living in the house, and I honored their lease,” he says. “Their house was disgusting, though. The landlords didn’t do anything, and so after a while I thought I would make a few changes.”
Each year before he could tear the house down and build his parking lot, another group of students would approach him and ask about renting for the next year.
“After a while I thought, ya know, there’s a demand here, so I started buying more houses.”