Assisted Living Provider Bets Big On Small Homes

May 25, 2017, Tim Regan, Senior Housing News - At a time when some providers are rushing to open sprawling and luxurious senior living communities, one Texas-based owner-operator is thinking small.  Dallas-based Mustang Creek Estates specializes in building affordable campuses comprised of six or seven individual homes that accommodate 10-16 residents apiece.

Though the communities are smaller and more homey than a typical private-pay community, they still offer 24-hour assisted living and memory care services and a full range of amenities and activities.  And it is offering this at a steep discount to standard assisted living rates in its markets, the company says.

The company is founded on the principle that senior living should be high-quality, affordable and home-like, Renee Ramsey, co-founder and CEO of Mustang Creek Estates, tells Senior Housing News.

“We like to think that our business model is unique from the top to the bottom,” Ramsey says.  “We try to be open-minded and think about things in different ways.”

So far, that business model seems to be working.  Mustang Creek’s average occupancy rate is around 93% or higher, and some of its communities are totally full with waitlists, Ramsey says.

In May, the provider broke ground on its newest project, a $7.5 million assisted living and memory care community in Sachse, Texas, its fifth in the state.  The provider has plans to build five more communities throughout Texas in the years ahead.

Just like home

Photo courtesy of Mustang Creek Estates

Unlike at flashy resort-style communities, Mustang Creek’s buildings tend to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, which is a feature, not a bug.

“We don’t want to be built next to a gas station or a Wal-Mart,” Ramsey says.  “We try to find a site that has single-family homes on two or three sides.”

The provider also prefers smaller markets to larger primary ones.

“We’re looking at suburbs or rural suburbs.  That’s where we want to be,” Ramsey says.  “Our product, homes, they fit much better in a suburban area, not a primary market.”

The goal is for residents and their families to feel as comfortable as possible.

“It feels like a home,” Ramsey says.  “That’s different than those communities that have more of a commercial kitchen and a restaurant setting.”

Streamlined for success

As many providers in the senior living industry know, the cost of doing business can make or break a community, even in markets with high demand.  To keep its properties within a strict budget, Mustang Creek streamlines its operations at each community from initial design to day-to-day functions.

“We’re control freaks,” Ramsey jokes.

The company owns its own development firm, allowing it to save costs during construction, for instance.

“We’re able to keep our costs down when we do these projects,” Ramsey explains.  “We’re not paying out a development company.  When we build our projects, we’re building them for millions less.”

Another way Mustang Creek saves money is by training its employees to do nearly every job there is to do at a community, cutting down on inefficiency and fostering tight relationships.  Each house has a superviser, which Ramsey describes as “like a house mother.”  The other staff members are all on equal footing.

“Employees become very, very close with the residents and families in that home.  They form almost like their own unit,” Ramsey says.  “The employees, the residents, and the families, these team members, truly feel like that is their home.”

It all comes down to “having systems for everything,” Ramsey adds.

“We may be very homelike, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not sophisticated,” she says.  “We know that if we do it with these systems, whether it’s on our sales side, or on our operations side, we will be successful.”

At the end of the day, Mustang Creek passes those savings onto its residents.

The provider’s homes are priced about $1,000 lower per month than its closest competitors, making them well-positioned to attract middle-market seniors, or seniors who make enough money to support themselves but not enough to afford the steep monthly fees found at many private-pay communities.

“There’s a huge problem for affordable quality assisted living,” Ramsey says.  “I’m hopeful that Mustang Creek can be part of that solution.”

Though Mustang Creek has its sights set on 10 communities, Ramsey says the future looks bright after that.  Like any business model, however, the big question is scalability.  And things look good on that front, too, she says.

“We really are trying to stay focused at 10 and then reevaluate and then maybe make big plans at that point,” Ramsey says.  “I do believe that this product is scalable.”