Earlier this month, Seneca, a newly spun, build-to-rent-focused division of Christopher Homes, debuted its first luxury BTR community in Las Vegas. The collection includes 50 two- and three-story residences ranging from 2,200 to 2,700 square feet featuring three-to-four bedrooms and three full baths. With the BTR project, Seneca is aiming to fill “a much-needed housing market gap with a luxury spin.”

Michael Stuhmer, co-founder and president of Seneca, spoke with Builder to discuss the decision to launch Seneca, the luxury BTR space, and future plans for the rental-focused division.

Can you provide some background on Seneca and Christopher Homes?

Seneca is a new division of Christopher Homes. We are developing one of the country’s first luxury-for-lease communities at Seneca with high-end, high-design rental homes focused on sustainability, well-being and convenience. Christopher Homes has been the leading luxury homebuilder in the Las Vegas Valley for more than 40 years.

How did the decision to spin off Seneca as a new division of Christopher Homes come about and what makes the timing right for the launch?

We saw what was happening in the build-to-rent space and how the product type was exclusively focused on the entry-level and affordable sectors. We felt there was a void in the market that served the more affluent residents. We have been developing luxury single-family home communities for over 40 years with Christopher Homes, so we know what people value in that space and we believe it translates into the for-rent part of the market as well. Our residents at Seneca can afford to purchase a home, but they are making the conscious decision not to do so, and in exchange, they get to take advantage of living in a home without the headache associated with home ownership plus much more.

What makes the BTR space an appealing one to enter?

It’s a new space and allows you to differentiate yourself because it is so new. It’s appealing to us because there aren’t many developers out there doing what we are doing.

What demographic or economic trends support the long-term runway for the BTR space?

Where rates and values are today is most certainly a tailwind for the BTR space. Additionally, the flexibility of remote work is driving significant migration, allowing people to explore living in new cities. Depending on the city, if you can afford to rent a home, you are likely to choose that over an apartment. There is also a psychological shift surrounding the stigma of renting, with the BTR model spearheading that as you can take advantage of living in a home without the burden of home ownership.

How does a luxury BTR home differ from a luxury for-sale home?

We design our homes and communities at Seneca in a similar fashion to what we build for sale. The only exception is one of our floorplans, which is a multi-story home with dual primary bedrooms. We took a risk with this floorplan to see how the market would respond and from the beginning of our lease up, this floorplan has been the most popular and we currently have a waitlist for this plan type. Most of the differences come down to how the homes and community are managed operationally. We aren’t interested in making our residents feel like they live in a rental home community, we go out of our way to facilitate making their home feel like they own it.


What is unique about Seneca’s product offering in the BTR space?

Beyond the design of our homes and the level of finishes that we bring in, what we are doing differently is focusing heavily on the lived experience. We spent a lot of time considering the inconveniences of living in a home you own and living in a home you rent. We’re interested in solving problems for our residents during the entire time they live at Seneca, and we are bringing in components that you would only typically see in the hospitality world to really enhance that experience. For example, we offer an extensive concierge program with services ranging from furniture assembly to home cleaning and dog walking. Our residents value convenience just as much as they value the luxury attributes of the physical product.

Can you describe the products and amenities available in the first Seneca community in Las Vegas?

We offer four different floorplans, including two two-story and two three-story options. Our product mix is tailored to the topography of Seneca at Southern Highlands, with the three-story plans situated on the higher side of the street to provide unobstructed views of the Las Vegas Valley from the third floor. Health, wellness, and sustainability are integral to Seneca's DNA; we've incorporated these principles into the homes and community, featuring high-design elements, upgraded finishes, smart home technology, Tesla solar panels, EV chargers, and superior insulation. Our recent WELL for Residential designation further demonstrates our commitment to these values. All four plan types are near net zero, benefiting both the environment and reducing residents' monthly expenses. It was important to me that we built common areas that people actually wanted to spend time in and would foster connection, so we created a unique design of a dog park and community garden as well as our pool area, which includes a barrel sauna. We call the pool area Gather, and it is carved into the side of the mountain and sits above the community, allowing you to hang out in the pool and see incredible views of the Las Vegas Valley and Strip.

What is the growth potential for luxury BTR? What is the demographic target of the product type?

It is similar to multi-family in that the asset class originally started as workforce housing. Fast forward to today, and you have Class-A, well-designed and highly amenitized apartment buildings. Ultimately, the market will tell us what it wants. It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions as we are only on our first community, but our lease-up and rates have exceeded our expectations.

What are the future growth plans for Seneca? Are there plans for geographic expansion or further expansion across the Las Vegas Valley?

We plan to continue developing in Las Vegas and will eventually move into new markets. We have two additional developments in Las Vegas. One we are close to breaking ground on and the other in pre-development. We plan to expand to other markets as well.

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