An Excerpt from Seniors Housing Business’ Interview with President Mercedes Kerr
For having held only three jobs in the seniors housing industry, Mercedes Kerr has quite the resume.
Moving from a career in the hospitality industry in Mexico, Kerr was recruited into seniors housing in 1997 by Irvine, California-based Healthpeak Properties (NYSE: PEAK), then known as Healthcare Property Investors and later HCP. She served as vice president of acquisitions before leaving in 2006 to take two years off to spend time with her children.
In 2008, she joined Welltower (NYSE: WELL), serving as executive vice president of business and relationship management. Just like that, she had gained executive experience at two of the “Big Three” REITs in seniors housing.
After over a decade at Toledo, Ohio-based Welltower, Kerr was recruited in September 2019 to join one of the company’s operational partners, Belmont Village Senior Living, as president. She serves under founder and CEO Patricia Will.
The Houston-based developer and operator boasts 30 communities totaling 4,163 units, largely concentrated in California, Texas, the Midwest and the Southeast. Approximately two-thirds of the units are assisted living, one-quarter memory care and the remainder are independent living. The company plans to open a 204-unit community in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, later this spring.
The company targets a high-end market and employs approximately 4,000 people.
Seniors Housing Business spoke to Kerr in January about her journey working for three of the largest property owners in the industry, and what the future looks like for seniors housing.
Seniors Housing Business: You have held executive positions at many of the top companies in this sector.
Walk me through how you became interested in seniors housing and your journey since then.
Mercedes Kerr: I’m from Mexico and I came to the United States to get my graduate degree in real estate development at University of Southern California, graduating in 2005. In Mexico, I had been working in hospitality for a resort developer. My intent at that time was to continue in hospitality. My journey into seniors housing was a result of a phone call from a headhunter who had received my name about a position at a REIT that specialized in healthcare-type investments. Back then the company was known as Healthcare Property Investors, later HCP and now Healthpeak. I took a job with the company as an investment analyst, and later in originations and investment activities. I started there around 1997. It was a period of high activity in the seniors housing industry. There was a lot of growth for the REIT, a lot of acquisitions, a change in the CEO. That was an interesting seat from which to view that growth and change. A lot of companies we now know well were in the early stages of life, and we financed a lot of that growth.
Read the complete interview in the digital edition of Seniors Housing Business on pages 44-48.