How a Simple Idea Changed an INdustry


A.J. Keilty founded Varsity Properties in Kingston, Ontario when he was just 23 years old. From humble beginnings in 2003 to now, the Varsity team has been on a mission to simplify the housing experience for students and their parents by combining the highest quality locations, features and finishes with premium hotel level guest services.


A.J. knows a thing or two about hospitality and what it takes to deliver positive guest experiences. He grew up in the hotel business, for more than two decades his parents were owners and operators of one of Ontario's Finest Inns, The Gananoque Inn & Spa.  It was through this upbringing that he learned how it’s the small gestures of service that make the big difference in a guest’s stay.


While earning a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Queen's University’s School of Business A.J. and several friends leased a typical 7-bedroom, 1 bathroom house in Kingston’s University District (affectionately known then as, The Queen’s Student Ghetto). While it was home to them, the place was a dump. The joy of receiving keys to their first home quickly eroded by the sad reality that before they could move in they would be responsible for bagging and removing 48 bags of garbage left by the previous residents.  When winter came they soon discovered the massive cost of heating a very old home with poor insulation and single pane windows.  On top of that, the Landlord lived 3 hours away and took weeks to complete even the simplest of repairs.


Determined to upgrade their living situation he and his friends trudged through January snow, waited in long lines to view properties and lost out on several homes to other competitive groups of student house-hunters. They were never able to secure a better home that was affordable, clean and well-maintained close to campus.


"Why aren't there better housing options for students?", he thought.


These frustrating experiences led him to recognize a huge opportunity in the Canadian student housing market. He decided to bring his understanding of the hospitality business to the student housing industry by founding Kingston's first rental property company that focused on providing resident services, rather than property management.  Whereas a property management company focuses on the needs of the owner, Varsity Properties provides services that focus on the needs of its residents.  The logic being that if Varsity treats it’s residents with a high level of service and respect, everything else will take care of itself, properties will stay rented and damage expenses will be lower.