Who We Are

Our Story

The Watermark story began over a decade ago. On the heels of the 2009 financial crisis, Freddy Ellis and a former College teammate left corporate positions to help launch a real estate development company to support the operating budget for Chicago Hope Academy – a college and life preparatory high school dedicated to serving the inner-city youth of Chicago.

Supplying newly formed institutional buyers with rental homes, the pair rehabilitated communities and forged the beginnings of this new, rapidly growing asset class – now known as “Build-to-Rent”. As consumer demand for the new asset class continued to surge, Watermark was created in 2013 to address this glaring housing need and offer a living experience that superseded anything else on the market – building deliberately designed, luxury, single-family leased home neighborhoods branded as “Canvas Communities”.


The pursuit to champion everything we do.


The unchanging demeanor to achieve sustained excellence.


Our standard is exactness, accuracy in every detail.


The relentlessness to do whatever it takes to get the job done and done well.


We will protect the team. We will protect the cause. We will safeguard equity partner money like it is our very own.

Why We do it

We believe in something greater than ourselves

We exist to give – to cultivate. To create a new brand of real estate that gives residents a better place to live. A place to call home. To develop a new, wholistic standard of living. To not just fill units with tenants, but to cultivate a better life for residents.

Chicago Hope Academy

Since 2013, Watermark Properties have been proud partners of the Chicago Hope Academy, a private, preparatory high school on Chicago’s near west side.


Our financial models may communicate how we best serve our stakeholders, but it is our actions that communicate how we actively seek and serve others in the communities in which we operate. If all else changes, Watermark will always remain committed to our greatest calling – serving people.


Our unrelenting commitment to prioritizing relationships over transactions is inherent to our identity and is the beautiful byproduct of team-members who genuinely care about their neighbors. Whether it’s across the street or across the world, everyone at Watermark is passionate about investing time, effort and resources to effect positive change unto others.

Watermark gives

“Watermark Gives” is a program we set in place in order for our team members to give back to organizations and causes that are near & dear to their hearts.

In 2024, we have the privilege to donate to these 6 organizations in need chosen by our team members:

Giving back has been a foundational principle to Watermark’s culture & vision from its very inception. Our hope is to create opportunities to allow our team of Rhinos to make an impact beyond the bottom line, to give back to causes we are passionate about, and to have fun doing it as a team.