Shared bathrooms. Crowded laundry facilities. Cinder-block rooms the size of a postage stamp. These are just a few of the realities of dorm living that drive 36 percent of private-university students and 60 percent of public-university students to live off-campus.
Some higher education institutions that are experiencing a shortage of on-campus housing are even offering students incentives to find alternatives to dorm living.
If your multifamily property is located near a college or university and would like to increase occupancy, targeting these college students could be the answer, even if your property isn’t a dedicated student housing community. The key is appealing to students and their parents.
Attracting Student Residents
When looking for off-campus housing, students have fairly practical expectations. They want basic amenities such as computer/printing stations, high-speed Wi-Fi, in-unit washers and dryers, and parking.
Students also tend to be budget conscious and appreciate value. Living in an off-campus apartment might not be much more expensive than living on campus (in fact, it might even be less expensive!). The national average cost of room and board in a dormitory is $8,887-$10,089, which averages out to $987-$1,121 each month for a nine-month school year. For an apartment shared with a roommate for a 12-month lease, the average cost of rent, utilities, internet, and groceries, amounts to $895 a month.
While basic amenities like internet access and a convenient place to do laundry might not seem like huge selling features, be sure to highlight them when marketing to college students. To emphasize affordability, be upfront with all costs (rent, fees, etc.) and show cost breakdowns for the various floorplans you offer. Bear in mind that this tactic is likely to be less effective if you’re located in a more expensive city such as New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco.
Appealing to Parents of Students
When it comes to getting college students to sign a lease with your property, getting parents on board is critical, especially if they’ll be the ones writing the rent check. Research by Conversion Logix found that while 18-24-year-olds searched the most for student housing, there were a significant number of 45-54-year-olds searching as well. This indicates that parents are on the hunt for apartments for their college students.
When parents help their children select a college, safety is a top consideration. In a Wearsafe survey, over half of parents said they were “very concerned” about their child’s safety while away at college. If you want your property to appeal to parents of prospective students, security is a key selling feature to build a good reputation for your property and put parents’ minds at ease.
While you likely already have security measures in place, such as lighting or gated access, don’t neglect one essential component of a safe community: measures to control employees’ and contractors’ access to keys. Put yourself in parents’ shoes. How would you feel about an employee or contractor having access to a master key for the apartment in which your student lives?
Unfortunately, misuse of keys can easily go unnoticed if employees or contractors have a legitimate reason to be using them. For example, maintenance personnel need access to keys in order to address maintenance issues. But what happens if someone begins using these keys to unlawfully enter units? What if contractors are given access to keys without adequate oversight?
To hold employees accountable and mitigate security risks, implement a process for creating an verifiable audit trail that shows who checked out a key, when they used it, and how long they had it. If you use an electronic key control system that allows you to receive text or email alerts for overdue keys, take advantage of that feature.
By balancing college students’ and their parents’ expectations, you can present your property as the ideal place for college students to call home.