Apartment Living BlogFeatured › Student Housing Search Trends: Tips to Prepare Your Off-Campus Property

Some analysts have wondered if off-campus student housing is a recession-proof segment of the rental housing market. Because it’s tied to college enrollment, a downturn in the economy and the corresponding job losses often results in an uptick in college enrollment. So many housing investors are looking at off-campus student housing rentals as a way of diversifying their portfolio.


Whether you already have properties that accommodate off-campus college students or you are looking to enter the market, the growing interest in this sector could mean steeper competition. So we started wondering what college students are looking for in their off-campus rentals and what their priorities are.


In a survey conducted by our off-campus rental housing site, ForRentUniversity.com, we discovered insights into what college students want in off-campus apartments. This valuable information can help you position your apartment community to better accommodate student needs and to be more competitive within your market.


student housing off-campus


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What Do Students Want in Off-Campus Apartments?


When we asked college students what apartment features were most important to them, the resulting data lined up with the most sought-after apartment amenities in metros like Phoenix or Portland. The significant difference is that college students are highlighting high speed Wi-Fi as a very important apartment amenity.


Most Important Apartment Features for Off Campus Rentals


25%: In-Unit washer/dryer
25%: High-speed Wi-Fi
10%: Ample Parking
9%: Gym/Fitness Center
7%: Computer/Printing area
6%: Pet-friendly
18%: Other


Looking beyond the apartment itself, we were curious what criteria that students were using to choose their off-campus apartments. Of course, price ranked as a top concern to the majority of students, but after price, students were interested in an apartment’s location, reviews, and amenities.


Top 3 Selection Criteria (Other Than Price) When Choosing Off-Campus Housing

50%: Proximity to school, nightlife, restaurants, etc.
47%: Property Ratings and Reviews
43%: Modern Amenities


While your apartment’s location is not something that you can change, your online reviews are something that you have control over. Today, reputation management is an important part of marketing your apartment. If you need to boost this area of your business efforts, check out our 10 Reputation Management Tips for Apartment Professionals.

Communicating With Off-Campus Student Renters


When renting to students, it’s important to take into consideration the varying communication styles and expectations of those who are in a different age bracket.


When communicating with students about prospective rentals, our survey found that 72% prefer to be emailed by apartment managers. A smaller percentage (16%) want to be texted, and 12% want to be called on the phone.


Keep in mind that there is an expectation that inquiries will be met with a fast response. 23% of students expect a response within two hours, and 45% expect a response within 24 hours.


To connect on social media, students report that the platforms on which they are most likely to interact with apartment communities are Facebook at 37% and Instagram at 28%. Snapchat and Twitter trail behind as the preferred social media platforms, each at about 11%.


As to a prospective resident’s rental process, students report that after narrowing down their apartment search, 45% will do more online research and 41% will contact the property.

Timing and Availability for Off-Campus Housing


Timing is also an important aspect for student housing. Because of the academic calendar, there is a specific calendar cycle. But what surprised us was how far in advance students search for their next year’s rental.


When Do Students Search for Housing for the Next Academic Year?


27%: Fall
33%: Winter
23%: Spring
17%: Summer


With more than one quarter of students searching for rentals a year in advance, it’s important to have apartments listed and marketed far ahead of their available date. If you wait until the summer, a few months before the apartment becomes available, your apartment listing will miss 83% of the students who have already searched for their new apartment.


In markets where apartment availability is minimal, students are more likely to start their search early. This tight rental market was reported in a student housing analysis done by the City of Boston. The report revealed that only 46% of the city’s many college students live on campus. The 44% of students who are renting off-campus apartments are having a significant impact on the city’s apartment availability.

How Does College Proximity Influence Rental Price?


Cost is another important consideration for students. However, there is wide fluctuation in the off-campus housing costs depending on the city where the college is located.


Additionally, a recent analysis by the real estate investment managers at Home Union revealed that even within the college’s metro area, there are cost fluctuations between rentals within a two mile radius of the college, and those that are farther away.


Some metros such as Austin or Orlando saw rental rates near the colleges to be lower than the city’s median by 33% and 18% respectively.


However, many other instances had rentals near the college priced much higher than the rest of the metro area. For example, off-campus housing for students at the University of California at Los Angeles were 85% higher than the city’s median. Stanford students pay 68% higher than the San Jose market, and Georgetown students pay 60% higher than the rest of Washington D.C.


“To minimize living expenses, students in high-rent areas like the Bay Area, Boston and Washington, D.C., can rent properties further than two miles from campus or choose to have roommates in a rental home,” said Steve Hovland, director of research for HomeUnion.


In fact, 82% of Gen Z renters do choose to have roommates regardless of how close to campus they live. So be sure that both your apartment spaces and your leasing paperwork are set up to accommodate the needs of roommates renting together.


Make sure that your student apartments are getting found by listing all of your apartment amenities at https://www.forrentuniversity.com

Diana Paz


National Account Manager, Student Media & Training Expert at ForRent.com®, ForRentUniversity.com®. Contact Diana at diana.paz@forrent.com or 517.862.8685.

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