At the recent BISNOW conference in Philadelphia, several of the panelists, including me, expressed concern that some college and university markets are being overbuilt with properties that offer high levels of amenities. Granite countertops, stainless appliances, resort style pools, and extensive fitness areas are the norm in many new off-campus properties catering to the college student population. While these premier properties are appealing, there is a finite percentage of the student population that can afford to choose to stay in such a property. There is even a larger percentage of the student population that is looking for more affordable accommodations within close proximity to campus or with mass transit close by.
As the 21st Century Project determined students are driven by the following: privacy, technology, community, and sustainability. 2/2s and 4/4s will continue to appeal to the majority of the student population. Units that provide the greatest degree on technological integration with their multiple devices will be valued. A property that encourages and promotes the development of community will stand above the rest of the competition. A property that promotes sustainability via energy efficient heating and cooling; easy to access recycling; ease of bicycle parking/storage; and the use of sustainable products in all aspects of the operation will have a market advantage with the generation of students who are now attending institutions of higher education.
At the same time, students and their parents are becoming much more astute customers. What makes your offering stand out above the competition? Instead of offering a free month’s rent, or a chance to win the latest and greatest techno toy, or the opportunity to have a unit that faces the pool, consider what adds value to both the student and their parents. Instead of requiring it, why not offer renter’s insurance as part of your rent? In addition to providing washers and dryers in units or in close proximity, why not offer a weekly laundry service pick-up and drop-off with one of the local businesses? Depending on your location, why not provide free shuttle service to and from the local airport during holiday season? The opportunities are endless on how you can make your property stand above the rest of the market at a relatively low cost but will be viewed by students and parents as being invaluable. Students and their parents are seeking more than just an apartment, they want an experience and value.