Say goodbye to the stereotype of the frivolous college student who racks up debt and spends with abandon.
Today’s students are much more budget-conscious, and they’re particularly sensitive to the costs of student housing.
Students still want the right location and great amenities, but they are looking very carefully at all their options before they commit to a lease.
Recession reality check
Students just entering college in Fall 2013 were high school freshmen during the height of the recent recession. According to rental industry publication Multifamily Executive, these students watched their families struggle with financial hardships like joblessness and upside-down mortgages. As a result, they are entering college intent on minimizing debt and stretching their rental dollars.
Value is a priority
With 69 percent of students reporting that it is more expensive to live in on-campus dorms, off-campus housing represents a way to stick to the budget. While parents have historically been the ones to be more concerned with housing costs, it is now students who are taking the lead on finding affordable options.
Multifamily Executive reports that students are doing research online and comparison-shopping to find the best deals — and they aren’t so easily swayed by promotional giveaways. Apartment communities that offer incentives like a free iPad or gift card in exchange for signing a lease are noticing that students are no longer taking the bait: these students are more interested in rent reductions than one-time gifts. It’s a signal to the rental industry that today’s students understand the true cost of housing.
Amenities: still a potential deal-breaker
Modern students who recognize value still want the most bang for their bucks. When it comes to searching for off-campus apartments, students report that the right amenities are priceless. Student housing communities are noting that perks like fast Internet, fitness centers, a business center with free printing, and dedicated parking spaces could persuade a student to sign a lease. Inside a unit, features like ample storage space, private bathrooms, and good cell reception are considered top priorities, as well.
But no matter what amenities an apartment community offers, location can still be a deal-breaker. Students say that the ability to walk to campus is highly desirable — more so than taking a bus, driving or biking to school — and housing that’s within one mile of campus is highly preferred.
Many options, multiple price points
Despite an overall trend towards budget-conscious living, the student housing industry recognizes a need to appeal to different types of students and their varying budgets with multiple price points. It’s a strategy that the hospitality industry has used successfully for decades.
Student housing developers are building several communities near a college campus and tailoring these communities to suit underclassmen vs. graduate students, who typically spend more on housing. Some communities will even differentiate themselves according to design style or floor plan. Just as travelers have a choice between a swanky luxury hotel with a spa and a restaurant, or a more moderately-priced hotel that might have a pool, students can choose between multiple price points and options according to their financial comfort levels and lifestyle desires.
Paying a premium
Despite indicating that the rising cost of dorm living makes off-campus housing preferable, students still reported that they’re willing to pay a slight premium to live in off-campus housing — even if all other factors were equal. Just how much more are students willing to pay for the perfect off-campus apartment? About $200 a month.