5 Summer Tips for Student Housing Professionals
In a few short months, college students will be heading back to school. And for student housing community managers, the weeks leading up to move-in will be chaotic. Start getting ahead of the game now. Here are some ways to use this summer down time to your advantage.
#1 Always Push Renewals
Student housing markets get more and more challenging every year, so double down on your retention efforts. This will help take some pressure off of the leasing staff. Most student housing management companies use renewal tier expirations. Many of the final renewal tiers expire early – potentially leaving money on the table. Unless you are full with a waiting list, and even if your final renewal tier has already expired, you should make a number of additional renewal pushes far beyond the final renewal tier expiration.
It’s hard work and requires a few inconvenient steps, but it will pay off and help get you closer to your occupancy goals. The downside? You’ll potentially have to change a bedroom assignment in the operating system and have to make that extra phone call to swap a future resident’s unit/bed room assignment. But the upside is that you gain a +1 in occupancy revenue. It’s also one less bed to turn, which is a very nice gesture to your maintenance team and your turn budget, so why not? If these changes are handled in a professional manner it can be done effectively and everyone wins.
#2. Roommate Matching and Unit Assignments
If you haven’t already, begin placements and roommate assignments now. This is an extremely time consuming process, so don’t want to wait until the last minute to begin.
To accommodate the recommendations in #1 (Keep Pushing Renewals), make your first round of placements “a pencil place” in May, and no later than early June. This means you have your placements complete until formal notifications go out at the end of June. Then you have the majority of the month to pick up additional renewals. It also allows you to make swaps in the system, i.e., adjusting the “pencil placements” internally so it is not inconvenient to your future residents. “Pencil placing” doesn’t automatically upset new residents because they weren’t aware of their initial pencil placements to begin with. A word to the wise: if you are close to move in day, and you need to make a change after the placement notifications have been issued, assign someone from management to handle the customer service that’s related to these changes.
Being strategic with your placements and unit assignments can make the difference of a property that is 90% to 100% occupied. Usually a property that is 90% occupied is often full on a “per unit” basis, but still sitting on a number of partially vacant bed spaces scattered throughout the community. For example, 10% of a 700 bed property is about 70 vacant beds. If they are scattered, leaving you with only partial vacant units, you will unfortunately have to turn away full groups of 3 bedrooms and 4 bedrooms to your competitors. A property that strategically makes their placements throughout the lease up with a balance of both full units and partial vacant bed spaces, will often find themselves closer in the high 96%+ occupancy.
#3. Turn Supplies
This one is simple. Make sure all of your supplies are on order now for turnover. Without the necessary supplies, your team members will be scrambling during the actual turnover for items that should already be on hand. Many student housing management companies have prep turn meetings that start as early as February, so be sure to communicate and regularly meet with the team.
#4. Final Quarterly Inspections
Many properties have 12-15 days to turn anywhere from 400 – 1000+ beds. Quarterly inspections are extremely time consuming. But if you do them, you’ll gain a number of things:
- You have eyes on the property you are about to turn.
- You can easily bill back the damages while the residents are living there. This gives you a better chance of actually collecting the damage fees as the charges will apply to their rent ledger first.
- You can take care of small items such as air filters, bathtub caulk, light bulbs, door stops, etc. while you are in the units doing the inspections
#5. Summer Orientations
Summer orientations are great opportunities to boost walk-in traffic during the slow summer leasing weeks. In many markets, the universities will not allow you to be on campus so you may need to get creative on how you can potentially solicit students to come by for tours.
Be sure to research where both the students and parents are staying overnight. Some universities host the students on campus and others allow them to stay at hotels. In most markets, the hotels will be open to working with you and may even allow you to have a table inside and/or outside of the hotel. Early morning continental breakfasts are wonderful times to get in front of the students and parents before they go on campus to orientation sessions. Consider sponsoring the breakfasts at the hotel and/or get involved in some way. There are a number of orientations you should be active with such as Freshman Orientation, Transfer Student Orientation and International Student Orientation. Review the academic calendar for these critical dates. If you have a shuttle, be sure to set up peak times to shuttle tours to and from the University along with the local hotels.