New on #AptChat: Challenges in Student Housing Today

We’ve begun monitoring the weekly Twitter-based discussions on #AptChat in order to consolidate and summarize for you the often wise tips property managers contribute about running properties more effectively.

Student Housing Today: Challenges and Opportunities

The theme of this week’s chat was “Student Housing Today: Challenges and Opportunities,” chosen because the 2016 NMHC Student Housing Conference and Exposition was underway at the time of the chat (as well as a new school year of course). The purpose of the chat was “To learn what students are looking for, where to reach them, and how we can better compete for their business.” Here’s how the conversation went:

“What are today’s students looking for in housing? How are we meeting those demands?”

The first and most common response was fast, reliable digital connections. Today’s students are on mobile devices throughout the day and evening, and Wi-Fi they can count on is their lifeblood. One participant said, “The first community that discovers how to reflect Wi-Fi signals off empty beer cans wins!”

Convenient location, ideally walkability to campus, was naturally also at the very top. Other student desires include fitness facilities, food service, package delivery to units and maid services.

Also mentioned as important was a sense of community: sponsored parties and activities, including community mixers, seasonal events and tie-ins to university events and fundraisers that give residents the opportunity to meet others in their building.

Finally, the importance of keeping parents in the loop (after all, they usually pay the bills) was brought up. Parents “want access and they want to be kept informed,” said one participant.

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How can we better compete with on-campus and university housing?

Price was the main theme of the responses to this question. Participants agreed that key to competing with university housing was making it plain that off-campus housing offers more for less. This can be communicated to prospects through alumni associations, housing fairs, social media, websites and emails to contacts and residents.

One participant suggested adopting what’s good about dorm life and then improving on it, with things like free Wi-Fi, more space, and customizable décor.

Grad schools can be good prospects too, with the proviso that grad students and undergrads usually tend to separate by property so you won’t easily attract grad students to live in a community dominated by undergrads.

Which social platforms are you seeing the most engagement from students on? How are you using that platform to market to them?

The first respondent helpfully provided a link to an article with a breakdown of student usage of social media.

Instagram and Snapchat were mentioned as big, but Facebook (though it trends older) still must be taken seriously, according to respondents. Yik Yak appears to be coming along as well, a smartphone application that provides a live feed of the happenings around your area.

Mobile marketing is vital in student housing. What should marketing plans include in order to cater to this?

Answers included live chat, lots of photos, reviews and examples of community involvement.

That’s our #AptChat roundup for this week. Look for our next segment in about a week from now!


Author and Contributor

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Based in New Orleans, Guy Lyman is a professional writer with over 25 years’ experience writing about multifamily and commercial real estate. Lyman is a frequent contributor and writer for the Property Management Insider blog.

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