Turning Student Housing Units Quickly and Cost Effectively

Student Housing Multifamily


Having a well-orchestrated plan for turning student housing units is as essential as a well-written mid-term paper. Because providers require all units to be turned at once, sound project management and a seamless plan are necessary to keep a steady workflow. A hiccup with a contractor can be costly and potentially jeopardize inventory availability.

Creating a Purchasing Process for Student Housing

Large retailers can serve as project managers to provide critical support in supply management and purchasing as properties manage the annual rites of readying a lot of units in a short period of time, says Scott Matthews, Home Depot’s Director of Strategic Accounts.

“It’s very important to have an efficient process that student housing property managers follow to get all units done at the same time,” he said. “That’s a huge feat. If I’m a property and have a supplier or vendor that can offer project management of turning all these units at the same time, and that includes the product and the labor, that’s a huge efficiency. You have one vendor controlling everything.”

Sourcing products early is first step in effective unit turns

Proactively sourcing products well in advance of the turn is critical. Preparations to turn units in June and July following the spring semester should begin in December to allow enough time for acquisition of materials and installation.

Matthews, who works closely with the apartment industry, says most bottlenecks in the turn process occur because product wasn’t sourced soon enough.

Flooring, especially vinyl and carpet, is the hardest category to manage because product is manufactured when orders are placed, and the production window is about 60 days. Additional supply on the market not be available for orders that fall short, which could delay the time it takes to turn a unit. Initial measurements and counts should be accurate.

Student Housing Process

“Forecasting the order is critical,” Matthews said. “You can speed it up, but it comes at a cost. If you call in May and you’re 14 rolls short, it will cost a lot of money to stop what they’re doing and begin manufacturing the product. The most important thing is to source product well in advance,” he said. “That helps with manufacturer and vendor supply.”

Matthews says student housing providers can get the most of their flooring applications using high-traffic flooring like vinyl plank and commercial grade carpets. Floating vinyl flooring installs over most existing surfaces including concrete, wood and vinyl and handles the wear and tear well.

Streamline processes with a reliable network of vendors

Once products are chosen for the turn, working with a preferred vendor enables better control scheduling for fulfillment and delivery. Home Depot and its network of 2,200 stores have been working closely with multifamily housing companies to handle and install the large volume of products to turn units, Matthews said.

“If properties have to find separate contractors to handle each task, installation can get really costly,” he said.

A key is scheduling as many products as possible to deliver at the same time or within a few deliveries. This not only minimizes shipping charges but better ensures availability of products.

Home Depot offers to break up deliveries to make installation and storage more convenient so properties can create a workflow that doesn’t require finding alternate warehousing when replacing major appliances or other large inventory items.

Efficient project management saves time, money

Jennifer Lester, RealPage, Inc.’s Vice President of Vendor Management, says student housing providers should look for ways to consolidate tasks and projects as much as possible since the turn time is so tight. By getting all the heavy lifting done early, properties should be in a position to turn a unit in a half day.

That requires advance planning and working closely with a service provider to manage projects from ordering and fulfillment to invoicing.

“Working within a reliable network of vendors or a supplier who can help properties streamline a unit turn helps maximize time and the potential for savings,” Lester said.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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