Student Housing

Is your student housing leasing team ready to sell when students return to campus? Hesitation from student residents and the fallout from the pandemic may have some student housing leasing teams unprepared and missing out.

Here are some tips on how to better prepare your on-site team for better leasing results.

By Christina Simms, Contribution by Rick Burkhalter

While the student housing market has been relatively pandemic-resistant with some markets showing resilience in rent payments, tier 2 and 3 markets have seen their fair share of challenges. Enrollment rates in these markets were lower than tier 1 properties, resulting in leasing at a lower than usual rate, students not returning to campus and less reliable rent payments.

The timing for students’ housing decisions is largely based upon when universities announce their plans for the fall.  Students and parents are ready to return to college, but they are hesitant to commit as some universities have been waiting to see how the rollout of the vaccine will affect their plans to resume in class learning. Due to these postponed announcements, the lease up period for many student housing facilities has been delayed.

This means that if you normally expected to have a firm grasp of your vacancy rates by the end of spring, information may not be available until early summer, resulting in very little wiggle room for a lease up strategy and you may be looking at vacancy rates higher than expected. Additionally, lease up pacing may be hard to compare year over year with nearly 2 years of skewed data, turning your situation into a waiting game and last-minute scrambling.

In addition to a delay in market demand, many student housing facilities are seeing issues with staffing. Traditionally these roles are filled by students themselves who may not necessarily be sales and marketing motivated and are more often used as generalists with minimal focus on leasing the property.

Obviously now must be the time to fine tune your marketing and leasing strategies to capture market share of the students returning to campus.

1. Is Your Leasing/Sales Staff Up to The Challenge?

You have a marketing plan that is driving traffic, but an uninspired leasing team converting the traffic. That can be a problem.  Your marketing team may be meeting their KPI’s but your staff may have little motivation or be too preoccupied to follow up on every lead. While more traffic may be driven to the property, if it is not captured, much of it is walking away.

We all know the time to decision is very short with student properties. Students and parents typically shop only a few properties and then decide. If your follow up is lagging, you are missing out.

Emerging from a pandemic some parents have encountered economic factors that have them looking at price a little more closely in 2021. While they also take into consideration the distance to campus and the amenities offered, your property needs to be competitively priced.  With this in mind, your leasing staff needs to use tactics to incentivize and create a sense of urgency to get the application.

2. Don’t Underestimate Outreach Marketing.

For most student properties, outreach marketing is very impactful. Coordinated boots on the ground efforts are key to raising awareness and driving traffic to your community. Having your leasing staff on and around campus, creating events, promotions and networking will help you stand out among the competition, get you noticed and help build more traffic.

3. Training Should Not Be Ignored.

Do not overlook training. If you are asking your leasing staff to sell, they need to be equipped through training, with the proper skills. Traditional student housing properties are not known for their sales training efforts. You should ask yourself why you would turn over such an important role to someone without closing skills. Obviously it is an investment, but nothing costs you more than empty beds come September.

4. Look at Your Marketing efforts.

Most student housing properties are savvy when it comes to digital marketing. Resting on your laurels and counting on what worked in previous years is risky. Take some time to audit your digital marketing strategy.  Are there new digital mediums? Are you using your marketing effectively?  Keep in mind any changes to these tactics can take time to ramp up and set up, so do not wait too long to get your digital ads strategy recalibrated. Google Ad words on pause?  Time to turn up the ad spend.  Make sure your online presence is competitive and relevant and things like pricing are consistent throughout all your listings. Inconsistencies can cast doubt.

Make sure your website and Google My Business are relevant and up to date.  Google continues to enhance their offerings. SEO is always changing.  Make sure people can find you and your student property and that your keywords and geography are present.  If you are not using geography and keywords correctly, odds are you are reducing your chances of getting higher organic rankings for your website and lowering your chances of being found in Google maps.

For any of us looking for “pizza near me” we have all used google maps to find that coveted pie.  Make sure your geography is right, and the correct keywords your audience is using to find you are in play. Google may be the master, but it relies on you to tell it where you are and what business you are in.

5. Effective Communication is Multichannel Communication.

Text, video and chat as well as old tried and true technologies like phone and email are important.  You have a mix of generations reaching out to you to learn more about your community, be agile enough to communicate with them in their preferred way.  Your leasing staff will need to be acquainted and comfortable with all methods of communication to deliver information and to capture leads.

Regardless of whether you are projecting to 80, 90 or 100% occupancy for the next academic year, having a leasing/sales strategy now for whatever this leasing season may bring is the key to putting heads in beds.


About Sales, Inc.

Sales Inc. is the Nation’s Leading Apartment Leasing Agency. For more than 33 years, we have helped companies achieve their occupancy goals fast by sending our expert Apartment Leasing Agents to your property to close on qualified applicants at 2 to 3 times the rate that was occurring before we arrived.

About the Authors

Christina Simms is the Marketing Manager and Rick Burkhalter is the General Manager of Sales Inc.