Student Housing: Surviving the Mass Migrations

In contrast to the seasonal move-in/move-out cycles familiar to the multifamily sector, the student housing industry experiences two brief-but-berserk relocation periods annually, the late-summer resident arrivals that coincide with the start of the academic year, and the mass departures that come at the end of the spring term. Though relatively short, each two-week migration interval puts owners, property managers and their employees to the test and makes up for the rest of the year, which is comparatively quiet in terms of leasing and turnover.

So, is the move-in frenzy easier than the rush to move out, or is it the other way around? It’s all pretty frantic, says Mandi Palculict, Property and Marketing Administrator for United Realty & Investment Company. Servicing the Texas communities of Bryan and College Station, United Realty manages 1,000 units, and 60% of its residents are enrolled at Texas A&M University or Blinn College. The schools’ combined population exceeds 60,000 students.

During first-semester move-ins, we deal with the leasing questions, logistical challenges and hospitality tasks that accompany a wave of new residents, continues Palculict. End-of-year move-outs require employee-led walk-throughs for each unit, constant trash removal and a whole lot of maintenance.

We don’t increase our staff for these periods of intense traffic, we just depend on our core team to do what they do best and to step in and help wherever they are needed. A great staff is essential and communication is key!

The more organizational systems an owner or property manager has in place, the smoother the relocation process goes. United Realty’s 20 employees rely on mobile phones and emails to keep communications flowing during hectic move periods. The company also considers its property management software an essential tool for keeping things running smoothly.

It’s made a big difference for us, says Palculict. On top of organizing our rental and accounting information, the program lets us take rent payments, accept resident work orders and receive applications through our web site. It means a lot less foot traffic in our office during busy periods, and happy renters who appreciate having access to these resources.

And a happy renter means a renewed lease for United Realty.