THE STUDENT HOUSING MARKET HAS CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS. WHAT USED TO BE OLD DORMITORY BUILDINGS CRAMMED WITH TWENTY-SOMETHINGS HAS GIVEN WAY TO COMMUNAL APARTMENTS FOR YOUNG STUDENTS, OLDER PROFESSIONALS AND THEIR FAMILIES, AND EVEN SENIORS.
"There's a specialized housing type for every stage of your life and student housing is a big one," says Rawley Nielsen, president of investment sales at Colliers International. And as the student housing population has changed, so have their needs, wants and financial expectations. But meeting those expectations can be a challenge.
Having followed the market for more than 15 years, Nielsen argues that new student housing developments must be purpose-built: designed with their audience in mind. They should have plenty of common rooms for students, such as game rooms and study rooms--when you're sharing a bedroom with a roommate, quiet study space can be fleeting.
Other attractive student amenities include barbeque and picnic areas, fitness rooms, basketball courts, bike and car parking, washers and dryers, nice big kitchens, and units with private bedrooms and bathrooms. When there's a unit with multiple bedrooms, each bedroom should lock individually.
As is the rule in real estate, however, the key is location, location, location. "In our eyes," Nielsen says, "the number one need is proximity to campus. A five-minute walking distance is what we like." Grant Collard, CEO at Redstone Residential, Inc., agrees, but adds that high-speed internet is "a more desirable amenity than indoor plumbing."
Redstone, a fully integrated student-housing firm in Provo, Utah, handles investments and management and does everything to control and support the social aspect of its properties. "Each complex develops its natural culture," Collard says. "When people move out it's not usually because of the sticks and the bricks but because of the social scene. They're looking for a different social scene, and one project that's done that really well is Wolverine Crossing. We have between 15 and 20 resident assistants. They'll go to Taco Bell, grab a bunch of tacos, and help people have a good time. We also have a giant inflatable movie screen and we'll watch summer movies in the courtyard," he says.
In Collard's mind, any modern, purpose-built student housing facility should have a clubhouse, fitness center, and hot tub. He's looking at Generation Z. That means amenities need to shift focus...