Sunday, May 18, 2014

Real Estate Update: Why Invest in Student WANTS

As a real estate professional/investor, student housing has become one of the most stable and promising apartment markets. It's time to seriously pay close attention to the student housing sector; recent trend analysis shows that student housing is a predictor of all other apartment trends. I am a graduating senior at Northwestern University doing research into what students want in student housing and have found two articles which address this profitable market.    

           According to Amalia Otet in  “The Balance Sheet”, investor interest in the collegiate housing sector has grown all around the country, most likely prompted by a steady demand for both on-campus and off-campus apartments and a lack of available units around major university hubs.  Basically, Universities have bitten off more than they can chew, having to rely on outside third parties to build and manage campus student housing to accommodate the student population. Along with this, Student housing investment interest is sparked by favoring demographics.  The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college rose by 600 basis points to 41 percent. Between 2010 and 2020, NCES expects an 11-percent spike in college enrollments by under 25-year-olds and a 20-percent spike in college enrollments by students aged 25 and older.  In conclusion, Universities are seeing a steady increase in student enrollment, in large part due to the offspring of baby boomers going to college and the increased societal value put on a college education. Demand for student housing is rising and commercial real estate companies are happy to accommodate these demands.

Callaway Freshman Residence Hall Austin, Texas

 Over the past ten years, The Scion Group has collected survey responses from more than 30,000 students through customized survey instruments developed to address the needs of students living in off-campus and on-campus housing. They set out to find out what features and amenities will students dislike, find acceptable, or find particularly appealing. Companies are  developing a more complete knowledge of what students seek when considering cost in their housing. This data  can help when evaluating new housing, but also when trying to make the best use of existing inventory. New construction or major renovations happen only rarely in the life-cycle of a student housing community, making it even more critical to incorporate preferred design elements from the start. Scion has drawn some broad conclusions about single-student preferences through the quantitative survey data collected, along with qualitative data collected via numerous focus-group sessions and observations.  With the rise of big data and its ability to influence major decisions in the marketing world, I want to further investigate how social media can influence business in the real estate world. By monitoring what students are saying on social media, real estate firms could better understand how to build to accommodate their needs.

After reviewing these two articles and from my real estate experience, here are three action items I recommend you consider for the student market:    

  •         Highly Stable -  Recognize the the Student housing sector is one of the biggest growing and most stable niche sector in real estate.  This means a long term market for you and your organization.

  •          Favorable Demographic Trends- use existing demographic data and prior research to begin to generate interest from investors in the student housing sector.

  •           Possible expansion in Social Media - use social monitoring to view area’s that millennials are talking about housing needs/wants, giving you a edge on competitors. 

 It is important for you to recognize the potential of the student housing market and see the future trends. Investing in student housing can yield a stable return for years to come. It's important for real estate professionals to consider adding student housing to their real estate marketing mix in the future. 

James Hall is currently a Student-Athlete at Northwestern University.  He majors in Organizational Change and minors in Business institutions and Integrated Marketing. He previously interned at Harrison Street Capital, working in the alternative real estate research and asset management department. There he researched markets with potential value while also managing existing capital assets. He is interested in pursuing a career in commercial real estate.

Twitter: @JamesHallNU

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