Occupancy Student Housing Asset Living Jason Quote

Student Housing Management: How Innovative Solutions Lead to Occupancy Success at Asset Living

by Sarah Daniels

Each year, the academic calendar requires student housing operators to compress revenue generation for the entire year into the nine or 10 months when students most need to rent their product. In that accelerated and ever-changing environment, management teams with the experience, skills and tools to respond quickly are in the best position to manage costs and drive growth.

Stacey Lecocke,
Asset Living
Stacey Lecocke, Asset Living

“I like to say that student housing moves in dog years — miss a day and you miss a week; miss a month and you could miss a year,” says Stacey Lecocke, division president of student housing at Asset Living.

Managing more than 115,000 beds at some 200 student housing properties across the country, Asset Living is the largest operator in the industry and has maintained that distinction for 13 consecutive years. This year, the third-party manager augmented its institutional knowledge base and time-tested management techniques by rolling out a comprehensive business intelligence platform to enhance organizational decision-making.

Bringing together a wide range of datasets, the tool integrates internal and external systems and data on people, properties, marketing and the industry, all accessed through user-friendly dashboards.

“Because we only have that nine- or 10-month window to lease our clients’ properties, we are looking at data in real time, every single day, to drive the decisions that strengthen each property’s performance,” Lecocke says. “We have a dashboard that all of our teams can see, and we have a dashboard for our clients. It’s because we can’t miss a day.”

Informing Decisions

The platform is already transforming the way Asset Living manages clients’ properties, says Jason Fort, executive vice president of business development at the Houston-based company.

“Good financial decisions are made through data, and nobody in the industry has more data than we do,” Fort says. “In the last two years we’ve invested significantly to improve our dataset and partnerships. This great data enables us to make great decisions.”

Business intelligence can help student housing staff maximize net income in many ways, Fort says, from reducing costs through more efficient operations to suggesting lease rates and the timing of rent growth.

“Because we are able to look at the dynamics in a market, we can see the opportunities to emphasize a trending floorplan or push rent,” Fort explains. “The key factors may be supply and demand, market occupancy or perhaps the fact that we have limited vacancy at our property. We use that data to increase the bottom line for our ownership groups.”

Driving Results

Asset Living’s results underscore its ability to draw maximum performance for its clients. The student housing portfolio closed out the 2023 academic year at a healthy 95 percent occupancy, well ahead of the industry’s average occupancy of 93 percent. Rather than dwell on global trends, however, Lecocke prefers to compare property performance against her clients’ direct competitors. In each market, she explains, Asset Living identifies and tracks the activity of multiple student housing communities that vie directly with the team’s properties for renters. Those rival operators averaged 84 percent occupancy at the close of the year, trailing Asset Living’s clients by a wide margin.

As a market leader with a finger on the pulse of renter demand, resident satisfaction and other key trends, Asset Living was able to deliver over 7 percent rent growth overall in 2023 as well.

“What’s really exciting is where we are tracking with preleasing for the 2024-2025 school year,” Lecocke says.

Asset Living’s client portfolio reached 65 percent prelease occupancy in early March, outpacing year-ago figures by several basis points. The industry stood at 61 percent at that time and had fallen behind the pace of its own leasing performance leading up to the previous year.

“That’s meaningful for our clients,” Lecocke says. “We are ahead of both the industry and our own performance for this time last year, and our projections have us meeting or exceeding goals for this academic year with rent growth of at least 7 percent.”

Growth Through Relationships

Growing a successful third-party management business demands a steady inflow of new assignments because student housing investors have a habit of selling well-managed properties that reach peak efficiency and maximum resale value. Asset Living turns that pattern to its advantage by nurturing client relationships spanning multiple properties. Clients deal with a team dedicated to their properties and overall strategy, with many owners hiring the firm to manage each new student housing community they acquire.

“Sometimes our performance works us out of a job, meaning that we perform for a client and they’re able to sell the property and make a substantial gain on it,” Fort observes. “But that also builds trust, so that when they acquire their next property, they choose us as their operator, hands down.”

An operator’s results can attract new business as well, Lecocke adds. In the past year alone, several property owners that were dissatisfied with their prior management teams have brought their business to Asset Living. In each case, the firm addressed any deferred maintenance and brought the properties up to its operating standards, improving resident experiences that in turn enabled the owners to strengthen the rent structure.

“In a recent example, the physical plant wasn’t being attended to properly, so our facilities team brought it up to where it should be to meet the client’s and students’ expectations,” she said. “When you elevate the resident experience to its rightful standard, it becomes a desirable place to live. We promptly added value by taking them from stagnant rent growth to our model, which currently averages 7 percent.”

Lecocke credits Asset Living’s dedicated team members with bringing together the company’s national reach, experience base and business intelligence to perform for clients.

“It’s the people who perform, and without the right people, we couldn’t execute any type of strategy,” she says. “Our performance versus the industry shows that we have the best talent in this space, the best teams and we are able to deploy them wherever the client needs them to meet their goals.”

— By Matt Hudgins. This article was written in conjunction with Asset Living, a content partner of Student Housing Business.

To learn more about Asset Living, click here.

For more information on becoming a Student Housing Business content partner, contact Rich Kelley, publisher, or Tim Tolton, media advisor.

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