Dominic Anzalone: Research To Renewal — How Students Decide Where To Live

by Katie Sloan

Regardless of where they attend school, students across the country face the same challenges when deciding where to live during college. Students want to live near campus, pay a reasonable price, find good information about potential rentals and feel like their landlord respects them. Meet those criteria and you’re sure to find e happy renters renewing for multiple years.

Rent College Pads surveyed students across the country and received roughly 500 responses about the annual search for housing about topics that ranged from finding a new place to live to renewing at a current one. Here’s what we found out:

When looking for a rental, how many companies do you typically contact?

A quick response is essential for any landlords looking to engage with student renters in today’s competitive renting market. The rental cycle differs at every school, but typically students are looking for next year’s housing around the same time. So they know they need to act quick.

Student renters typically zero in on a few places they like and act quickly in securing them during pre-leasing periods. Students most commonly responded with 1-3 properties to this question.

When deciding where to live, what do you value most in a rental?

This was the largest majority on our survey. Every time we’ve polled students to find out what matters to them, we’ve always seen the same thing. Price matters the most. Students put their understandably bare wallets first when looking for a place to live. 60% of students responded with price to this question, with location mattering second most and amenities third most.

What’s the most common problem you face with rentals?

Occasional Wi-Fi problems are something we all struggle with from time to time, but there may be no group more reliant on speedy, reliable internet access than college students. Whether they’re working on homework or their social life, students want to be connected 24/7.

Most landlords renting out houses or small apartments are handcuffed a bit when it comes to supplying internet, but mega complexes that include Wi-Fi in the cost better make sure that their internet provider holds up their end of the bargain.

What does your current landlord do that bothers you most?

Late maintenance was the biggest pet peeve student renters had. When a window won’t close or the front door gets stuck open, tenants get unhappy. Without a clear expectation of when something will be fixed and sticking to that promise, it’s likely a student-landlord relationship will suffer.

Even if no one is going to get up to a unit for a couple of days to help fix a problem, communication can at least set expectations and make a renter feel like you care about their problem. Over communicating on maintenance is better than under communicating.

How long does it typically take for maintenance to be completed at your house or apartment?

We saw the widest range of student responses on this survey question. While some said they often had their needs met in less than 24 hours, others said they were frequently left waiting a week each time something went wrong. 48 hours was the most common response though, with 30% of students responding.

Given that the majority of students said the most annoying thing their landlord could do was dawdle on maintenance, this is a huge opportunity for securing a strong relationship with a student tenant and ensuring they renew their lease.

How long do you typically stay in one house or apartment unit?

The average student will move two or three times after they get out of the dorms. 63% of students said they stay in the same house or apartment for just a year. Why are they on the move so much? Sometimes it’s because of roommate changes, but other times landlord relationships plays a role too. Landlords who are willing to go the extra mile to keep renters happy do see them stick with the same company, even if they are looking to move to a new house or apartment.

What contributes the most to you renewing your lease at your current location?

A whopping 78% said relationship with landlord. If a student has roommates they like, the biggest factor that plays into them staying or going is how they feel like they’ve been treated in the past year. Improve your renewal rate by maintaining positive relationship with your renters.

The insights we found weren’t necessarily revolutionary – students have largely wanted to pay as little as possible while getting the best treatment as long as they’ve been renting. But it’s always good to hear that whether students are living in a luxury location near the University of Florida or toughing out the winter in a house blocks from the University of Minnesota, they’re facing the same challenges and looking for the same thing.

— Dominic Anzalone is the founder and CEO of Rent College Pads, a nationwide resource that helps students find housing near campus.

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