As students across the country head back to school, it is a busy time for landlords and property managers of college student housing. There are a lot of things in flux — from move-outs from short-term summer school attendees to lining up and moving in longer-term tenants who will rent for the entire academic year.
It’s all too much to keep track of manually, not to mention the fact that you’re dealing with a generation raised on technology. If property managers ask these young adults to gather paper documentation and pay rent with paper checks, they’ll likely lose out to other landlords who use property management technologies to do everything electronically.
Students are looking for more tech-enabled amenities from their landlords, such as online rent payments and maintenance requests, as well as virtual property tours and smart home features. Additionally, students are increasingly using social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to document their housing experiences, so landlords who use these platforms to showcase their properties have a distinct advantage.
To attract college students, landlords should utilize technology to create a convenient and seamless rental and living experience. One option is to adopt software that includes online leasing and electronic rent payment systems. Technologies that offer mobile-friendly maintenance coordination to ensure that repair requests are handled expeditiously are a big plus. Some technologies can even help students build credit by reporting their on-time payments to major reporting agencies.
There are many property management software options available, but not all of them provide a wide array of services in the same platform. Having separate technology providers for each service is costly and hard to manage. Look for affordable software providers that offer all-in-one solutions. These technologies should include the ability to list vacancies, find and screen tenants, prequalify and sign leases, collect rent, set up auto-pay, build credit, and manage maintenance requests all in one place.
Other important features to look for include:
The option for tenants to purchase a renters insurance policy directly through the platform or upload private policies to comply with leasing agreements.
Custom template builders that enable landlords and property managers to build their own pre-qualification and application processes that best serve their individual needs and help them attract and identify more qualified tenants.
Automated accounting services designed specifically for real estate investors and rental property owners, such as automatically syncing all properties, revenue, and expenses, handling Schedule E and tax forms and pulling financial reports (cash flow statements, P&L, etc).
It’s also important to ensure that the technologies work well on both desktops and mobile apps. (Remember, college students will likely prefer to do everything on their phones.)
With many college students being environmentally conscious, another thing to consider is installing smart home technologies that offer the ability to remotely control thermostats, lighting, and appliances. These devices offer unrivaled control, allowing students to ensure that energy is not wasted when they are away from their rooms. They can enjoy the energy-efficient benefits while reducing their utility bills as well.
In addition to catering to student preferences, it’s equally important to consider the parent perspective. Parents are typically co-signers on student leases, and their number one priority for their children is safety. Keeping up with the most state-of-the-art surveillance cameras, access control systems and alarm systems is a huge selling point, along with installing motion-sensor exterior lights that provide proper lighting in parking lots, walkways, and entrances.
Beyond convenience and safety, tech-enhanced rentals can also offer unique experiences. Virtual tours provide a curated look into the property from anywhere in the world. Additionally, virtual reality content can be an exciting way for students (and their parents) to interact with their potential rental before moving in.
The use of technology can not only make the lives of students and their parents easier, but it can also benefit landlords by reducing their vacancy rates and increasing their profits. With tech-enabled features, landlords can gain a competitive edge in the student housing market, attract more tenants, and retain current tenants by offering a better overall experience.
—Ryan Barone is the co-founder and CEO of RentRedi, a rental management software that helps landlords and tenants manage the renting experience.