The backbone of Bellhops is our labor force, which is comprised of more than 5,000 college students spread across the country from Boston to San Diego. One of our goals at company headquarters is to stay in tune with the wants and needs of that team in the field.
To do this, we routinely survey them on everything from work satisfaction to pop culture trends. Recently, we asked our campus directors in the 90 markets we serve about their thoughts on student housing. When sifting through their responses it was obvious what three student housing elements were the most important to them.
Location, Location, Location
It’s no surprise that this was the most important consideration for college students when evaluating where they want to live. According to our survey, roughly 70 percent of our campus directors said location is the first thing they look for in a student housing property. Students prefer to be close to campus, and if possible, in proximity to other municipal amenities such as restaurants and entertainment venues. Being able to offer one of those is nice, but providing access to campus as well as extracurricular points of interest is ideal.
Parking and Transportation
Access to adequate parking is also high on the student housing wish list. Like location preferences, that revelation isn’t shocking. But there’s more: an interesting caveat to survey answers was that a significant amount of respondents didn’t seem concerned with daily come-and-go (to school) parking. More than half said they use, or would use, a campus shuttle service. The property that can offer tenants a place to easily park their automobile while also helping them get around the headache of on-campus parking (via shuttle) will stand out among the student housing crowd.
Hands down, dependable Wi-Fi was the most valued amenity to college students. A whopping 85 percent of respondents claimed it was extremely important to their lease-hunting decision. To put this in perspective, most students would rather pay for high-quality, reliable Internet service than have free parking. That might surprise some people. Gone are the days of providing so-so Internet service. If a housing complex wants to lure students in, Wi-Fi must be a priority.
Why? Further survey questioning revealed that over 98 percent of our Campus Directors regularly use two or more wireless devices. Read that again — 98 percent! Any double or triple occupancy unit must deliver a consistently strong signal to support that demand. Another caveat of interest is that 68 percent said they wouldn’t sign up for cable if they had a solid Internet connection. Supporting this finding is the fact that 92 percent of our respondents have access to one or more online streaming subscriptions like Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu. Providing such services might be a great value-add at lease signing.
It’s important to supply these wish list items to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive student housing landscape. That said, the smart housing operator identifies ways to highlight these services at the outset of any tenant courtship. If these are, indeed, the most important features to students, they need to know about them early and often.
Dylan Anderson is the VP of Business Development at Commercial Bellhops.