Tips for Developers to Avoid Going Bust in Utah Student Housing Boom

    by Brandon Reed / November 28, 2017

    Tips for Developers to Avoid Going Bust in Utah Student Housing Boom.jpg

    For years, college students living near school grounds had to settle for a dorm, which often meant sharing outdated living spaces. However, student housing has experienced a sea of change in recent years, with more and more developers providing an array of stunning amenities to set their products apart. Before getting in too deep, however, developers should consider various factors that drive the market in order to ensure a successful venture.

    Outside of the economic factors, there is a whole set of issues that are unique to off-campus student housing, and only those developers who are able to perfect the art enjoy low vacancy rates, increasing rents, and high returns. Some of those items that developers should consider in order to make their student housing offerings a success are outlined here.

    This article is part of our ongoing series exploring some of the most significant issues relative to student housing developments in Utah. The goal is to provide valuable insights that can guide developers in creating upscale outdoor environments for students that will result in higher returns on investment (ROI). Follow the links below to read all the articles in the series.

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    Understand the student demographics

    The student demographic differs from market to market. Some markets are comprised of a high number of graduate students, while others place a stronger emphasis on sports. Your feasibility studies should include research of the student population you are trying to target to identify trends and gauge students’ interest in the project. Analyze the financial capacity of the students and the importance of athletics to also help determine the student demographic. A developer that builds on a site simply because it is zoned and/or builds what was successful two or three years ago in a different market with a different consumer base will not see the same success. 


    Know where your competition is strongest

    It is important to know how new competing developments will impact demand, but it’s even more critical to examine their amenity packages and unit mix. Steps should be taken to distinguish your development’s amenity package from competing new developments, and adjust your plans to provide a variety of outdoor features not offered in the other developments. Additionally, it is important to understand the university’s strategic plan for on-campus housing, including new supply, renovations to existing housing, and any upcoming housing requirement rule changes.


    Remember: Location is key

    Student renters want to be close to campus. In response, many developers are willing to pay more for a site that is as near to the campus as possible in order to make their developments as attractive to prospective student residents as possible. In certain instances, though, being beyond the campus perimeter still works, especially when the products located close to campus are aging buildings. Larger parcels may also be more available as one gets further from campus, allowing for greater flexibility in the product type that can be developed. 


    Amenities, Amenities, Amenities!

    Unlike in the “old days” where students simply expected a decent unit close enough to campus to walk and/or bike, today’s students have come to expect properties that feature high-end amenities, such as clubhouses, resort style pools and spas, community lounges, theaters, fitness centers, and more. That’s why more and more architects and developers are turning their attention to making the most of dormant outdoor space for optimal engagement of students. 


    Engage a landscape architect to design your amenity space

    A landscape architect will help to design amenity spaces that increase your development's appeal, giving you the ability to command higher rates and improve occupancy levels and year-over-year retention. 

    The landscape architect you choose to work with you should be tuned into global trends in the marketplace, and they can recommend amenities that will add value and increase leasing velocity. They will know which amenities are frequently used by students and identify climate-appropriate amenities to retain residents and attract new students.

    Working with a professional landscape architectural designer will improve the project outcome by taking advantage of new ideas and concepts, avoiding pitfalls and failures, and tapping into better resources.

    Tags: Student Housing

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    Brandon Reed

    Brandon Reed

    I help top level architects and developers create landscapes that elevate the human experience.

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