Colleges and universities may have weathered the immediate impact COVID-19 had on them, but the Fall 2021 semester will still look different. Student housing had to change their marketing strategies and leasing activity nationwide.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, pre-leasing activity decreased drastically for the next academic year. According to RealPage, 87 percent of beds were pre-leased for the Fall semester by August of 2020, down 4.5 percent from the previous year.
But when the vaccination rates started to increase, pre-leasing rates started to as well. By March 2021, the pre-lease rate rose 9.4 percentage points and in both April and May rose by 9.6 percentage points.
So what changes from such a challenging year are going to stick around in a post-pandemic world?
More Flexible Lease Options
After months of uncertainty, students were left wondering when and if they would return to campus for classes. Now students are seeking out communities that give far more flexibility in their leasing terms in the case of what may come again.
Traditionally, a 12-month lease is standard at a lot of off-campus housing locations, but for those that don’t offer any sublet options, properties will have to increase their flexibility offers for students that don’t want a 12-month lease. Giving students the option of by-the-bed leasing will also be in great demand.
The Key Selling Points Will Change
Dorm rooms didn’t provide the safety that campuses need to keep their students around. So, off-campus student housing will want to focus on terms like, “all-inclusive,” “private” and “spacious.”
After the pandemic kept students locked in their rooms without the option to socialize, interest in amenities and rooming features will also shift. Students are now valuing privacy which includes private study areas and private bathrooms, which dorm rooms can’t always offer. Privacy will be a huge selling point in student housing this year.
Students will also be looking for amenities within their apartments like in-unit washer and dryers, a fully equipped kitchen, more space in their rooms and high-speed internet that’s included in their rent.
Without these amenities, student housing properties will have a hard time competing for the renters that do come back to the campuses.
Health Related Amenities
During the pandemic, we found there were a lot of amenities that apartment communities didn’t consider. That’s because many features were simply “nice-to-haves” but weren’t considered a necessity, until COVID-19.
That will be the same for student housing. Amenities that were once a huge priority have shifted to more health related and social distancing amenities. Student housing will want to incorporate things like, package locker rooms, food delivery rooms, keyless entry and added sanitation measures.
Luxury apartments will have to shift their messaging. Pools, fitness centers, high-end finishes will still attract some renters, but luxury has changed to a lot of students. They are looking for more green initiatives, affordable housing and inclusive communities.
Marketing Strategies Shifted
In a pre-pandemic world, students would look for off-campus housing at the end of the school year while still on campus. Now, student housing will have to shift to a new digital friendly marketing strategy.
With so many students leaving campus early or not touring properties in person, virtual tours have easily become the way many students pick out their housing. We saw some of this already in 2020 when many students stayed home in the fall and spring semesters, leaving them to look online for their student housing in 2021. Virtual tours also aid in improving student housing outreach and boosting overall marketing performance online.
Investing in photography and virtual tours have given student housing a lift in the digital marketing world. Not only do virtual tours reach current students, but they also give international students an easy way to explore and walk off-campus housing options virtually.
LCP360 is a National Digital Marketing company located in Chicago specializing in photography, virtual tours, 3D renderings, video animations, virtual staging, and floor plans. LCP360 offers multifamily, senior living, and many other real estate industries a creative and innovative way to showcase space. By combining the best technologies from web marketing and panoramic photography, LCP360 has developed a best-in-class virtual tour web application that lets renters virtually tour a property from any location.