The student housing world is rapidly evolving as educational methods and student needs change in the face of COVID-19, the push toward hybrid learning, and the needs of Gen Z. These changes are reflected in the amenities modern student housing properties are implementing to keep their residents happy and stand out in highly competitive markets. In this article, we’ll explore some of the hottest amenities being used at modern student housing properties and discuss whether they’re wise investments, and what may come next.
1. Super High-End Activities
For the last decade or so, one way student housing properties have been distinguishing themselves from their competitors is by investing in truly ultra-high-end activities and amenities like rock climbing walls, lazy rivers, and tanning beds. The logic goes that having these features on-site makes students more interested in living in the buildings, even if the location isn’t quite as good as the competition.
There are a few challenges with this type of amenity though. For one thing, they can take a lot of space, and are very expensive to implement. Frederick W. Pierce, IV, president and CEO of Pierce Education Properties recently told GlobeSt that “There has been a move away from the more outrageous amenities, largely because new development is in pedestrian locations where it is difficult and expensive to provide those amenities on the postage-sized lots many of these projects are being built on.” What’s more, they tend to lock space up into specific uses, limiting flexibility and the ability to pivot based on changing resident needs. And they often come with massive maintenance costs to boot.
While high-end amenities can help get renters in the door, they’re exposed to a lot of external factors. The pool may be a lot less popular if there is another COVID spike, for instance. And trends play a role here as well. Roller skating was once a super hot activity for young people, but is that really still the case? Only you know the exact competitive set your property will compete with, but if we had to generalize, we’d say it is easy to waste money with these amenities.
Instead of planning out trendy amenities ahead of time only for them to be obsolete by the time construction is done, instead consider surveying residents at your other communities, or students at your target university, for what kind of amenities and recreational spaces they would most like? You might be surprised by what you find.
Verdict: Questionable at best
2. Tenant Experience Platforms
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention tenant experience platforms here. These apps, of course, can give residents the ability to access and use building systems, like reserving parking or a study space, or buying a sandwich in the cafe. They also allow for communication with management and maintenance staff as well as other residents.
While you obviously think tenant experience platforms are important, there are good reasons for why they are even more important for student housing than conventional apartments. Because many student housing properties use “suite-style” living, which is essentially co-living, there is automatically a need for better communication than in a big BTR property where no one has real roommates.
Plus, students have a much higher chance of needing to coordinate with people living across their building for things like event planning, studying, and activities. On the same note, students are also highly likely to have multiple guests over for study sessions. What better organic advertising is there than allowing your residents to seamlessly reserve a study room and give visitors guest access to the property, all from their phone?
Verdict: Worth it!
3. Academic spaces and resources
Finally, what about earmarking spaces particularly for education? Student buildings are being designed with all sorts of academic spaces on-site. This ranges from business center-style study rooms with computers and printers available onsite to more private nooks or reservable study rooms to “study pods” that small groups can use to confer, study, or present information.
In our opinion, these are excellent investments. As discussed before, not only are high-quality study spaces a great form of organic marketing thanks to the ability of small study groups to get lots of prospective renters into your building, these facilities also make a good case for living in a student housing building and not staying at home far from campus. Particularly if your student housing property isn’t located right in the heart of campus, offering high quality study spaces could save your residents from needing to take the shuttle to the library, especially late at night once they’re already out of their classes for the day.
Regardless of how hybridized education becomes, the need for students to study will always be there. Plus, these spaces are effectively just office space, and so have very low maintenance and extra management needs compared to expensive features like lazy rivers. For that reason, educational spaces are a great investment for your student housing property.
Verdict: Worth it!
These are just three types of features that student housing properties are seeing a lot of these days. We hope this article helped you conceptualize the best amenity mix at this property niche. Did you like this article style? Let us know and we will do more in the future!