Wrangling students by day and party animals by night can make any off-campus property manager feel more like a zookeeper than a real estate professional. And all cat-herding aside, you need to keep a strong focus on building a healthy community while keeping an operations-oriented perspective.
The nonstop balancing act is something every property manager tries to master — and it’s no easy feat. Here we’ve identified some of the most prominent challenges off-campus student housing professionals face — and how to tackle them.
Challenge #1 — Building a supportive living and learning environment
Off-campus housing is unique because it’s often occupied by students in different stages of their academic careers. Some of your residents might be freshman still unsure of how to separate their laundry. On the other side of the hall could live a doctoral student in a complicated relationship with the library.
But there is an unwavering commonality among all your residents: the center of their lives is school, and by extension, the building they’ll temporarily call “home.” Since you’re responsible for the tenant experience, it’s essential to provide them with solutions that meet their unique living and educational needs.
Hire the best and help them grow
Your employees impact renter happiness for better or for worse. Since tenant satisfaction affects your bottom line, it’s important to hire and retain the best of the best.
Here are some pointers on how to build a dream team for your facility:
- Create an inclusive working environment that welcomes curiosity, creativity, and questions
- Support emerging leaders by offering things like raises, bonuses, or peer-to-peer mentorship programs
- Provide employees with regular evaluations and feedback to communicate support and encourage their professional development
Promote a healthy, productive lifestyle
Students need to stay sharp to achieve academic success. So while you might not be able to sit down and take their exams for them, there are plenty of ways you can encourage your tenants to succeed.
- If you don’t already have an on-site gym, consider investing in a couple treadmills, some jump ropes, and a set of free weights. Physical activity can improve cognitive function.
- Repurpose unused closet space into a study nook. Tenants will appreciate the time to get some heads-down work completed outside of their own unit.
- Host study parties a few weeks out from the end of each semester to encourage community building and laid-back exam prep.
Challenge #2 — Minimizing maintenance costs
Your apartments might be the first place outside of a parent’s house and a dorm room that your residents have ever lived in. And with inexperienced renters, you need to be prepared for every maintenance request in the book all the way from “I can’t figure the thermostat” to “a pipe just burst in the bathroom.”
Responding to requests big and small can add up, but with clear communication and educated staff, you keep maintenance costs under control.
- Provide residents with the information to help them maintain a quality living space. Basic housekeeping and upkeep aren’t necessarily intuitive, and some renters will need more guidance than others.
- Define a process for your staff to swiftly receive, pass off, and respond to trouble tickets. Make it easy for renters to submit maintenance requests online.
- Establish priority levels for different kinds of issues. For example, a broken curtain cord should be bumped down the priority list if flooding is reported in one of your buildings.
Challenge #3 — Managing the mailroom deluge
College students love to shop online. In fact, 70% of Americans buy online. And 65% of them are college-aged. But while they’re jovially ordering laptops, posters, pots and pans, and meal kits, you’re breaking a sweat dealing with the constant flood of packages coming in the door.
Most residential buildings weren’t designed to support the ridiculous number of parcels that are delivered every day. However, modern package management solutions are easy to implement and can take package sorting and delivery off your plate.
- Install package lockers to automate the package delivery system in your building.
- Turn a spare secure room into a high-tech delivery hub using mailroom software.
Challenge #4 — Reducing property damage
Students residents are often one-year renters. Unfortunately, short-term tenants can be less invested in their space, and often, more careless. As such, you need contracts that protect you, your property, and other tenants.
Require the following for every new lease:
- First month’s rent plus a security deposit.
- Co-signers for underage renters.
- Co-signers for student leases, even if they’re over 18.
Don’t forget to include:
- Clauses detailing the renter’s responsibilities for damage and repairs.
- Community rules about noise, parking, and additional occupants.
Challenge #5 — The administrative work time-suck
Manual reporting is frustrating for managers seeking efficient and tight operational processes. When you record everything on paper, hundreds of documents must be filed, retrieved, and filed again. Plus, you have to spend time decoding illegible handwriting and hieroglyphics annotating the text. No one has time for that, especially during times like fall move-in week!
Stop spending hours each week writing up reports by utilizing an electronic reporting system. Going digital significantly cuts down on human error and gives you time back you never knew you were missing. Other benefits include:
- Lightning-fast record retrieval
- Reduction of duplicate papers and redundant work
- Universal access to records, reports, and other documents
Challenge #6 — Attracting new renters
With university students as renters, you can expect to welcome a new group every year excited to learn and experience new things. To attract quality renters, forget giving out free month’s rent. Instead, create opportunities for your dream tenants to interact and socialize.
- Design common spaces that can accommodate meetings and events while also offering a study space for individuals or groups.
- Coordinate fun events that are topical and relevant. They can range from celebrations of holidays to discussion about current events. Encourage resident input to help you plan activities.
- Work with university departments to host educational workshops and seminars. Connecting with university departments fosters relationships between you and the school while also expanding the borders of the university into the community.
Don’t let package management be your #1 challenge. Get in touch with us today to learn about our package lockers and mailroom solutions.