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Three Ways Your Affordable Off-Campus Community Can Compete and Deliver Top-Notch Resident Services

Off-Campus Community

There’s a major misconception and reality of what affordability means to college students seeking off-campus housing.

The idea does not cross college student’s minds that they need to save extra money from their college loans only to search for affordable housing on the furthest edge of campus or in run-down neighborhoods. They do not dream about or search for off-campus housing, which is away from the collegiate lifestyle, where all the crime happens and deferred maintenance is so deplorable the apartment should be boarded up! The perception of affordable off-campus housing to most college students is feeling forced to live in unkempt conditions, being taken advantage of with absolutely no representation of a collegiate lifestyle… known as scum lords. The reality however, is many college students are seeking for affordability in housing near campus with all the perks and services of the glamorous A+ purpose built product.   

While your community may have a completely different product level of features in comparison to the brand new luxury, highly amenitized purpose built community a few blocks away, you still have room to compete and win over students. We all know price is on the top of the list for every college student searching for housing, however they also put responsive management in top ranking. There is something to be said about the A+ purpose built student housing communities across college campuses. These communities have figured out the secret sauce in winning over today’s student renter including community belonging and resident services.  

Trust me, I understand the challenges of having to sell college students that Mexican sand color toilets and sinks with metal legs are #Throwback. Not every bedroom will have air conditioning, by the way invest in disposable plates because there are no dishwashers and the closet space resembles more of a shoe closet than being able to store all your belongings.  If your team has a negative sales pitch towards your product, discover a humorous approach rather than hiding or being ashamed of something. Through overcoming objections, feeling proud and confident in the services delivered, we continued to increase rents 3-5% year over year with 100% occupancy. Not by selling negativity of the interior in the apartments, but through shifting our sales approach emphasizing on community belonging and resident services. 

These are my top 3 areas of focus to get your community in the game to compete and deliver top-notch services for students looking for affordability: 

1. Responsive Management- If you were putting together a puzzle, this would not want to be the missing piece. College students rank responsive management just as important as price. With that being said, responsive management should be planned and discussed through routine staff meetings. Addressing everything from timely service request, handling roommate conflicts, response time to prospect or resident inquires, turning and delivery of units and of course your teams personality and ease of doing business with you.  

2. Community Belonging- Today’s student renter wants to be included, feel a place of belonging and develop lasting friendships. They rely on your community to provide and deliver this experience. Not only do you need to be present, but truly show you care and take interest in this stage of their lives.  Consider partnering with students living in your community to create a focus group. Hearing the students voice while incorporating their ideas is one of your strongest marketing tools.  Learn from them on what resident events they would attend along with their friends. Community belonging does not mean residents only, it means creating community through the entire campus with a continual focus on recruitment. 

3. Resident Services- Students and their parents want to be treated with enthusiasm and they embrace the ease of gathering information and services. Put it out there … both online in your communities’ digital word and in person! Your website should never be considered as your platform to only sell them, but also to inform and aid in the process to help them make a decision to lease online.  For example, things like tips on what life is like once you become a resident. Be sure to highlight the ease of submitting service request, paying rent, electronic lease signing, roommate matching, moving in and moving out tips, approval process and any documents they are required to complete. A personality expressing outgoing, above and beyond drive will always win in the end. Don’t allow them to walk away in person or online feeling as if they spent time at the BMV or working with the “next in line” attitude.   

Kim Cory is the Principal of Kim Cory Consulting and Sr. Managing Director of ibrCory You can learn more about Kim on her website at: