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New Student Housing Research Shows Shift in Design and Amenity Preferences

Large units, plenty of storage, and off-campus housing that's within walking distance to classes all rank high as apartment community preferences among both undergraduate and graduate students.

According to "What Millennials Want: Resident Preferences in Student Housing Design and Amenities," a national research project conducted for the 2013 Multifamily Executive Student Housing Concept Community by Houston, TX.-based J Turner Research, American college students prefer to live in well apportioned off campus housing , a shift away from Spartan dorm lifestyles of the past. Results from the survey of 7,085 students indicate student housing operators can capitalize on that shift by delivering key design and amenity elements along with superior service leading to customer satisfaction.

"We've compared some of the results from 'What Millennials Want' with another J Turner Research project on the Top 10 resident complaints and have seen some interesting parallels," says J Turner Research President Joseph Batdorf, who presented survey findings during an exclusive research presentation at the Multifamily Executive Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Regardless of whether it comes to design or amenities, if you want to stand out, resident satisfaction is key and what you need to focus on.”

For instance, Batdorf points to a recent analysis of resident complaints that ranks the quality of parking and parking availability as the number one design criticism of apartment communities, and compares that finding to student transportation preferences reported in this survey. “Even though 37 percent of students say walking is the ideal mode of transport to and from campus, 71 percent of students do have a car,” Batdorf says. “And with 31 percent saying they drive every day, we see a parallel that design preferences like parking and parking availability do relate to customer satisfaction.”

The" What Millennials Want" survey also found that while students relish the privacy of their own sleeping and bathroom spaces, they don’t necessarily want to live alone. According to the survey, the majority of students (43 percent) live with three roommates. Additional findings include: 

  • Average monthly rent for students is $620 ($700 for graduate students).
  • The top three most important design features for students include having their own bathroom (76 percent), big closets and storage areas (44 percent), and large kitchens (24 percent).
  • The top two choices for type of building to live in were mid-rise apartments (38 percent), and cottage/townhouse (33 percent).

In addition to apartment size, students also indicated that Internet bandwidth and cellular reception remain critical components to their housing choice. When asked how important cell reception was to their apartment community selection, 49 percent of students ranked its importance at the highest level. In contrast, only 27 percent of students ranked large apartment units as highly important.

“Over the past decade, we’ve clearly seen a preference for modern, off-campus student housing and the amenity packages are escalating dramatically,” says Batdorf. “Along with that shift has been an expectation that communities must deliver high connectivity bandwidth, reliable cellular and architectural and design necessities to make multi-roommate apartment living comfortable.”

Data provided by J Turner Research