Students are using their mobile devices to look and lease, and they're not always doing it when you think they are.
It just makes sense. School starts in late August or early September, so college students search for apartments between June and August. Right?
Not so fast.
From time to time, conventional wisdom needs a good fact checking. That time has come for the student housing leasing window. According to an Apartment Guide study generated of more than 208 student-housing communities nationwide, peak leasing seasons in individual markets can begin as early as April and continue into September or November depending on the market.
"Some student housing operators have suspected that the leasing season might be different depending on the market," says Scott Asher, vice president of marketing and operations for RentPath, Apartment Guide's parent company. "But determining exactly when peak leasing activity occurs on a regional, month-to-month basis in student housing has been difficult– until now."
This isn't just nice to know information. It's information that could be critical to the lease-up success of student housing operators.
"Knowing the peak leasing for each market empowers student housing community managers and marketing and leasing staffs to make better decisions regarding marketing, advertising and prospect engagement," Asher says.
The findings of the study, which were presented at the 2014 National Apartment Association Student Housing Conference & Exposition, reveal surprising variances in peak lead and leasing seasons by market.
For example, in Auburn, Ala., the study found that leads peak in April and decline by August, which is much different from the July to August lease-up season for student housing communities in Virginia Beach. Bloomington, Ind., has two peak leasing seasons, one from March to May and another from September to November.
In addition to the peak leasing season variation, the study revealed that the proportion of leads from mobile devices continues to grow at an extraordinary rate. Some student housing markets saw nearly half of all prospect leads generated from mobile devices. The top markets by total percentage of mobile leads were:
• Lubbock, Texas, at 45 percent
• Baton Rouge, La., at 43 percent
• Bowling Green, Ky., at 43 percent
• Louisville, Ky., at 42 percent
• Dallas / Ft. Worth, Texas, at 41 percent
"More than 40 percent of Apartment Guide's leads are generated through our mobile platform, so we weren't surprised by the mobile numbers," says Arlene Mayfield, senior vice president of RentPath and president of Apartment Rentals and Homes Divisions.
Mobile browsing is simply a way of life for college students. Consider that a 2013 study by Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeeklyLive and NRCCUA found that 43 percent of high school seniors and juniors used their mobile devices for all their web browsing. The same study found that 73 percent of students expressed interest in downloading campus-specific applications for schools on their target list.
"Prospective renters, like most customer segments, are turning to their mobile devices to make purchases, because they offer a more convenient and user-friendly experience," Mayfield says. "They don't have to find a computer, sit down and log in to find an apartment home any longer. Today, they can simply pull out their phone while walking through the neighborhood they want to live in and find the perfect apartment home."