When it comes to acquiring a new student housing community, it often pays to do a furniture audit.
Furniture suppliers are seeing more interest in their goods in the past year because of the increase in funds available to acquire and develop student housing, say Paul Dougan and Danny Beck with Dallas-based University Furnishings. Increased interest is coming from owners and developers who are acquiring projects and looking to refresh the interiors with new furniture offerings.
University Furnishings is often called in when a buyer is kicking the tires on an acquisition. The buyer requests an audit of the furniture to know whether or not they are going to have to budget to replace the furnishings. Dougan says there has been an up tick in the requests for furniture audits over the last few months since the investment sales market has picked up.
“There is a difference between buying a property for $20 million and having to spend another $500,000 or buying it for $19.5 million,” says Dougan. “It is important for the buyer to know what they’ve got. Furniture becomes an important capital expenditure at some point.”
In the event of an audit, University Furnishings examines not only the complex in question, but the offerings of the nearby facilities as well.
“This way, we can make better recommendations on how to guide our clients to proceed,” says Beck.
When auditing, University Furnishings pays close attention to the quality of the existing furnishings. There is a big difference when the current owner has tried to replace items with lower quality items.
“Trying to save money on the front end can really blow your operational budget up long-term,” says Dougan.
In many cases, University Furnishings recommends a partial replacement package, while in others it recommends total replacement or no replacement.
Another recommendation University Furnishings is often brought in to do is the type of furnishings a complex offers. In a competitive market, sometimes it will recommend a client go with furnishings that set the units apart from other offerings in the market.
University Furnishings is also brought in on new projects in the design phase to recommend where electrical outlets are placed. Novice developers and designers in student housing sometimes overlook everyday function in favor of form, says Dougan.
“Students are going to orient their furniture to the way it needs to function for them; they don’t care what the layout looks like,” says Dougan. “If the cable outlet is on one side of the room and the television must be there, they will move the sofa to the middle of the room, whether it looks good or not. Students care more about technology than they do furniture placement.”
University Furnishings is often brought in by experienced student housing developers and designers to consult on the placement of outlets in relation to the furniture package that has been specified. Their also often asked to specify a furniture package that will work well with the design.
At existing projects that have furniture stock, Dougan and Beck say that most of the time, there is no reason to replace all the furniture in a suite or apartment.
“The only pieces you need to replace are the ones that are going to change the aesthetic; the sofas, chairs and dining sets,” says Dougan. “The rest of the furniture can last much longer. On a bed, the bedspread determines the style and age of the room. Today, if you are buying a bedframe and a mattress, you want to make sure they are the quality that will last a long time.”
Dougan says since quality of today’s furniture is so high, most pieces that don’t see a lot of wear and tear can last for 10 years or longer in a student enviroment. Depending on the quality of furniture, couches and chairs should be replaced when you see the need rather than setting a hard and fast rule that furniture only lasts so long.
“It is really a question of when you want to replace,” says Dougan.
— Randall Shearin