Student housing developers and operators are clearly upping the stakes when it comes to property amenities and services that appeal to today’s students – the highly tech-focused Millennial generation.
Companies across industries from hotels to frozen yogurt shops are trying to figure out Millennials – what makes them tick and how to land their business. Student housing operators are no different. Millennials are loosely defined as those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s (ages of 18 and 34) – a prime demographic target for student housing. Among the general characteristics that Millennials share are a tendency to be collaborative, open-minded and socially conscious. They appreciate a sense of community, a unique sense of place, and by and large, they like urban living. They also are on their way to becoming one of the most highly educated generations in history. Technology and the need to be connected at any time and from anywhere is very much a common thread for today’s student renters. According to a 2015 Mobile Millennials report by Nielsen, 85 percent of Millennials aged 18-24 own smart phones. Nielsen also found in a recent survey that 83 percent of Millennials said they sleep with their smart phones.
So, it is no wonder that high-tech amenities are a priority for today’s student rents, with Wi-Fi access and premium bandwidth at the top of the list. Some student housing owners are finding that students not only want premium bandwidth, but they are willing to pay more to get it. In addition, students want that Wi-Fi access throughout the entire property. Beyond that, students have higher expectations for state-of-the art technology throughout the property from security to fitness centers. High-tech study rooms, for example, are often equipped with smart boards and desktops equipped to handle video streaming.
Today’s students favor housing that has its own unique design aesthetic, and isn’t the exact same as the apartment next door or down the block. They place a high value on indoor and outdoor space where they can connect and socialize ranging from pools and gaming centers to digital fitness room and rooftop terraces. According to a 2013 student housing survey on living preferences conducted by Multifamily Executive and J Turner Research, the top five amenities selected by more than 7,000 graduate and undergraduate student renters included:
- Fitness center
- Study areas/study rooms
- Computer labs
- Coffee shop/cyber café
Case in point is the new 930 NoMo under construction in Charleston, S.C. The new 430-bed off-campus apartment will serve students of the College of Charleston. Some of the many highlights of this property include a 9,000-square-foot terrace with a pool, cabanas, DJ booth and grilling stations, as well as a 6,500-square-foot clubhouse with covered patio and rooftop lounge. Added to that, there is bocce ball, a cycle center, cyber cafe, student lounges, a cyber cafe — and more. The property is expected to be completed this fall in time for the 2015-2016 school year.
For more students these days, such state-of-the-art resort-style properties are becoming more the norm rather than the exception. However, Millennial students also share another character trait that is important to note. As a group, they have weathered a fairly rough economic climate. So, despite views of this being the “Me” generation, they are conscious about what they’re spending and they like a good value in what they are getting for their money.
In the 2015 ABODO student survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents (96%), rated finding a property that fits their budget as the most important factor when searching for an apartment. Three-fourths of students rated safety of the building and neighborhood as the most important, and more than half (58%) also rated a great looking apartment unit as the most important factor. In addition, the top five amenities that students rated as the most important in their student housing search, included:
- Available Parking: 78%
- In-unit Laundry: 67%
- Controlled Access: 60%
- Utilities Included: 54%
- Near Bus Route: 39%
- Balcony, Deck or Patio: 39%
- Large Square Footage in Unit: 39%
As property developers, owners and managers continue to try to figure out what appeals to young Millennials, they also need to be aware of yet another shift that could drive more change for the industry. There is another up-and-coming generation, Generation Z, that is on the doorstep and preparing to head to college. When they arrive, one thing is for sure, they will most likely have just as big of an appetite for tech-related amenities and services — if not even more.