With leasing for next fall already in full swing and the NAA Student Housing Conference now behind us, last week’s #AptChat focused on the latest trends in marketing for purpose-built student housing communities.

Let’s cut to the chase … here are the highlights from the conversation:

What are the top ways that students find an apartment? Is anything higher on the list than word of mouth?

  • Natalie Teinert: Top ways to find our housing is through the University itself.
  • Ann Padgett: Word of mouth is huge, students want to live with their friends.
  • Elysa Rice: I’d say 2 ways are Google and friends.
  • Resite Online: School newspapers and online social networks.
  • ATL Marketing Concepts: Other than word of mouth – proximity to school and cost next two decision makers.. Roommate program also helps.
  • Natalie Teinert: Housing Office, websites, admissions materials, etc.
  • Carla Morin: Make sure to state in your on-line marketing “we accept student applications” or something like that that’s huge!
  • Ann Padgett: I see a lot of kiosks on campuses now, both the old fashion paper and staple kind and new touch screen fanciness.
  • Darcey Forbes: We have also seen success with CL (Craigslist) for college rentals and searching for roomates etc.
  • Nessel Inc.: College newspaper online classifieds site was huge @ my school.
  • Resite Online: 1 of our customers likes 2 create buzz around campus about prop’s social life, ex: topless car wash, they wash only tops of cars.
  • Natalie Teinert: All of our properties offer a roommate matching program. Especially nice for International students who don’t know anyone.
  • Dylan Schleppe: SMS is private, fast and convenient. What they want.

Are there differences in marketing a lease-by-the-unit community vs. a lease-by-the-bed property?

  • Natalie Teinert: Most students like the individual lease liability. Parents do 2. Great thing to market!
  • Elysa Rice: I think in student world lease by bed is easier on finances for students NOT propty. my roomie was forever late on payments.
  • Natalie Teinert: Individual leases also help when applying financial aid. Would get messy with 1 lease/unit & fin aid.

What amenities are at the top of the list for students?

  • Mike Brewer: Include all secondary fees, i.e. cable, Internet, water, sewer, trash – in the rent. Parents and students like simple.
  • Ann Padgett: Individual bathrooms, washer dryer, location to transit, community events to name a few.
  • Elysa Rice: Internet, designated parking (was single girl walking late at night), pay by room, pool, bus to school, TV, recycling.
  • Tami Siewruk: Shuttle bus service is a big one.
  • Eric at Buildium: ALL student housing should include internet. It is a necessity for college students!
  • Speedpro Add: Stud housing is funny bc they position it as “luxury living” here I thght college was roughing it.
  • Mike Brewer: Common place to hang with friends – and dog park is proving to be huge – wireless Internet a common area must.
  • Natalie Teinert: Students will give up a lot on amenities as long as the student has friends there and believe theyll have fun living @ your prop.
  • Lisa Trosien: Some have computer labs with direct links to the university computer.
  • Natalie Teinert: One of out props has a bike room you can rent space in & stays locked.
  • Elysa Rice: My apartment had room with computer/printers = smart move on their part.
  • Elysa Rice: I lived with 3 diet obsessed girls, hello must have 24 hr gym.
  • Natalie Teinert: Indoor BBall court has been popular @ 1 of our props up north, theaters are good for programming too.
  • Elysa Rice: Pre-pay for entire semester rent is also nice ammenity for students who get loans twice year.

What needs to be on the website for a student housing community? Anything different from conventional apartment sites?

  • Ann Padgett: I think u start by building a social network 4 your student residents 2 connect & have fun online, post pics & video.
  • Mike Brewer: Ability to sign lease digitally — we are trying to this implement this year.
  • Natalie Teinert: Online leasing is a great pull for international students.
  • Resite Online: Online Rent Payment is a huge amenity for the student and the parent.
  • RealPage: Roommate matching.
  • Resite Online: Potentially an FAQs section for both students and parents.
  • Ann Padgett: Pictures of the students interacting with each other at events.
  • Natalie Teinert: Links to Uni websites are nice 4 current residents. Links to videos/articles how to wash clothes, cook, iron, etc.
  • Elysa Rice: @osu_bigredbus (UniversityVillage.com) is our most popular student website. Their bulletin board for students is very popular.
  • Natalie Teinert: Calendar of programming events (if you offer) w/links to FB to RSVP.
  • RealPage: Providing parental access to the same info and functions a student makes mom and dad very happy.
  • Elysa Rice: most important online student ammenities IMHO: online application, online rent pay, “nearby”, lots photos & video, floor plans.
  • IRIO Mobile: We have iPhone web Apps on SH micro-sites via text.
  • Elysa Rice: Speaking for @KimCoryFitness, I know she polls residents/students & improved website every semester per their input.

What about blogs & social media sites? Do they work for the student crowd?

  • Natalie Teinert: Targeting High School seniors w/FB ads has been great for us!
  • Natalie Teinert: Basically have created ads targeting specific cities in the Uni area targeting ages 17-18.
  • Mike Brewer: FB: target the sphere of influence of current resident base – pic contests that require sphere to vote in the way of comment.
  • Mike Brewer: FB: pet look alike, community jingle contest, best photo from spring break, etc.
  • Mike Whaling: Just met w/ a group of students yesterday. Not one of them using 4sq yet. Also said Twitter is “for old people.”
  • Natalie Teinert: SM has been good for us. Gets students interacting w/us that haven’t before.
  • Mike Brewer: Social sites and blogs are only as valuable as the effort put into them — they require hard work to be successful.
  • Mike Whaling: Numbers out last week show that Twitter is growing w/ the younger crowd.
  • Natalie Teinert: Have seen success w/property twitters that the affiliated university utilizes Twitter as well.
  • Lisa Trosien: Camden’s three lease Twitter success story was on a student housing property. Gave a concession ‘code’ in their Tweets.

There were a number of great insights and nuggets along the way, so make sure you look over the full transcript. This past week’s #AptChat included 329 tweets from 54 different contributors.

And if you missed the Student Housing Conference, or if you want to go back to the comments about sessions you may missed, you might also want to check out the Twitter stream from the event.

What do you think? Are these comments in line with what you’re seeing? Did we miss something that’s working really well for you? Tell us about it in the comments!