Real Estate Weekly
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Student life is getting serious and developers are taking notice

Forget Fish Bowl, Celebrity Heads and drinking games, today’s students are proving to be smarter than they’re given credit for when it comes to how they live.

“There is now a higher need for co-working spaces in comparison to traditional game rooms and entertainment amenities as students are taking their studies and time management very seriously,” said Jim Kirby of GMH Capital Partners, a real estate company that owns student housing across the country.


When it comes to amenities, more students would rather have cloud printing than concierge service as they look to make their home work for school.

“It’s proven that technology is no longer considered a luxury for this market group and can even be a deal breaker if there is a lack thereof,” said Kirby said.

“For instance, WiFi and internet were once considered an amenity, but are now a high expectation due to the need for online classwork, collaboration, social media, gaming, and streaming.”

With the student housing sector continuing its growth, experts say students are finding their tastes maturing towards the academic and fitness-based amenities.

Many student housing options, whether they’re on-campus or off, feature high-end amenities like entertainment rooms equipped with huge flat-screen TVs and video games and resort-style pools with lazy rivers.

But the market is beginning to now trend towards amenities that allow students more study time.

Ryan Lang, Newmark Knight Frank’s vice chair of student housing, said the luxury amenities are still found throughout the country, but that developments are making more room for the basic study rooms.

“The majority of new developments in the last couple of years have been more focused on the community space, study rooms, presentation rooms and things like that where they’re creating a sense of community rather than have crazy elaborate amenities,” Lang said.


Lang explained that this shift may be caused by properties wanting to represent a sensible option for parents who are shipping their kids off to college.

“When parents are walking their students through campus or potential places to live, they’re typically seeing there’s fun stuff to do, but they want to make sure they’re there to do what they need to do, which is study and get a degree,” Lang explained.

These study areas also are optimized for flexibility to offer a more community-minded approach for student housing.

Kirby said GMH properties have spaces that prioritize flexibility and convenience.

“We are finding that students place a high value on spaces that can be easily manipulated,” Kirby said. “This is beneficial for students living in smaller units like studios or one-bedroom apartments where space can be tight.”

He added that students will use retractable walls to create a temporary study space in the living room or convert a one-bedroom into two through the push of a button.

And the opposite is also true, where students can convert smaller study rooms into a large conference area that can fit at least 20 people.

Rory Bolger, a broker with Citi Habitats, said that buildings with any type of flexible workspace tend to attract students, especially those serious about their studying.

Rory Bolger

Bolger, who cited TF Cornerstone’s 33 Bond Street in Brooklyn, as a building that offers workspace that is like its own private coworking area, a trend he sees with many new developments.

The property is also located in Downtown Brooklyn New York University’s engineering school. This type of flexible coworking space appeals to both students and those who work from home or freelance, Bolger said.

“You’ll see that many of these buildings will have a community area that is really set up in a very comfortable way to take the place of a coffee shop,” Bolger said.

For students who are looking to multi-task effectively, some properties have combined studying time and working out. For this reason, interactive workout amenities have become popular amongst student renters.

“Now renters are looking for ways to stay interactive during workouts, so state-of-the-art equipment like the Peloton bike and other equipment that allows users to stream live classes or do virtual workouts are in high demand,” Kirby added.

Outside of their studies, students are also looking for the simplest, stress-free way in dealing with getting into their dorm or apartment or having guests over.

GMH’s senior vice president of asset services Rand Ginsburg, said amenities like smart locks and keyless entry are popular with students and that a majority of millennials would go so far as to pay extra for this feature.

Ginsburg added that video intercom systems like ButterflyMX that use QR codes to unlock doors gives students easy access for themselves or guests.

And tenants are looking for the cutting-edge in student-geared amenities. Ginsburg said that cloud printing options have become really popular for millennials and Gen Z renters. This amenity allows renters to print anything that’s stored on the cloud from their devices, whether it be a cellphone, tablet or laptop, by virtually sending their file to the printer and using a code to gain access. Some systems even allow students to send their files to print from nearby locations, Rand added.

HomeWork is 33 Bond’s exclusive in-house collaborative workspace

The niche student housing market is expected to continue to grow, according to Newmark Knight Frank’s 2018 Student Housing Market Overview.

The report noted that the year ended with a record-high institutional sales volume, hitting nearly 400 sales versus 2017’s mark of nearly 300 sales.

More than $10.9 billion of capital was pumped into the student housing sector in 2018, which is 77 percent greater than the five-year average and 160 percent greater than the 10-year average, according to the NKF report.

The report added that the transaction volume of student housing increased 39 percent in 2018, compared to the previous year.

Lang said that 2019’s first two quarters were equally strong in transaction volume and 2018’s momentum looks like it will continue into 2020.
But for student housing to continue doing well, Kirby said that developers should be paying careful attention to what their demographic wants.

“Since Millennials and Gen Z make up the majority of renters in today’s market, it is beneficial that owners pay attention to the wants and needs of these renters to maximize success,” Kirby said.

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