At Apartmentalize 2023, Leonardo247 CEO Daniel Cunningham hosted a panel discussion titled, “Tackling the Turn” with student housing experts Kyle Hinton of Redstone Residential, Lenny Wright of Student Quarters, and Justin Pellegrino of Cardinal Group. Here’s what we learned about how to best tackle the student housing turn…
Why This Matters
Despite a general slowdown in growth across various real estate asset classes, student housing continues to thrive and stands out as one of the top-performing sectors. It’s earned a reputation for being highly resilient during times of economic volatility. According to a report from Yardi, in March, preleasing figures for the fall 2023 term indicated 69.7% of bedrooms had already been reserved, reflecting a 7.8% increase compared to the first quarter of 2022.
Strong growth in the sector means more professionals are involved in the industry. With this comes the need for establishing better practices for improving the turn process, as failing to do so can have negative financial and reputational ramifications.
There are a number of obvious and not-so-obvious ways a broken turn process can have negative financial effects. If residents have a bad experience during the turn, they might start looking for other housing options, which could lead to financial losses for the property owners. A well-executed turn process keeps residents happy and increases the chances of them renewing their leases. Here are a few tips to boost your chances:
- Consistency – You want to make sure you’re consistent with how you assess charges across all your properties so you don’t miss out on any potential revenue. Document everything. This helps resolve disputes faster since emotions can sometimes get in the way of an accurate assessment.
- Inspections – Quarterly inspections help you catch repairs early on. If residents see charges in the first quarter of their lease, they tend to take better care of the place throughout their stay.
- Training – It’s crucial to have a qualified inspection team all year round to assess repairs. Unqualified or poorly trained teams work slower, make more mistakes, and end up costing you more money.
Residents rarely say how great things went, but love to make TikToks highlighting a corporate failure. Here’s how to keep your good reputation intact:
- Transparency – Ensure charges for student housing are consistent with the lease agreement and transparently communicated in the move-out notice. By doing so, you can build trust and avoid any misunderstandings or disputes with tenants. Also, since parents often play a pivotal role in the decision-making process, effective communication with them is essential. Provide clear and timely updates to parents, addressing any concerns they may have and keeping them informed about the turn process.
- Curb appeal – A clean and well-maintained property not only creates a positive impression but also instills confidence in parents regarding their children’s safety. Implementing curb appeal report cards can help hold the onsite team accountable for the property’s appearance. This includes paying attention to landscaping, lighting, and painting, which contribute to the overall attractiveness and perceived quality of the housing.
Operational Best Practices
What are some of the best practices in order to make this process as smooth as possible? Here’s a quick checklist to keep in mind:
- Provide proper notice and establish charges beforehand to avoid surprises.
- Organize walks into teams and minimize interference with vendors, especially for larger properties.
- Approve charges administratively and handle deposit accounting correctly.
- Ensure all necessary tasks are completed before move-out time to allow vendors to begin their work.
- Conduct surveys for new move-ins, not move-outs.
- Overcommunicate with residents, including providing notice to vacate at the time of renewal and communicating expectations clearly.
- Consider assigning vendors (painters, cleaners, carpet cleaners) to residents to reduce the number of units to be turned and the potential for charges to residents.
- Foster a sense of community among onsite teams and vendors to ensure everyone shares the same goal.
- Begin tackling heavy lifting tasks months ahead of the turn, such as ordering paint and other necessary items in April/May, and arranging for PODS/storage containers on the property.
- Schedule bi-weekly calls with Regional Managers to establish expectations.
The Role of Technology
Technology streamlines the turn process and ensures its success. Property management software (PMS) aids in self-inspections, move-in inspections, and accurately determining charges. Photo annotation features enhance transparency with visual evidence of damages. Integrating charges into the PMS maintains consistency and accuracy in financial transactions.
Technology enables effective financial tracking, minimizing overcharging and identifying red flags earlier. Mobile inspection applications allow for the quick creation of Financial Move-Outs (FMOs) through the PMS. Scheduling tools for cleaning further optimize the turn process.
Embracing technology and its applications allows multifamily operators to navigate the student housing turn efficiently, ensuring consistency, transparency, and a positive industry reputation.