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Earlier today I took part in the monthly Grace Hill chat, this one focusing on student housing. Unfortunately, I was busy with other projects so I wasn't able to devote a lot of attention to it, but I did notice something odd about the chat. Normally, the Grace Hill chats, although very informative, usually end up focusing 90% on apartment marketing and only 10% on resident retention topics. I understand that the questions are user driven, but it always bugs me that we spend so much time on the less profitable of the two. But today, from what I saw, it was quite different. In fact, it seemed that it was highly focused on resident retention items such as parties, group games, such as the Wii or Guitar Hero, and surprisingly, service! Now I'm all for positive resident retention ideas, but it was just odd to see that much discussion on the topic when before it played such a second-place role.

Spending so much time on student housing retention is even more interesting considering the large obstacles it faces. The lifecycle of any student resident is almost required to be short as they will graduate (hopefully) or move home for the summer. Also, students often initially stay at the dorms, which means a lot of renters are already upper classman, meaning closer to graduation. In addition, college renters often have roommates - if that roommate happens to be a year ahead, then he/she will graduate before the younger resident, forcing that resident to either find another roommate or move out. In other words, the difficulties in retaining a resident are staggering!

So although I could see the argument that you have to invest more since they are harder to renew, it just seems like throwing more money at a resident who is destined to leave in the first place.

One other note about resident retention in student housing vs traditional housing: It seemed like the chat participants were just flinging out idea after idea regarding student housing events and programs, which vastly outpaces ideas for traditional housing. I wonder if onsite staffs are more likely to implement programs in student housing because their demographic is so homogenous, and therefore, easier to figure out? Do property management companies often ignore resident retention for traditional developments because it is just simply too hard to plan a program for such a diverse group of people? I would love to hear any thoughts on this!

Brent Williams is Chief Insider of Multifamily Insiders, the largest social network in the world for multifamily professionals. His background includes both property management and supplier, and he writes on all facets of the multifamily industry, although his focus lies in resident retention.
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  • Brent...you're always thinking about Resident Retention aspect...heck, if we keep our residents happy and they stay, lives of owner managers would be spent at the spa eating bon-bons. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but expensing equal amounts of Dollars and Sense on keeping our residents may be one of the wisest investments we can make. An easy way to do that is through social media; blogs, wikis, building our neighborhoods, one person at a time.

    The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research recently conducted one of the first statistically significant studies on the usage of social media by college admissions offices. The new study compares adoption of social media between 2007 and 2008 by the admissions offices of all

    This study revisits the admissions offices of college admissions and the use of these new technologies. Given that a detailed wiki and a new University of Massachusetts study now show that 13% of the Fortune 500 and 39% of the Inc. 500 currently have a public blog, it is interesting to note that college admissions departments continue to lead the pack with blogs at 41% of US colleges and universities.

    There is evidence of enthusiasm and eagerness to embrace these new communications tools but there is also evidence that these powerful tools are not being utilized to their potential. Users of social media must learn the “rules of engagement” in the online world in order to maximize their effectiveness...