Student Housing Today: Living the W Hotel Life

The good old-fashioned dorm room has been transformed into a posh living space where students' parents now want to live.

Forget the days when you were in college living in a traditional dormitory with two students to a room and a bathroom and common room down the hall. The good old-fashioned dorm room where today you wouldn’t be caught dead has been transformed into a posh living space where students’ parents now want to live.

As school enrollment  increases, and along with it the demand for off-campus housing, developers are adding amenities to satisfy the growing whims of students seeking the comforts not of home but of a five-star hotel.

Building highly amenitized communities with private bedrooms and bathrooms, in fact, is the biggest trend in the student housing development industry. Amenities these days include not only a fitness center, pool and computer room but posh pluses such as a game room, theater lounge, basketball court, nail salon and personal training. On some campuses, students can even hire maids to clean their apartments and do their laundry. They can pay moving crews to transport their belongings. They live a life that is far from that of the stereotypical poor college student.

“The amenities game is pretty remarkable in what else we can deliver them,” said Dorothy Jackman, managing director of Colliers International’s student housing team. “Students are becoming more and more demanding, and they respond very well to a very robust amenity package on a property, and they will make a decision to live where they can get just about everything they want.”

As every student housing developer seeks to stay competitive and deliver amenities that are one step further than his or her competitor, the amenities selection becomes more and more luxurious.

Student housing developers get into the mindset of a college student, building specifically for that demographic, providing luxuries such as modern indoor furnishings, free high-speed Internet, a party deck and yoga classes.  If you have the money, you can buy or rent. Some students get as showy as renting limos so they can go to class like a rock star. Grocery delivery is another possible perk. Of course, this kind of living is hardly cheap, usually costing more than $1,000 in rent, with all additions extra.

“Students and parents themselves become more demanding in the types of products and residences they’d like to live in, compared to what I lived in when I went to college, in a dorm room,” said Andrew Stark, CEO of Campus Evolution Villages, a Lauderhill Partners L.L.C. company. “There is a trend for a more demanding public, so now it’s about the ability in and around universities to take what used to be the old, beat-up houses (and turn them into something) that could look and feel like a traditional multi-family (property) but (is) specifically made for student life. Every student wants a private bedroom and a private bathroom; it’s what we call the bed-bath parity in the industry.”

Read more about the student housing development trend in the February 2013 issue of Commercial Property Executive.