Students are back on campus, and the final pre-lease take for the Fall 2023 academic year is not yielding exactly the same strong grade as it did a year ago when it reached an all-time high. But it’s still well above the pre-pandemic norms and showing strong performance, according to RealPage recently released data.
As of last month, August, when many students returned to their purpose-built student housing (PBSH) near but off campus, 94.4% of “beds”—how student rooms are measured--at the core 175 universities RealPage tracked were pre-leased for the Fall school year. That was a bit below last year’s record of 95.7% but far above a typical pre-COVID-19 final pre-lease reading that was around 90%. The pace of pre-leasing slowed in the final months of the pre-leasing season or over the course of the end of summer due to fewer beds available to lease and fewer students on campus to lease them.
Percentages vary a bit according to how close to campus these PBSH buildings are. Those within a half mile are the most desirable since students can almost roll out of bed and be at class, a library, food hall, gym or other destinations. Their pre-leasing rate was 94.6% Those a bit farther away--about a mile--were 94.5% leased. Those falling in between those distances were 93.1% pre-leased.
Rent growth also varied from this August to a year ago and before Covid. August’s final annual effective rent change reached 9.3%, an all-time high, versus a year ago when it was 5.9%. And both were above pre-COVID numbers of under 2%. Those properties within a half mile of campus showed the highest annual rent growth of 9.7%, followed by 9.3% for those greater than one mile from campus and 8.1% growth for those within a half mile to one mile of campus.
Pre-leasing numbers also varied at different schools. At 20 of the top 175 surveyed, pre-leasing hit 100%, which meant no beds were available for latecomers, so to cite another cliché; the early bird got the worm or bed at such schools as University of Central Florida, Purdue University and University of Kentucky. At another 24 schools, the pre-lease rate was above 95%. And at only a handful were pre-leasing below 80%. Such schools included the University of Nevada—Reno, Sam Houston State University, University of West Georgia, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, University of California at Santa Barbara and University of Washington.