The Future of Student Housing in a Post-COVID World

The Future of Student Housing in a Post-COVID World

While many student housing brands have already weathered the immediate impact of COVID-19, the future of student housing in 2021 and beyond remains uncertain. We can anticipate that there will be long-term changes to the student housing landscape, but just how will COVID-19 change student housing next? Will any student housing trends return to a pre-COVID state once wide-spread vaccination and herd immunity is achieved? What new trends will emerge even as the virus’s immediate impact wanes?

Today we’re exploring those questions and making predictions for what’s next for existing communities and new student housing developments across the US.

Fewer Students Will Attend Universities

Since university enrollment was already falling before COVID-19, we can expect that the uncertainty introduced by 2020’s pandemic will only accelerate that trend. The effect will likely be even more pronounced among international students, for whom the pandemic threw into sharp relief the challenges of attending a university that’s far from home. Those challenges were further complicated by the Trump administration bringing anti-immigrant sentiment and the difficulty of getting a visa to new levels. While the Biden administration will likely reverse that trend somewhat, things still won’t be easy for international students. While many student living communities go out of their way to court international students, international students have seen how uncertain their ability to attend school in the US can be, and may respond by choosing to attend university outside of the US.

With both domestic and foreign young people less likely to enroll in American universities, student living communities will find it more difficult to maintain high occupancy rates under their current models. However, other factors may off-set that trend somewhat.

Those Who Do Attend May Opt for Off-Campus Housing

Because many universities did not accommodate students in on-campus housing during the pandemic for health and safety reasons, on-campus housing may no longer seem like a safe option for today’s undergraduate students. This means that those who do attend traditional universities may opt to live in private or university-private partnered housing communities.

Off-Campus student housing communities can take advantage of this with messaging that calls attention to the benefits of housing that is independent of university safety guidelines while also keeping them away from crowded campuses when the need arises.

person studying in student apartment

Demand For Shorter, More Flexible Lease Terms Will Rise

his time of uncertainty has left many renters, students included, looking for added flexibility in their housing contracts. While many student housing communities have traditionally stuck to a 12-month lease term without the option to sublet, the student housing market may need to offer more flexible lease contracts to overcome concerns in this area.

Similarly, demand for by-the-bed leasing will also rise, but the impact of this shift will be less drastic on the market, since many student living properties already offer this payment model.

“All-Inclusive,” “Private,” and “Spacious” Will Be Big Selling Points

With the pandemic forcing students to adjust to a new student lifestyle that confines them to their apartment, we can expect to see a wave of students looking for more spacious accommodations. Likewise, a post-pandemic student will value the privacy offered by private bed and bathrooms, so students may opt to avoid shared bedrooms. Bed-bath parity will also be desired, to cut down on germ spread.

Communities that provide ample room for students to live in will be desirable—fully-equipped kitchens, in-unit washer and dryer, and spacious bedrooms will be essential—while dorm-like accommodations that offer cramped quarters without a full appliance package will be less popular.

Finally, high-speed internet included in rent will continue to rise as a major selling point, and students will likely avoid student housing that doesn’t offer high-speed internet options.

Communities without these features may be forced to renovate or risk losing out on a shrinking student renter pool.

Health-Promoting Amenities Will Come Into Vogue

As they look for new ways to entice a smaller, more hesitant renter pool, student housing communities will turn to new and upgraded amenities to generate excitement and assuage health concerns. We expect to see enhanced air purification systems, package lockers, food delivery lockers, keyless entry, and added sanitation measures become common among new developments, while existing communities may launch a wave of renovations as they work to adapt to changing sensibilities.

package lockers in student apartment

Similarly, we will likely see a rise in green/sustainable amenities as climate concerns coincide with a focus on health and safety. This trend had already begun before the pandemic and will likely continue as Gen Z’s already climate-conscious students have even more reason to prioritize a lifestyle that feels clean, green, and healthy for both themselves and the environment.

“Luxury” Student Living Will Rebrand

With frugally-minded Gen Z, the term “luxury” can ring a little tactless, especially as the world anticipates an economic recession that will further stratify the haves from the have-nots. While some student communities may lean into their luxury status, hoping to attract wealthy student renters, many will need to rebrand in order to appeal to a broader audience of Gen Z students looking for affordable, practical, inclusive apartment communities.

Some Student Living Properties Will Make The Shift to Multi-Family or a Blended Model

With university enrollment rates continuing to drop and virtual classes becoming more common even before COVID-19 radically altered the higher learning landscape, purpose-built student housing developments are bound to slow in 2021. Not only that, but a wave of existing student housing communities have begun making the switch to multi-family, adopting a hybrid marketing approach that targets both university students and non-student renters in order to fill vacancies.

We expect this trend to continue, prompting a wave of rebrands, website updates, digital ad campaign refreshes, and more as student housing communities work to shed their associations with the student lifestyle in order to appeal to a wider variety of prospects.

An Internet Listing Service Could Cost Your Real Estate Brand More Than It’s Worth

An Internet Listing Service Could Cost Your Real Estate Brand More Than It’s Worth

Internet Listing Services (ILSs) have long been a major part of the marketing strategies of real estate brands, and it’s not hard to see why. These online listing sites like, Apartment Finder, and Zillow help real estate brands ensure their properties show up in Google search results, driving clicks and conversions while freeing up the property management to focus on concerns beyond digital marketing strategy.

However, ILSs may not be the best marketing option for real estate brands today, and a shift away from these services is already beginning within the real estate industry. There are a few key reasons for this, which we’ll discuss, but the main takeaway is this: internet listing services simply aren’t worth the money real estate brands spend on them—at least, not when relied on as heavily as they traditionally have been.

So what should real estate brands be doing instead? Well, the answer is complex, and we’ll get into it, but the short version is that these brands should be diversifying their digital marketing mix. Let’s talk about why and how.

Internet Listing Services Are Easy But Not Efficient

We’ve already touched on why real estate brands have been putting their marketing dollars into ILSs: it makes things simple. It is a truth universally acknowledged that most property managers have enough on their plate without worrying about how to optimize their digital marketing strategy. Many real estate brands choose to let ILSs worry about that stuff for them, knowing they can benefit from the strong SEO and SEM of established ILSs that prospects already recognize and use.

However, real estate brands are beginning to understand that they’re not getting as much bang for their buck this way. While ILSs do bring in leads, brands are likely to pay a much higher cost per lead than they would on other digital marketing strategies like paid search or retargeting ads. Not only that, but ILSs could be delivering less qualified leads, resulting in fewer lead conversions, which brings us to our next point….

Internet Listing Services Can’t Verify Conversions

In other words, ILSs can’t prove their worth or provide you with analytics that help you make smart decisions about your marketing spend. That’s because when a user lands on an ILS after searching for housing, your property appears along with competing properties in the area, and users often click through several listings as they peruse their options. That means that ILSs attempting to track conversion rates by either a first-click or last-click attribution model can easily provide an inaccurate or incomplete report of your conversions from their site.

So, unless these prospects take a tour, start an application, or otherwise reach out to property staff, you may never get a chance to verify where that lead came from and how much value ILSs are really adding to your marketing strategy. And with unclear analytics, you miss out on the opportunity to evaluate and optimize your strategy along the way.

Relying Solely on ILSs Means Missing A Big Opportunity for Growth

In addition to missing out on the opportunity for continuous optimization, relying solely on an ILS for your digital marketing means limiting your brand’s marketing potential in other ways.

One of the shortcomings of ILSs is that they don’t do a good job of making your property stand out from the competition. Instead, they lump you in with your competitors and provide easy opportunities for your prospects to shift their attention to properties other than your own as they search. Other digital marketing strategies like PPC ads and SEO give you more opportunity to stand out from your competition and make a strong first (or second, or third) impression.

Speaking of making more than one impression, another shortcoming of ILSs is that they only allow you to intervene at one step of your audience’s buyer journey. Every prospect goes through a number of different stages as they search for housing, and using an ILS tends to be one of the earlier stages in the digital buyer journey. Being able to reach your audience early in their journey is great, but reaching them more than once is better. If you limit your digital marketing to just ILSs, you’ll miss out on opportunities to stay top-of-mind and catch your prospects at later stages of their journey when they might be more likely to convert.

Another way ILSs fall short is that they tend not to create strongly qualified leads when used alone. Again, that’s because the ILS user experience places your property alongside your competitors’ and limits your opportunity to wow your audience. Spending your marketing dollars to instead create a website experience that is both conversion- and search-optimized allows you the opportunity to connect with your prospects through compelling branding, provide your audience with reasons to trust, and deliver all the information a prospect needs to convert.

So What’s the Answer?

We actually don’t recommend that you stop using ILSs entirely. ILSs are currently a useful way to reach prospects at a key part of their housing search. However, there’s a lot more you could be doing.

That’s why we recommend diversifying your marketing mix. Keep ILSs in that mix if they’re helping you, but consider allocating some of the spend you’d normally put toward an ILS to other digital strategies that are cost-effective and provide more opportunities to reach your prospects and stand out from the competition.

Creating a conversion-optimized website with strong SEO is a fantastic start. Consider also launching search ads through Google Ads as well as retargeting display ads that help you stay top-of-mind for prospects who have already encountered your property through their online housing search. 

If this is sounding like a lot, we get it. You can’t become a digital marketing expert overnight, and many folks in the real estate world simply don’t have the time to devote to it. Still, there’s a cost-effective way to incorporate better marketing strategies into your budget. Can you guess what we’re going to say?

If you guessed, “work with a marketing agency,” you’d be correct. Better yet, work with Threshold! We specialize in the real estate industry and we have experience working within your budget to create great marketing results. Best of all, we’ve got a team of expert digital strategists who can help you launch effective marketing strategies and optimize them as you go, so you’re always getting the most effective marketing for your spend.

If you want to learn more about digital marketing with Threshold, chat with a team member today! We’d love to get you started.


The Rules for Rebranding in Apartment Marketing

The Rules for Rebranding in Apartment Marketing

Reasons to Rebrand

We get a lot of requests for rebrand projects from new property owners, especially those who’ve bought older properties. If you’re an owner taking over a property, you might want that property’s branding to fall more in line with the other communities you own. A rebrand makes a statement to the surrounding community that your property is serious about its image.

Recent renovations also cause property owners to come to Threshold for marketing ideas for apartments in the midst of a rebrand. The big payoff for big renovations is the ability to promote them. When you make renovations, and do a rebrand, you can promote your property in a whole new way to a whole new audience.

Finally, poor reputations can also cause owners to consider rebranding. Past a certain point, your property’s reputation cannot be saved, no matter how much time you dedicate to reputation management. If that’s the case, a rebrand can give your property a fresh start.

Obstacles to Overcome

Losing a name associated with negative reviews is great, but you’ll also lose plenty of equity in the community from people who’ve knew about your property’s old name. Online, you’ll have to take certain steps to combat the loss of domain and page authority that your website has built up over the years. At Threshold, we combat this by mapping your old URLs to similar pages on your new website.

There are a million moving parts to take care of when your property gets a new name, especially in today’s age of multiple online social media pages and apartment finder websites. It’s a complicated process to update every little detail, but it’s worth it—and entirely necessary— when launching a new brand into the market.

Your new site will have to build up trust with Google over time, no matter how much work your advertising agency does to combat the loss of SEO mojo from your old brand. However, property managers can drive traffic to their site right away by launching Google AdWords campaigns. 

With AdWords, you can show up in search results right away because you’ve paid to be there. That will immediately drive traffic to your new site and speed up the trust-building process with Google.

Take Good Care of Your New Brand

As property managers know, renters care deeply about the lifestyle their chosen community projects. Sometimes, that projected lifestyle is even more important than the amenities or the square footage. Doing a rebrand can help your property show off an entirely different lifestyle than the old brand was putting out there. You can do all this without making major renovations.

We talked about changing the property’s social media pages to suit the new brand, but the voice and tone on social media should change as well. When we create new brands at Threshold, we don’t create them to be permanent. Instead, we develop brands that have the chance to grow and evolve as time goes on. We want our clients to be able to take ownership of their brand and wield it how they see fit. Social media is a perfect place to start trying out your new brand—your new voice.

A rebrand can involve anything from naming and a logo to a full-blown collateral update, including digital apartment marketing materials such as your website. We’re here with game-changing apartment marketing ideas when your property is ready for a rebrand. Whether you’ve just purchased a new property that needs to present a new face to the market, or you’re just sick of looking at a stagnant logo, Threshold can help.

Thresh Faces: Haley McCarley

Name: Haley McCarley

Title: Digital Marketing Specialist

Haley takes apartment marketing ideas and turns them into dynamic social media campaigns, effective PPC ads and a whole lot more. Her student housing marketing knowledge helps the entire digital team get a leg up on the competition, keeping CTRs high and spirits even higher.

Get to know Haley below!

What are 3 words you would use to describe Threshold?

Organized, Excited, Inventive

If you had an office nickname, what would it be?

“The lone female on the digital team”

What is your favorite line from a movie?

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

Paddleboard, Dos Equis, and The Harry Potter series

What is the title of your autobiography?

How Haley Got Her Groove Back

What is/would be your motto or slogan?

Hook ’em horns m/

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Flying, so I wouldn’t ever have to drive or park in Austin again

What is your hidden talent?

I am pretty awesome at doing makeup, even though I rarely wear it ;P

If you were famous, what would it be for?

Longest Netflix binge in the world

Favorite Austin eats?

Homeslice Pizza and Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Thresh Faces: Tyler Holmes

Name: Tyler Holmes

Title: Account Manager

Tyler has been working in student housing marketing since college, and now he’s absolutely brimming with apartment marketing ideas and multifamily marketing strategies. On top of that, he also owns the world’s cutest dog.

Get to know Tyler more below!

What are 3 words you would use to describe Threshold?

Innovative, Fun, and Full of Swagger

If you had an office nickname, what would it be?

The Tyl… Squirrel! 

What is your favorite line from a movie?

Guys, if I don’t bleed to death pretty soon, I’m gonna die of boredom. – Suicide Kings

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

Booze, Bacon, and more Booze

What is the title of your autobiography?

My Life with a Side of Bacon

What is/would be your motto or slogan?

It’s all good!

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Telekinesis (bascially can do anything!)

What is your hidden talent?

I use to sing in showchoir… so yeah… there’s that…

If you were famous, what would it be for?

Dog Rescuing

Favorite Austin eats?

Rudy’s BBQ

submark tag
submark icon