Students rush to find off campus housing
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 23:04
Looking for housing months ahead of time is common practice for Miami University students, but this year students have begun signing leases for houses and apartments up to 18 months in advance.
“I felt rushed into signing,” junior Evan Deaton said. “My friends and I signed early in September last year and if we had to redo things, I’m not so sure we would live here again.”
Miami students are required to live on campus for their first two years, with the exception of sophomores who are allowed to live in fraternities that meet certain criteria.
Before this requirement was implemented three to four years ago, many first-year students immediately signed leases for their sophomore year three weeks after starting college, according to Bobbe Burke, Miami coordinator of off-campus affairs and Miami Tribe relations.
Since the change, lease signing has occurred even earlier.
Many students looking for housing experience this perceived housing “rush,” believing there are not enough housing options.
“The process felt rushed, but I understand the competition,” junior Josh Eldemire said. “Living off-campus is what you do as an upperclassman; I’m just glad we got a house.”
Deaton and Eldemire are living in the same house this year with two other roommates. Their situation is not uncommon for many students at Miami.
“In most other markets, students sign leases for the following school year in the spring,” Senior Associate of Cardinal Group Management, Mike O’Brien said. “So the months of March and April are the most important for our properties in other markets.”
But is there an actual competition between students and housing companies?
“There are approximately 7,200 beds on campus and there aren’t enough beds to go around,” Burke said. “There are many, many more places to live than for people to live off-campus.”
Keeping sophomores on campus allows for one more year of maturity, according to Burke.
First-years Tommy Vance and Kasey Stone have experienced this “rush.”
“Honestly, I am not sure what my plans are for junior year, so I am not ready to sign a lease,” Vance said. “But, with so many people signing leases, I am worried that it is going to be hard to find a place to live if I wait any longer.”
Stone said she felt the pressure to sign for junior year when she started to look at housing in early March.
“We spent a couple of weeks house hunting before we signed, but I think that it is really dumb that everyone is signing this early when they don’t know what they’ll want two years from now,” Stone said. “For instance, you don’t know if you’ll have the same friends or will still like the house this far in advance.”
Some university officials share these sentiments.
“It is just not a process that is good for students,” Burke said. “They are frazzled before it’s happening, they’re frazzled while it’s happening and then they wonder, ‘did I make the right decision?’ It’s unfortunate.”
According to Sherri Bowling, assistant director of housing and meal plans, students want to live off campus because of the comparable cost to living in the residence halls and because there are no resident assistants, no quiet hours and absolute freedom.
“Miami doesn’t have a perception related to the appeal to live off-campus,” Bowling said. “My personal perception is the ability to live with a group of friends and not have the supervision of the live-in hall staff and rules associated with living in the halls.”
According to Eldemire and sophomore Kelsey Gamble, who signed her house at the beginning of April, the restrictive nature of residence halls has fueled competition for the “best” houses off campus.
“When we were signing for our house, we were sitting at the table and there were people banging on the door yelling that they would pay double,” Gamble said. “That was crazy. And I know that people have called already for the 2014 -2015 school year on our house.”
The housing companies are aware of this competitiveness, according to O’Brien.
“Miami is very different from other markets in this regard,” O’Brien said. “About 60 percent of our leases are signed in August and September. There is a rush to grab houses at the beginning of the school year and students are fearful they will not have a good place to live if they do not sign quickly.”
While the process may be difficult for students, it is not easy for housing companies either, according to O’Brien.
“The rule that Miami University enacted a couple of years ago to force sophomores to live on campus made filling all of our places much more difficult,” O’Brien said. “Our properties are fairly desirable and are in solid locations, so we are still able to fill our places. But I know that smaller landlords have been struggling to fill their places at reasonable prices due to the competitiveness in the market.”
The housing companies are also concerned with the market, according to O’Brien.
“Off-campus housing at Miami is more volatile than other markets where we own properties,” O’Brien said. “With the infusion of several new apartment buildings, the base of renters has been dramatically reduced over the last few years. Another reason off campus housing is so desirable is because the student body in generally used to a higher standard of living.”