As many freshmen and countless tenants are coming to realize, the Ann Arbor housing scramble for the next school year is back and in full swing.
Popular campus realtors like Arch Realty, Old Town Realty and Prime Student Housing have acknowledged the early rush to find housing has begun. While the yearly timeframe of the housing scramble hasn’t changed, some living patterns have — possibly due to the economy.
Arch Realty Leasing Director Charisse Traband said in an e-mail interview that while students continue to look for the same types of housing from year to year, the houses are getting a bit more crowded.
“We do see that students are more likely to share rooms and decrease individual costs,” Traband wrote.
Old Town Realty Business Manager Rudy Acuna said in an interview that tenants have been keeping their homes in better condition than in years past to get their full security deposits back.
“They checked out a lot cleaner this year, probably because people wanted all their money back,” Acuna said. “There are a lot more people trying to over-occupy which we have to monitor a lot more closely.”
Despite this slight change in residents being more willing to share rooms and doing what they can to drive down costs, the same expensive and popular locations are still the most competitive and likely to be leased earliest in the year.
“The most popular area is the south campus near Hill, Oakland, Church, and E. University,” Traband wrote. “A close second runner-up would be the Kerrytown area between N. Huron and Kingsley.”
These popular areas are filled with many houses and apartment complexes. Past history from these realtors has shown the houses are the most likely to sign earliest in the year, while one- and two-bedroom apartments tend still to be available later in the year.
“Larger units, such as three bedrooms and up, see their most interest earlier in the school year,” Traband wrote. “Demand for two bedrooms and below follows toward the end of the fall term.”
Prime Student Housing, which leases apartments, reported that it sees a rush to rent properties both at the beginning and at the end of the school year.
“As it gets later on people will wait until the last minute and not rent in the middle of our leasing season,” Traband wrote.
LSA senior Chris Vivian said he experienced the trauma of not signing early last year and then having fewer options to choose from at the end of the year. He is living near Hill Street and Main Street this year.
“I felt the pressure from signing early,” he said. “I had a house lined up in the fall but when that fell through my roommates and I had major difficulties locating available housing during second semester.”
Though some realtors said there was some concern that the economy or construction of new student high-rises might affect the housing market, the beginning of the leasing season has shown no significant change in the housing market.
“There hasn’t been as much of a negative effect as I would have thought,” Acuna said. “At first we were a little scared. Our properties do offer a different sort of character than those high-rises and they are not necessarily as expensive.”
Old Town Realty reports that it is at 98-percent capacity with its units this year, and Arch Realty reported that it has not had problems with vacancies.
“While we do not see the high-rises as our direct competition, we have noticed that rents around the new high-rise buildings have increased at an accelerated rate,” Traband wrote. “Properties in other areas around campus have maintained their value and we have had no issues with vacancy.”
And while the off-campus housing market seems to sustain many changes and continues to thrive around campus, residence halls are also luring back students with new construction and better living situations.
“We have noticed particularly in the past couple of years just a slight increase in percentage points of students who want to return to on-campus housing,” said Housing Communications Director Peter Logan. “This is a function of, probably, the economy… just the overall anticipation and improvements we’ve been making to the residential experience here.”
Ultimately, many students sign leases for the following year in September and just accept the housing race as it is. Shonkoff said she was able to get a house that was “absolutely perfect,” by signing her lease early.
“We signed (in) the beginning of September,” she said. “We had heard that a couple of our friends had already been looking and we knew that it was really competitive and wanted to get a jump start and not have to be scrambling for a house.”