Editor’s note- this is part three of a ten-part series on the various asset types of DST offerings.

Part 3: Student Housing Asset Classification

By Al DiNicola, AIF®
May 15, 2022
DST 1031 Specialist
NAMCOA® – Naples Asset Management Company®, LLC
Securities offered through MSC-BD, LLC
Structurally many of the student housing buildings may resemble multifamily properties.  The Student Housing classification at one time was considered part of multifamily but because of the number of offerings student housing now commands its own classification.

Student housing, from an investment point of view, has provided stable returns especially in non-commuter schools.  Students need a place to live as well as keep the belongings they have moved out of their parents’ home. That is the big picture. Many advisers are bullish on student housing with sustainable occupancy.  The amount of student debt being taken on is another topic but suffice to say there is lending available for many students to go to school.

Over the years the stability of “universities & colleges” has been noted as an institution. These pillars of stability provide a path for many seeking higher education, social interaction as well as an avenue to showcase their talents as in the case of the athlete.  Two years ago, at the start of COVID there were many questions about the impact on private student housing locations as colleges were closing.

The colleges and universities were first to make a major statement with regards to the COVID pandemic.  One swift action taken was the NCAA March Madness tournament to be cancelled. Like all others in the country (and around the world) because of COVID we experienced new behavior in all facets of our lives.

What were the outlooks prior to COVID? The student housing sector has been one of the strongest investment sectors and there has been institutional money deployed in this sector. The DSTs that have been structured in specific locations have done well over the years. Not every college is a prime candidate for a private student housing property. (Many investors have utilized a 1031 tax deferred exchange with a DST as a replacement property). During recessions colleges and universities have seen an uptick in enrollment as people seek to obtain new skills.

Student housing has changed from the perspective of Animal House (the movie) to todays’ environment. There have been many product designs over the years and one plan that was popular was a four-bedroom unit with two bathrooms that would accommodate four students. This was a big step up from older campus housing with the bathroom at the end of the hall.  From a lease structure there are four leases with each individual student. Parents of the students would be required to sign on the lease (thus guaranteeing the lease or guaranteeing the bed lease).  This handles the potential eviction of one person or the exit of one student. When contrasting the parental guarantee vs. a typical multifamily rental there may be added comfort level for the investors.  Many of the parents who are guaranteeing the lease for their college student are backed up by one or more, six figure parental incomes and a 700 plus FICO score. If there was a 100-unit complex you may have 300 parental guarantees on the beds. Multifamily product references unit count Student housing references bed count.

In many universities the freshmen are required to live on campus in the dorms. First year of college is where most of the fall out or drop out occurs. (One of the big metrics colleges and universities use is the graduation rate of freshmen).  When students spend their freshmen year on campus there is a higher graduation rate). Student housing numbers will rise with increased enrollment but the increase with rentals will lag a year or so as the freshman move out of the dorms. The student housing markets have matured. Naturally, the locations within walking distance to campus is a plus. The other factor may be the type of colleges such as what is known as the Power Five schools. The physical location would also be important with destination campuses rather than commuter schools. Investors like stable, consistent occupancy, tax shelter, appreciation potential provided by student housing in well selected college locations.

So, what were the impacts from the COVID closings on student housing.  The initial reaction by many was student housing would be in the same position as hospitality with plunging occupancies. There was an interesting turn of events. The freshmen who were in the dorms were told to leave. While many may have gone home, they were faced with the challenge of what to do with their belongings.  Several self-storage facilities saw an increase in rentals.  Returning to their parents’ home was not an option for many and as a result there was an uptick in additional rentals in private student housing which were not forced to close. In addition, many students did not want to go home. If the students did go home, they wanted to return to college (or at least their off-campus apartment home). Colleges offered online classes to finish the semester. The private sector student housing management companies who were quick to respond with digital move in, face book page updates as well as increased bandwidth for WIFI did remarkably well.   If you were a student housing operator and you were behind the times in providing bandwidth, etc. that was a problem.  Many student housing communities provided study areas or rooms with the increased technology and including what was advanced technology for conferencing (Zoom meetings, green screens, etc.). Zoom has now become the norm in many daily activities. What became counter intuitive was when the school closed (or only offered classes online) parents were still on the hook for the rents.

Even with remote access to classes it was hard to replace brick and mortar experience. For schools who decide not to re-open some students transferred to other schools that provided the on-campus experience. Most all universities and colleges are back to normal in the post COVID environment. We will explore the anticipated Fall 2022 drivers.

Product design changes. What COVID did drive was the bedroom to bathroom parity requirement.  Meaning each bedroom requires its own bathroom.  This “de-densifying” requirement pushed students out of the dorms. Dormitories with four students sharing two bathrooms will be reduced to two students (in a four-bedroom unit) sharing the 2 bathrooms unless modifications can be made. In the older style dorms this will be even more of a challenge. The freshmen will need to seek off campus housing and add to the demand of private student housing.  The private sector may be at an advantage with the unit mix.  Many one-bedroom/one-bathroom units as well as two-bedroom/two-bathroom units will not be affected by the parity requirements. In the larger four-bedroom units that only had two bathrooms, the private sector had a solution.  The fourth bedroom may be converted into a high-tech bedroom and bathroom.  Converting the four bedroom two baths into three bedrooms and three baths became the solution.  Naturally, specific permitting and local jurisdiction will determine the process.

Campus visits are back to normal and rental lease ups for the 2022 fall semesters are in full swing. The outlook is encouraging.

FALL 2022 ENROLLMENT OUTLOOK: Record Application Numbers Reported Across US

Bolstered by escalating numbers of international students, interest in college attendance is higher than ever. Soaring past pre-pandemic levels. One sponsor believes the four-year, in-person experience is a rite of passage. Something both students and parents both see tremendous value. With more and more US high school students pursuing higher learning and even more international students seeking a US education, many sponsors believe this trend could lead to steady, sustainable incline in college enrollment.

  • UCLA – Nearly 150,000 applications (Source: UCLA newsroom)
  • Auburn has reported record 40,000 applicants (Source: oanow.com)
  • 31% increase in international applications (12% domestic) (Source: Common App Data Analytics)
  • 21% increase in underrepresented domestic minorities

DEMAND AND SUPPLY OF STUDENT HOUSING: What has changed? First of all, enrollment in degree-granting institutions in the US is projected to hit 19.8 million by 2025, representing a 2.6 million increase from 2017.

  • New student housing deliveries for 2021 reached the lowest total since 2009
  • Pre-COVID vacancy rates of US student housing remained considerably low between 2016 and 2019: 2016 (1.7%), 2017 (2.5%), 2018 (2.6%), and 2019 (2.3%)

Sources: Axiometrics and https://www.guide2research.com/research/student-housing-statistics (July 07,2020)

Technology & Security– What has also changed in security both inside and outside the properties.  For example, some offerings boast the latest technology to restrict access to only residents.  The Blue Tooth applications where students have access through their phones eliminate the need for keys and other entry systems. Cameras are being positioned in nearly every location to monitor assess to buildings, hallways, and common areas.  Security has become a major required amenity or a demand of parents and students.

Final thoughts on American Education. There has been a premium placed on a US education by foreign students (and by foreign parents). Restrictions that were placed on foreign students during COVID have been lifted. During COVID there was a loss of revenue for colleges since many of these students pay full tuition.  However, when the foreign students could not return during COVID this did permit colleges to accept more US students.  Colleges have demonstrated they can pivot easily. The private sector student housing developers and sponsors are increasing the attraction of the property with enhanced designs and amenities. Many of the offerings (structurally and amenities) rival the Class A Multifamily properties and if you did not know the property was student housing you would never know the difference.

Content for this article was obtained through communications with DST sponsors of Student Housing. Not all Student Housing locations are the same and may have different results. Contact your investment adviser for additional details on how a DST may be a solution to your 1031 Exchange and suited for your investment future.

DSTs are not for all investors. The acquisition of a DST is for accredited investors only. Contact your investment adviser for additional details on how a DST may be a solution to your 1031 Exchange and suited for your investment future. For more information on how to properly set up an IRC 1031Tax Deferred Exchange or if you are an accredited investor and would like additional information on a DST contact Al DiNicola at 239-691-8098 or email adinicola@namcoa.com.

This is not an offer to purchase or solicitation to purchase any security, as such be made only through an offering memorandum or prospectus. Investing in securities, real estate, or any investment, whether public or private, involves risk, including but not limited to the potential of losing some or all of your investment dollars when you invest in securities. You should review any planned financial transactions that may have tax or legal implications with your personal tax or legal advisor. NAMCOA, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor, regulated by SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).

Our corporate office is located at 999 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 200, Naples Florida 34108. Securities Offered through MSC-BD, LLC, Member of FINRA/SIPC. 410 Peachtree Parkway Suite 4245, Cumming, GA 30041. MSC-BD, LLC and NAMCOA are independently owned and are not affiliated.

Thank you.

NAMCOA® – Naples Asset Management Company®, LLC