Brittany Herringshaw is an assistant vice president, regional manager of student housing operations with Foresite Realty Management. With over nine years of management experience and six years in the student housing market, she has experience in the Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wyoming markets. Herringshaw is responsible for overseeing a portfolio of over 3,500 beds and her background includes work for the second largest student-based housing corporation in the country as well as smaller, independent complexes.
Herringshaw will draw on her strong background in the leasing process and extensive understanding of the trends in college-town housing markets when she speaks at the Chicago Student Housing Real Estate Conference. Registration is now open for the event, which will be held on the morning of July 12 at the Gleacher Center in Chicago. We spoke with Herringshaw as she prepared for the fourth annual event.
Lately we’ve seen a lot of pedestrian-friendly, infill-type student housing going up as developers prioritize proximity to campus. Do you expect this trend to continue?
While I think that most of the major players in the development side of student housing will continue to pay premium prices for the opportunity to be close to campus, I also believe that the available land is beginning to disappear. Others have seen the value, or in some cases universities are expanding, creating fewer choices closer to campus. In turn, I believe that we will see an increase in the repurposing of existing assets. Things will be torn down to maximize the land and increase the density.
Much of student housing, just like multifamily, is in the midst of an amenity war. What are the “must have” amenities for today’s students? What are some cost-effective ways to provide them?
We primarily focus on B/B+ assets. In this market you see less of the uber extravagant, and more focus on the number of amenities. Some of our most popular items include, hammock gardens, grilling areas and dog parks. There is a growing desire for common space areas to congregate and socialize. This has been accomplished at most sites through a clubhouse/lounge area allowing for comfortable seating and Wi-Fi connectivity.
What is the current investment climate for student housing in the Midwest and elsewhere in the U.S.? Are we seeing funds coming in right now from the coasts, from foreign investors or from elsewhere?
A good majority of the properties that we have added and deposed from our portfolio have come from owner-operators on the coasts. We have primarily seen domestic investors who may draw capital internationally.
What are the current trends in design and construction to meet the needs of today’s students?
It seems that the next generation is primarily focused on minimalism and contemporary style. They focus on ease of use and efficiency. They note things like energy-efficient appliances and how easy it is to pay rent, connect to the internet and how well the property fits into their lifestyle. Today’s students are highly desensitized from extensive social media exposure, so it takes additional effort to catch their eye. They want their space and their home to depict the trendiest of appearances; this comes from an idealistic image portrayed online. Design and construction must play into this need. Examples include high speed wireless internet, USB plug-ins, minimalistic interiors and easy access to amenities and the communities they wish to be a part of.
Are there effective management strategies that operators can take advantage of to maximize efficiency?
We continue to improve the ease of use on site. In doing so we have upgraded internet options and we have added and streamlined keyless entry. All properties have the ability to pay online. This also includes online lease signing and digital work order systems. While many of these are not revolutionary, it is amazing how many markets still have leading properties that do not offer such options. The future will include property apps, package lockers and total “smart apartments.”
How can GCs, architects and developers partner with universities to better meet market demands? Is there a public-private partnership model that works well for student housing?
While I cannot attest to a model that works with universities, I do believe that in many of the markets that we operate there is room for improvement between the on-campus and off-campus housing. Many universities refuse to entertain or allow off-campus housing to reach their students. Improving this relationship through programs where housing is approved or “endorsed” by a university could allow for standards, and better education of the students as they transition from dorm life to apartment life.