Location: San Diego, California
University: San Diego State University
In 2019, Campus Advantage was hired to perform due diligence on a 246-bed asset that was 87% pre-leased. The property had a slow start with their marketing and renewal efforts in fall 2018 due to San Diego State University implementing a new policy requiring both freshman and sophomore students to live on campus. Campus Advantage was also hired to oversee the property management and to implement an aggressive marketing and leasing strategy.
Upon taking over management, Campus Advantage immediately increased the property’s customer service standards and hosted various resident events to begin to build a sense of community. Campus Advantage’s Students First® Experience residence life program was implemented, and a resident appreciation week was hosted after the fall 2019 move-in to jumpstart the leasing season early and establish a positive reputation for the property. By fall 2020, Campus Advantage achieved 100% occupancy despite the global pandemic and the university announcing that all classes would be held online.
In fall of 2020, the University of San Diego’s total enrollment continued to increase by 1.4% from fall 2019; however, four of the 10 off-campus competitors were only able to achieve 63%-81% occupancy. Campus Advantage shifted its leasing strategy to primarily focus on digital efforts promoting Paseo Place’s prime location, secured entry, and competitive rates due to double-occupancy options. There was also a continued heavy focus on resident engagement during the critical six-week window after move-in, and this focus continued throughout the academic year which helped continue to foster the sense of community and resident connection notwithstanding COVID-19 restrictions. These combined efforts have allowed the property to continue to lead the market, being pre-leased ahead by 11% in March 2021, at a time when the San Diego market was behind the prior year’s total market average by approximately 21%.
Bridges on Forbes
Location: Austin, TX
University: University of Texas at Austin
Campus Advantage was hired in November 2018 to complete the initial lease-up of Moontower — a high-profile, new student housing development in Austin, Texas being developed by Lincoln Ventures, an Austin-based real estate investment and development firm. The 18-story, 567-bed property is located in West Campus, serving the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Catalyst, Campus Advantage’s marketing partner, was engaged to establish the brand for the asset in collaboration with Lincoln Ventures and assisted with creating digital marketing strategies to set the development apart within the competitive UT market. Numerous focus groups were held during the design phase of the development to tailor the design features to students’ preferences, and it was imperative that the brand reflected the attention to detail that was emphasized in the development plans.
Campus Advantage and Catalyst worked together in the planning and execution of a brand that would successfully launch the development into the local community. To do so, Moontower teamed up with local businesses for social media giveaways and on-site events. The development also incorporated influential UT alumni into the branding by naming floor plans after alumni and including quotes from Matthew McConaughey, a UT alumni celebrity, in the marketing materials. Moontower’s target demographic was identified early on, and the development worked to brand and market to these students. The property emphasized guerrilla marketing efforts coupled with unique, aggressive digital strategies, including SEO, SEM, and social media meme campaigns, to drive leads for the development during the initial key leasing months. Additional marketing and leasing efforts included establishing a marketing street team, sponsoring Greek Life events, and hosting social media contests. Moontower held a philanthropy contest in May 2019 to assist in launching the brand, which resulted in more than 16,000 likes on Instagram.
Moontower has established itself as the place to be with its top-tier living experience, including an excellent location, high-end finishes, a wellness-driven amenity set, and unparalleled customer service. These combined branding and marketing efforts led to the development reaching 100% pre-lease occupancy by April 2020 — 15% ahead of the development’s direct competitors, and 27% ahead of the off-campus market.
“The strong partnership and collaboration between Lincoln Ventures and the Campus Advantage team resulted in the extremely successful first lease-up of Moontower. Building onto the positive reputation of Lincoln Venture’s prior West Campus developments, the brand and marketing strategy created by the Campus Advantage team caught the attention of all UT students, resulting in immediate demand that quickly drove leasing velocity. Leasing started 15 months before the project was scheduled to deliver, a true testament to how quality development product and integrated marketing can resonate with students. This lease-up surpassed our expectations and we are excited to continue to work alongside the Campus Advantage team to serve our Moontower residents with an unparalleled experience in the West Campus market.” – David Kanne, Founder and Managing Principal of Lincoln Ventures
Campus Advantage will continue to provide property management services after opening, which will include oversight of property operations, marketing and leasing campaigns to drive subsequent leasing seasons, and the delivery of the Students First® Experience residence life program.
About Lincoln Ventures:
Lincoln Ventures is an Austin, Texas-based real estate investment firm focused on acquiring, developing, and managing high-quality real estate in superior locations throughout the United States. They are principally engaged in the ownership, acquisition, development, and management of both residential and commercial real estate assets. They employ an opportunistic investment strategy, seeking to acquire assets that are underutilized, leveraging their teams’ unique ability to assess opportunity, innovatively design, and effectively implement a carefully crafted strategic plan. With their unique hands-on management approach, they unlock potential and create value for their assets, partners, and the surrounding community, achieving superior risk-adjusted returns.
Location: Champaign, Illinois
University: The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
In 2019, Campus Advantage was hired to manage a 428-bed asset that was significantly behind their market in pre-leasing velocity. Campus Advantage took over management in May when the property was 78% pre-leased. Historically, the property had reached budgeted occupancy. However, the Champaign market had five new developments deliver in 2019, requiring existing assets to have a more strategic marketing and leasing approach. Upon taking over management, Campus Advantage immediately implemented increased customer service standards and hosted various resident events to begin to build a sense of community. Campus Advantage’s Students First® Experience residence life program was implemented, and a resident appreciation week was hosted after the fall 2019 move-in. Campus Advantage also recruited and hired new staff for the property who believed in the vision of the asset and worked diligently to establish a positive reputation for the property. Campus Advantage achieved 94.4% occupancy in August 2019.
For the fall 2020 leasing season, Campus Advantage positioned the rates competitively using an aggressive tiered approach, and established a new, strong leasing team. There was also a heavy focus on resident engagement during the critical six-week window after move-in, and this focus continued throughout the academic year, which helped create a sense of culture and resident connection at the community. These combined efforts allowed the property to reach 100% pre-leased by February 2020, at a time when the Champaign market was 45% pre-leased. 212 East was the first community in Campus Advantage’s portfolio, as well as the Champaign market, to reach this 100% target.
Location: Tempe, AZ
University: University of Advancing Technology
Founder’s Hall is a 260-bed student housing property situated right on the University of Advancing Technology campus in Tempe, Arizona. Campus Advantage was engaged in the fall of 2016 to implement its signature Students First® experience – a program designed to ensure that residents who choose to live at Campus Advantage communities have more opportunities to achieve success both now and in the future. Founder’s Hall lacked a robust calendar of resident events and overall community feel, and Campus Advantage was hired for their award-winning ResidentAssistant.com student resources and residence life experience to improve resident relations by committing to a higher level of resident satisfaction and success. Upon taking over the management of Founder’s Hall, Campus Advantage implemented new and innovative residence life programming, prompting a substantial increase in renewals among current residents. This also led to higher year-over-year annual occupancy trends at the property, a previous challenge due to the semester lease terms.
Throughout the transition, Campus Advantage also developed a strong working relationship with the University of Advancing Technology’s executive leadership team, enrollment services department, and financial aid department. The evolving relationships allowed all parties to collaborate on aggressive marketing and leasing campaigns, leading to increased capture ratios and more newly enrolled UAT students choosing Founder’s Hall as their housing option. These results were achieved through clear communication amongst all parties, daily meetings with UAT leadership, and a common goal to serve the residents at Founder’s Hall with the best hospitality and living experience.
Through these initiatives, Campus Advantage was able to achieve 100% occupancy at Founder’s Hall for fall 2019.
Opening a New Campus in the Russian Far East
Campus Advantage provided four years of consulting services for a new university campus in the Russian Far East. The project was a high-profile initiative of the Ministry of Education to create a world-class institution based on western design and operating standards. Several of Campus Advantage’s team members spent six months living and working at the campus in 2014.
The campus is located on Russian Island near the port city of Vladivostok, next to the border of China on the Sea of Japan. Fall classes commenced in September 2013 with approximately 25,000 students. CA’s work focused on four main areas: residence life programming, on-campus housing management, international marketing, and summer camps and conferences.
Campus Advantage was first invited to assist with the project in 2010 by the builder of the $7 billion project, who was based in Moscow. During visits to Moscow, CA had the opportunity to meet with several high-ranking leaders in the Russian federal government who were educated in the United States and Western Europe. These individuals were very interested in replicating the feel and atmosphere of western campuses at the new university in Vladivostok with the goal of attracting international students and faculty.
The campus includes over 12,000 beds of new housing. A team of architects from Moscow and the United States worked together with CA’s consulting group to design and plan the unit mix, common areas, and amenity spaces throughout the residence halls. This was the first new university built in Russia in many years, and the goal was to incorporate a true residential experience based on western traditional campuses.
Campus Advantage’s time in Russia was carefully designed to provide the university with tools that would assist their goals of raising their QS World University Ranking and becoming a world-class institution. The consulting team worked closely with university staff to provide training, policies, and procedures. One of the most exciting tasks accomplished was the development and implementation of the first Resident Assistant program in the country. With help from higher education marketing agency Catalyst, Campus Advantage developed recruiting concepts and materials that led to hundreds of students applying and interviewing to be chosen for the program.
Campus Advantage shared policies and procedures to help the campus create a roommate-matching program and customer-service-based management practices. CA also recommended special programs to assist international students and further advised on methods to increase access for students with disabilities. By putting a summer-turn plan in place, CA provided the university with the necessary tools to handle students moving in and out over a short period of time.
Working closely with Catalyst, CA was able to present the concept of a campus mascot and a university merchandise program. A faculty committee and student organization reviewed several mascot concepts and designs, along with a business plan for launching university spirit-wear and other branded products.
The work Campus Advantage conducted at Far Eastern Federal University provided them with the tools necessary to increase their QS World University Ranking — as well as ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings — and was very well received by both the Russian federal government and the university. CA worked with Erik Holm-Olsen at the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok, who stated, “Campus Advantage, from everything I have seen, has been an excellent representative of the American private sector in Vladivostok.”
A sampling of accomplishments:
- Introduced residence life programming to the FEFU campus
- Created a mascot and a university merchandise program
- Implemented world-class standards for residence hall management
- Provided multiple opportunities to expand conference business at FEFU
- Hosted several events on campus for students, allowing the FEFU staff and students to interact socially
- Designed furniture and décor for leisure areas in the building
In January 2016, Campus Advantage was engaged to provide an operational assessment along with ongoing marketing and leasing support for a student housing complex in Morgantown, West Virginia. This unique, two-part, 1,312-bed complex is composed of an apartment section and a traditional residence hall. The complex was newly constructed but opened with very low occupancy, so the owners needed a third-party perspective on how to improve marketing, leasing, operations, and resident retention. In order to provide operational recommendations, the Campus Advantage team interviewed the site staff, toured the properties, conducted student intercept surveys, evaluated operating procedures, reviewed historical documents, and surveyed the market. Operational data and budgets provided by the owners were analyzed and compared to industry standards to identify excessive expense variances.
The operational assessment was provided to the owners with recommendations primarily focused on achieving higher occupancy. The owners hired Campus Advantage as a leasing consultant to assist with tackling the leasing obstacles and achieving the occupancy goal.
A sampling of Campus Advantage’s recommended improvements:
Marketing and Leasing:
- Refreshed the property branding and marketing materials
- Differentiated the identity of the apartments and the residence hall
- Relocated the leasing office and increased organization
- Relocated the model unit
- Revamped the model unit aesthetics
- Increased social media usage
- Revised the rate structure
- Implemented a renewal campaign
- Revised the website to promote both communities
- Revised staffing structure
- Made capital expenditure recommendations
- Implemented a unit inspection schedule
- Made improvements to the Wi-Fi network and amenities
- Implemented a resident satisfaction survey
- Implemented a parking permit structure
- Made staffing and training recommendations
- Implemented new policies and procedures to increase efficiency
- Made co-vending recommendations
- Recommended event and programming ideas
- Made programming promotion and social media recommendations
After implementing Campus Advantage’s recommendations and utilizing the CA consulting team to assist with the marketing and leasing efforts, the residence hall’s occupancy increased 44%, and the apartment occupancy increased 31% from August 2015 to August 2016.
Campus Advantage was engaged by the owner/operator of a portfolio of properties serving Plymouth State University. The owner’s goal was to sell the assets and retire, but they knew they needed to improve operations and increase occupancy before finding a prospective buyer, so they hired Campus Advantage to perform an operational assessment. In order to provide operational recommendations, the Campus Advantage team interviewed the site staff, toured the properties, conducted student intercept surveys, reviewed historical documents, and surveyed the market. Operational data and budgets provided by the owner were reviewed to create a comparative budget using industry benchmarks to illustrate the variances versus an average portfolio of this size. Campus Advantage primarily focused on identifying ways to streamline operations to increase efficiency. Furthermore, the team offered suggestions to strengthen the portfolio brand as the properties were located throughout the town at multiple locations and did not have a uniform style.
Campus Advantage’s assessment included the following:
- An overview of competitive properties in the market
- A rate comparison to market averages
- Enrollment trends for Plymouth State University
Marketing and Leasing:
- Branding recommendations
- Recommendations on tiered incentives for renewals
- By-the-bed, individual leasing implementation
- Website review and recommendations
- Strategies to track effectiveness of marketing tools
- Recommendations on additional amenities and outdoor features
- Recommendations on audio/video features in the leasing office
- Preventative maintenance schedule to focus on sustainability
- Additional training recommendations
- Staffing/job duties assessment
- Recommendations on management systems and accounting procedures
- Event schedule implementation
- Advisement on campus relations
After providing the initial operations assessment, Campus Advantage was subsequently engaged to provide operations consulting to assist with the implementation of the recommendations. During Campus Advantage’s consulting engagement, the portfolio reached pre-leasing goals at a record rate and was 100% pre-leased by February for an August move-in. The owner was then able to successfully sell all of the assets within the portfolio.
University of New Hampshire
Varsity Place Apartments – Focused on NOI Enhancements
Campus Advantage was contracted by a portfolio owner to conduct an operational assessment for several properties serving students at the University of New Hampshire. This operational assessment focused on identifying issues or challenges related to market factors, staffing and leasing, and operations and facilities. Campus Advantage made specifically targeted recommendations for changes or improvements that could result in achieving the higher occupancy and NOI for the property.
Market Factors considered for this property included:
- Successfully leasing a very large variety of unit types
- A large number of recent and upcoming developments
- Marketing and residence life improvement adjustments
- Recommendations focused on increasing returning resident ratios
Staffing and Leasing
- Recommendations to develop a full residence life program
- Incorporating resident events as a part of the marketing plan
- Employing a social media plan
Operations and Facilities
- Property tax recommendations
- Overview of benefits and efficiencies of offering inclusive rates
Campus Advantage team members interviewed site staff, toured the communities, and surveyed the market. Operational data, sales reports, current rent rolls, and budgets provided by the owner were also reviewed. Additionally, interviews were conducted with the Durham City Planner to gain insight into future developments planned for this market.
Campus Advantage was engaged by the trustee of a purpose-built student-housing community in the DePaul marketplace in March 2011. Campus Advantage team members interviewed site staff, toured the property, conducted student intercept surveys, reviewed historical documents, and surveyed the market. Operational data and budgets provided by the owner were also reviewed to create a comparative budget using industry benchmarks to illustrate the variances associated with the property versus an average property of this size.
CA’s assessment of operational strengths and opportunities for growth included the following categories:
- Overview of competitive properties in the market
- Rate comparison to market averages
- Enrollment trends for DePaul
Marketing and Leasing
- Social media use
- Website review to increase usability
- Property signage
- Printed marketing assets including mail pieces
- Opportunities to increase leasing traffic
- Training to increase closing rates
- Review of service contracts
- FF&E assessment
- Staffing / job duties assessment
- Event schedule review
- Campus relations advising
- Utility cost comparison to local market rates
Campus Advantage was subsequently engaged to provide ongoing operations consulting to assist with the implementation of our recommendations. In the month’s following our consulting, occupancy at the property rose 22 percentage points for the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year.