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Posted on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Landlords: Few apartment vacancies near UM's campus as students move in

By Lizzy Alfs


City Place on South Fifth Avenue in Ann Arbor is advertising bedrooms for lease for fall 2013 on its website.

Melanie Maxwell |

Thousands of new and returning University of Michigan students are making their annual trek to town this week, and many landlords are turning over rental units for the new lease term.

As students return, landlords are reporting few — if any — vacancies at student rental properties surrounding campus and downtown.

“We are fully leased for our student properties,” said Jeff Starman of Ann Arbor’s Wickfield Properties, which owns and manages properties near campus. “We have very few apartment building openings even off-campus. Our student housing was virtually full probably back in May.”

Despite the recent addition of high-rise student apartment buildings such as Zaragon West, Landmark and The Varsity, Starman said this year’s rental market was the strongest it has been in years.

The university's 1,180-bed South Quad dormitory is also closed this year as part of a nearly decade-long initiative to renovate dorms, possibly impacting the rental market.

“I think it has been a really good year,” Starman said. “It’s typical of how it was in the past. We’ve already had people calling in desperate to rent for next year.”

In landlord world, the week before U-M classes start is typically turn over week, which means cleaning crews frantically prepare apartments for new tenants, and maintenance workers make any necessary building repairs.


The Varsity opened in August on Ann Arbor's East Washington Street.

Melanie Maxwell |

Landlords usually have about a week before former tenants move out and new tenants move in.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Lana Hawkins of University-Places, which owns six rental homes. “You can’t keep up with the amount of, I’ll call it destruction, because that’s what it is, that students generate. They leave so much trash and you have to clean it all up and throw it all away. We have one week basically to get our six houses ready that have been neglected for an entire year.”

Because the city of Ann Arbor regulates how far in advance landlords can begin showing and leasing properties, Hawkins said her six homes were leased for fall 2013 as soon as she put them on the market in November 2012.

The city ordinance says landlords have to wait until 70 days after the current lease period has passed to show or lease a property to interested tenants for the following year.


Ann Arbor resident Aspen Davis carries a desk chair past a pile of free items stacked outside her apartment in 2012.

Melanie Maxwell |

“For the most part, we have bigger houses, so students are pretty aggressive above finding landlords with bigger houses for their groups,” Hawkins said. “It seems to me that a lot of those get taken pretty quickly.”

Hundreds of people have posted apartments for rent on Craigslist this week, but only a select few apartments are located near U-M’s campus.

The Varsity, which opened in August at 425 E. Washington St., and City Place, located at 425 S. Fifth Ave., are still advertising bedrooms for rent for fall 2013 on their websites. City Place is advertising fall specials ranging from $845-$945 per person for a six-bedroom unit.

In early August, Chris Cepeda, a marketing and leasing agent for The Varsity, said about two-thirds of the building’s 415-bedrooms were leased.

Rick Perlman, developer of Ann Arbor’s Zaragon Place and Zaragon West high-rise apartment buildings, said there isn’t a single vacancy in either building. Together, the buildings have about 450 bedrooms.

“I don’t have a bed left, not one single bed,” he said. “Zaragon Place and Zaragon West were leased up months ago.”

“I have waiting lists for next year,” he added.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Zaragon West is advertising on their web site that they are currently leasing for the 2014/15 school year. Unless their leases start sometime in May, this seems like it would be against the city ordinance. They are also advertising that they units for immediate occupancy. This goes against what their rep says in the article.


Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

Epengar Their web pages says 'NOW LEASING'. It does not say 'now showing' or 'now accepting for wait list' or even 'now accepting applications'. As I said, it appears that this is in violation of the city ordinance.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Landlords can advertise as far in advance as they want. The time limit only applies to when they can sign leases, and when they can start showing apartments to prospective tenants (and disturbing the current tenants).


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Typo ... they HAVE units for immediate occupancy... Sorry.

David Cahill

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

I shed no tears for the owners of the Varsity.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

My daughter looked at the place and said it was completely ordinary, and was priced as if it were something very special.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Blah blah blah..... Oops,I meant - great story!!!

Eduard Copely

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

This is a real estate bubble. It will explode once students start to tele-commute to class and online learning kicks into high gear.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

I think UM's prestige, social networks, and resource base for offering very rich in-person experiences will protect it pretty well from the expansion of online education. The top-tier programs are not as threatened by online opportunites as the mid-tier schools are.

Eduard Copely

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

I love the irony of City Place (first image) having vacancies this late in the game. What an ugly place.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

I agree, City Place is ugly, it has no style and it looks cheaply made. And they wonder why there are vacancies.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

Watching it being "built" I would suspect that the walls are really thin and there is little privacy. Anyone have any experience with the place?


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 9:43 a.m.

"Landlords usually have about a week before former tenants move out and new tenants move in." between when instead of before? "The city ordinance says landlords have to wait until 70 days after the current lease period has passed to show or lease a property to interested tenants for the following year." has started instead of has passed?


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

>The university's 1,180-bed South Quad dormitory is also closed this year This probably has a substantial impact, wait a year or two to see how this all pans out. Especially after the Pizza House multi story and $1.5T student loan bubble burst.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

Can you imagine renting a "bed" (bedroom) for $1000? Not an apartment, but a bed. No thanks.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

Don't forget the $100/week weed allowance.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

This only happens in Ann Arbor and New York City. I know, I lived in both cities.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

So guess what? AATA is going to become the most useful thing on the road. Also, watch out for EMU move in day on Saturday. Wow. What a busy weekend. Glad to be staying home.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 8:11 p.m.

Wait until distance learning expands and you can get a great Engineering degree for $6500, while studying from anywhere.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

I think it's doubtful that you'll ever be able to get a *great* engineering degree online, though maybe you'll be able to get a good one. I think UM's prestige and social networks will continue to draw lots of students, regardless of online development.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Wait until the quads are all renovated!


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

...and watch the high rise price come crashing down.

John of Saline

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

"We haven't overbuilt yet!"

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.