Rush to sign leases: University of Michigan students lock down off-campus properties nearly a year early
For CMB Property Management, Nov. 14 marked the first day the company could begin showing and leasing its properties for the 2012 academic school year.
And it won’t take long - only a couple months - for the Ann Arbor management company to have its off-campus student properties fully leased for next September, said CMB manager Amy Khan.
Student housing near the University of Michigan campus is in high demand. Groups of students often compete against one another to sign leases for the large, 6 to 7 bedroom off-campus houses.
And while the competitive housing market is not a new development for Ann Arbor, several factors are changing the face of student leasing.
Two new high-rises are slated to open in fall 2012, putting 800 more beds onto the market.
But at the same time, three U-M dormitories will be closed for the 2012 academic year, taking more than 1,000 beds away from returning students wanting to live in dorms.
While it's unclear how these factors will affect the off-campus housing market, students who want the best off-campus locations are pressured to sign leases nearly a year in advance of their move-in dates.
“If you want one of those houses near campus, the students are trying to be the first ones to get them,” said Alice Ehn, executive officer of the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association. “And it’s created a market that is very competitive, where all students look now for next year.”
In recent years, the city of Ann Arbor has regulated how far in advance landlords can begin showing and leasing properties.
A 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, giving students just over 2 months to decide if they’d like to renew their current leases.
The ordinance used to make landlords wait 90 days, but it was shortened to 70.
But that 70 days, Khan said, isn’t nearly enough.
“I don’t know how and why Ann Arbor got to be the way it is,” she said. “Students who get accepted into graduate school here will call me in the spring after getting their acceptance letters, and I have to tell them, ‘Sorry, we don’t have anything.”
“In my opinion, the ordinance should be 160 days. Let the students finish first semester before looking at housing for the next year,” she continued.
She said since Nov. 14, CMB has signed plenty of leases for the 2012 academic year. In a few months, the company's properties will be 100 percent leased.
Ann Arbor web archives
JJ Smith, executive vice president of development and construction for Landmark property owner Campus Acquisitions, told AnnArbor.com in October that fall 2012 availability was limited for the more "popular floor plans" in the high-rise at 1300 S. University Ave.
Ehn of the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association said Ann Arbor is one of the only cities in the country with a housing ordinance like this. And in her opinion, it’s dangerous.
“With the early lease ordinance, it keeps a landlord from going with students to look at houses, so students are going on their own,” she said. “They are knocking on student doors asking to come in. We think it’s dangerous.”
But if it weren’t for the ordinance, students may start signing leases even earlier, Khan pointed out.
“When I started in the business 18 years ago, students didn’t even start looking until January,” she said. “That seemed logical to me.”
"As the leasing has gotten earlier and earlier in the year, we have more and more students changing roommates, wanting to get out of leases, and having their situations change or not coming back to the university," she continued. "I wish landlords couldn't sign leases until at least December."