Early housing rush increases pressures on students

Meara Isenberg

Following Thanksgiving break, business freshman Jessica Zhang met with her first-ever housing contractor, eager to pin down her off-campus living situation for the coming year.

However, when the time came to see her options, there was just one problem.

“I gave him my price range and my non-negotiables, and (he) basically said ‘That’s not going to happen,’” Zhang said.

For an apartment with the three qualifications Zhang was looking for — a maximum rent of $700, close to campus, with washer and dryer included — most of the options were already gone. 

Zhang’s situation is a common one for students who miss the “housing rush” that occurs extremely early in the year. Pre-leasing begins as early as October, before many students find potential roommates, or even figure out how to navigate the more than 15 reality companies surrounding the University.

“When my plans (for the year) aren’t set in stone, it’s more difficult to decide what an ideal apartment is,” Zhang said.

Russell Calvin, a broker at Uptown Realty and UT alumnus, said the urgency is no new phenomenon.

“Typically mid-October to mid-November is the standard timeline of when (the rush) starts,” Calvin said. “I graduated from the University in 2008, and when I was in school, it was the exact same way. It’s kind of been instilled in students and it’s something that just gets carried down.”

Looking into off–campus living early is simply a tradition for students, and housing companies adjust to meet that demand, Calvin said.

The most popular spaces, such as houses in West Campus, are hard to come by for those who are late to the game, Calvin said. However, students who are flexible may not be out of luck.

“There are always options. It depends on how picky you are and exactly what you are looking for,” Calvin said. “Every single year, no matter what, we still have properties left.”

Jaden Harper, a realtor at West Campus Living, said the early housing tradition can potentially set back students — especially freshman — who may not have an understanding of how the leasing process works.

“Around November is when (the rush) really started happening,” Harper said. “It’s still going on now, but the kids coming in are kind of considered late. Since people are starting so early, they take the best deals off the market first.”

Zhang said she was surprised by the competitiveness of the housing season. One of her freshman friends just signed a lease for her junior year. Another decided to stay in the dorms because her options were too limited.

Before she signed a lease for an apartment she didn’t want, Zhang saw on Facebook that someone was seeking another roommate for a place that fit her original request. Next year, she plans to move into her much sought-after apartment for the first, and hopefully last, time.

“My hope is (that) I’ll really like my place and my roommates and we could stay there for the rest of the time,” Zhang said. “I wouldn’t want to do this again.”