As the pandemic obscures how classes will operate in the next school year, students may be conflicted on when the best time to sign apartment leases is, not knowing whether their classes will be primarily in-person or online.
Almost half of the undergraduates at UT are attending classes fully online this semester, according to a UT news release from Aug. 11. UT President Jay Hartzell said the spring semester will operate under similar conditions as this fall in a campuswide email sent out Sept. 28.
Because of the uncertainty, many students opted to live at home this semester rather than at their apartment. Students are now more hesitant to sign a lease for the next school year before knowing how their classes will operate, said Varsha Iyer, a licensed Texas real estate agent and apartment locator for Housing Scout, an apartment scout company for areas around UT.
“Usual pre-leasing season is October, November, and a lot of people are kind of waiting (until) December or even January,” architecture junior Iyer said.
Alex Bartram, broker and owner of MoveGroove Real Estate, said with the addition of several new high-rises to West Campus, the supply of student housing exceeds the demand.
A mix of oversupply and the potential for classes to be online could contribute to many vacancies within West Campus apartments, Bartram said.
“You’re still going to have a lot of people that prefer to be in West Campus because you’re kind of conglomerated with all your friends and social life and things like that,” Bartram said. “But if people are financially constrained and they’re making rational decisions economically and care about the budget, then I think we are going to see more students live farther out.”
Bartram said the demand for apartments help dictate apartment prices, and students should wait until summer to sign for the fall to get the best deal since he suspects there will be many empty units available.
Courtney March, vice president of leasing and marketing for American Campus Communities, said in an email American Campus properties do not anticipate less people wanting to rent for next year.
“We are starting to see an uptick for students already looking for housing options for the spring semester,” March said. “We are offering discounted rate promotions at a number of our properties as well as offering more flexible lease terms, like those ending in December and those ending in May.”
Bartram said if students are particular about what apartment they would like, leasing early would be best.
“Let's say it's senior year next year, and you want to get the best house and the best location. Then absolutely you're going to want to look in September and October,” Bartram said.
Iyer said while students can wait until the summer and still find available units, she still suggests leasing now to secure apartments that are likely to fill up first, such as high-rises.
“Then if you do decide later on that you would like to stay home, you can always sublease,” Iyer said. “I’ve had many clients that have done that, and they always do end up finding someone to take their spot or to lease out their apartment.”