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Boro apartment rentals surge
Property managers welcome surprise boost in student interest
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Jessica McEwen of Woodlands of Statesboro apartments, left, goes over the grounds rules with Ross Hart as his sister Luray signs a lease as they prepare to move in Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

            From rumors of increased university enrollment this Fall to a temporary reduction in the overall number of beds available to students on campus, local property managers are not sure what is behind the surge in student apartment and housing rentals for this upcoming school year, but for most, it is a welcome sight.

            "We are 100 percent booked," said Angie Harkins, property manager of Hendley Properties in Statesboro. "We have been for a while. It has been a great year for us."

            Harkins said the dorms that were recently demolished on Georgia Southern's campus to make room for the new dorm complex could have sparked some additional demand in rental properties around town.

            "Who knows what effect that has had," she said. "It does put more students out there looking for some place to live."

            According to the university, the demolition of Winburn, Olliff, and Johnson Halls - which will be replaced by the new Centennial Place residential complex in the Fall of 2009 - took approximately 1000 beds out of the university's student housing inventory. The acquisition this past February of what is now called University Villas added back approximately 500 beds. The net result is 500 less beds for student housing this school year.

            With the anticipation of another new apartment complex opening - Campus Crossing on Lanier Drive - many local property managers had braced for a difficult Spring only to find their lease rate percentages up and properties leasing quicker than they had in a number of years.

            "When Campus Crossing opened, we knew it would put a lot more beds on the market," said Laura Kearney, property manager of the Woodlands Apartments on Highway 301 South and president of the Statesboro Area Apartment Association. "It didn't seem to have the effect that we all anticipated. We were 20 percent ahead in leasing in May from where we were in May the year before, and are 99.5 percent booked. I think a number of factors have come into play."

            Kearney said many property owners now realize they must continually update and refurbish their complexes, and those that are doing that are proving to be much more successful.

            "We have done a lot of renovation at the Woodlands in the last few months," she said. "We are going on our eighth year, so we redid the clubhouse installing over $30,000 in new fitness equipment. We have also done other renovations around the complex."

            Kearney also said the association has become a vital part of the leasing community.

            "We have 40 members in our association right now representing 9236 student beds available through apartments, townhomes, condominiums, and houses," she said. "We have begun to work together as a community, helping one another."

            Kearney said the association held its first "off campus" housing fair this past Spring showcasing for students a myriad of off campus housing opportunities available to them.

            "It was a tremendous success," she said. "It is something that we intend to do each year now. We have really begun to help each other. If I am booked, or don't have what someone is looking for, I will refer them to another complex. We have had students referred to us by other property managers. It is the way it ought to work."

            For one segment of the student housing industry, leasing hasn't been quite as brisk.

            "As far as apartments are concerned, the demand is very strong," said Alison Jordan, owner of Perimeter Properties in Statesboro. "We have seen a drop in the demand for houses, however."

            Jordan said so many houses have been built targeting students, that the supply may have outstripped demand for now.

            "Part of the problem is that many of these houses have four bedrooms," she said. "You basically have to 'roommate match' four people instead of two or three. That makes it more difficult. We can rent two and three bedroom houses all day. It's just when you get that many bedrooms, it makes it harder."

            Brandon Parker, owner of Southern Property Management Services said his firm is facing the same difficulties that Jordan's has faced.

            "The leasing of four bedroom homes in certain areas is weak right now," Parker said. "There is still demand for those, but you know, it looks as if the supply might have surpassed demand. I can rent one and two bedroom units all day long. The rest of the market is very, very strong."

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