Student Housing Pre-Leasing Surpasses Halfway Mark as Rent Growth Soars

Student housing pre-leasing exceeded the halfway point in February, again surpassing the rates seen this time in previous years. Fall 2022 pre-lease rates again stand above pre-pandemic norms.

As of February, 50.8% of beds at the core 175 universities tracked by RealPage were leased for the Fall 2022 school year. In February 2020 – the last month before the pandemic began – pre-lease rates registered at 50.1%. In February 2021, during the height of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, pre-leasing reached a modest 40.0%. This month’s pre-lease rate marks the strongest February on record.

Pre-leasing isn’t the only metric claiming records. Annual effective rent growth reached 4.3% in February, easily more than double the rates seen in the recent past. In a slight update from recent trends, rent growth is led by the strongest showing in properties within a half mile to one mile of campus. Pre-COVID-19, properties within a half mile of campus reliably claimed the strongest rent growth among all property distances.

As of February, annual effective rent growth reached 4.3% at properties within a half mile of campus, 4.7% at properties within a half mile to one mile of campus and 3.9% at properties over one mile from campus.

Plus, rent growth has been steadily climbing throughout the pre-lease season. This also marks a contrast to pre-pandemic norms. In Fall 2019 and before, rent growth typically fluctuated within a tight range throughout the pre-lease season. In the recent past, annual rent growth in student housing has hovered near or below 2%. At 2.3%, Fall 2021 claimed the highest rent growth in years.

Fast forward about one semester and rents are doubling even Fall 2021’s record rate – and across all product distances.

Several schools, concentrated in the South and Southeast, reported pre-lease rates above 75% in February. These tend to be prominent state schools with competitive leasing environments such as Clemson, Purdue, the University of North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

On-site occupancy, or the ratio of students living in their leased units, remains strong at above 93% in February.