How Off-Campus Housing Is Changing During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Students are scrambling to find off-campus housing for next semester, more than what you’d usually expect to see over summer break. That’s not because they’ve put off finding housing until the very last minute, but because colleges across the United States have slowly started to announce their plans to reopen campus for the fall semester following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While there are still a ton of universities holding off on officially announcing whether classes will be held on-campus or online next semester until mid-July, it’s safe to assume that most college campuses’ plans to reopen will include adjustments to how many students can attend in-person classes at once and other plans to limit large groups. While the possibility of getting out of their on-campus living requirement may be a welcome change for some students, it will also mean that landlords should be ready for a possible flood of inquiries from potential student renters. 

To get a better feel for what that’s like, we spoke with the Chief Operating Officer of DABCO Property Management near Washington State University to figure out exactly what this pandemic has and will mean for them. 

For those who don’t know, DABCO Property Management is one of the largest property management companies in the Pullman area. They’ve built a great reputation with student renters because of their dedication to making tenants feel comfortable and happy. The biggest takeaway from our conversation with DABCO was that everything can change, as we’ve seen over the last few months, and you have to adapt to it to the best of your ability. Read on to see how DABCO is adapting to these unprecedented times.

Has there been any official announcement from campus about the fate of next semester?
Right now there hasn’t been an official announcement from WSU, but we do have an idea of what to expect. Similar to other campuses, we expect to see a type of hybrid schedule come forward. The hybrid schedule would have some in-person education and then some online education for each class. They would rotate students throughout the week to promote safer social distancing.  

*For official announcements about the plan for the next semester at WSU, please check the COVID-19 WSU Update Page by clicking here.

What would you say is one of the main concerns for your WSU student tenants?
The main concern for most of our student tenants is whether or not classes will be in-person or online for next semester. Whether or not classes are on-campus will change so many things about a student’s housing plan and experience with a university.

What’s been one of the bigger issues that COVID-19 has caused for your business?
Rent collection has been an area of concern, due to the issues caused by COVID-19. However, our residents have been very good about working with our team to work through repayment arrangements. Our goal is to continue to work with our residents until we are all clear of the challenges COVID-19 has caused.

How has the coronavirus changed your business?
It’s changed how vigilant we have to be when approaching all our day-to-day business. We’ve obviously increased the amount of cleaning and sanitation we do at our rentals and office. We now have a 60-person sanitation & cleaning crew. The rules for cleaning and sanitizing our units are very strict— we’d go as far as to say that you could eat off the floors in our properties. In addition to that, we paired up with a local company to have hand-washing and sanitization stands added to our offices. 

Outside of our cleaning crews, a majority of our employees have moved to working remotely, which has been another change for us. Working remotely has proven to be a little tricky, but we’re doing the best we can. As of June 8th, we will have two of our offices open.

Another thing that’s changed for us is that we have had a huge influx in business. Originally, a lot of people were nervous that the pandemic would slow our business, but with so many student renters avoiding the dorms like, well, the plague, we’ve had a ton of people reach out for about our rentals. We’ve also had a lower turnover rate for current student tenants. 

How are you showing units to potential tenants? And if they want to sign for the rental, how are you doing that?
The showing process has become a whole ordeal. Prior to a tenant seeing a unit, we have a cleaning crew member, clad in a face mask and gloves, go through the unit and clean and sanitize everything. 

They leave the unit unlocked for the tenant to come and view the apartment. Once the tenant arrives for the showing, they will be on the phone with the leasing agent (either via Facetime or regular call). During that time, the tenant can freely view the unit and have any questions answered by the agent. Once the potential renter is done with the showing, we have the cleaning crew come in and repeat the cleaning and sanitization process again.

If a potential tenant wants to move forward on signing a lease, we are doing that through a window at one of our offices. Which isn’t ideal, but the process has worked out so far. Once our offices are open, we can do the traditional lease signing process with the renter (with face masks & gloves on of course).

What has been your focus been for the last few months?
Our focus has always been on the future and planning for every possible scenario to be prepared for whatever it could hold. And obviously, we’ve been focused on keeping or tenants and staff safe and healthy. 

What’s something you’d want potential renters to know?
At DABCO we truly care about our residents and hope to exceed every person’s expectations. Come see how good you’ll have it when you love where you live.

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