A growing number of local housing owners are using incentives to entice students to sign leases, and many cite the economy as the primary reason for the recent trend.
“It’s a marketing tool that is used to get people in the door,” said Tommie McCaster, a leasing professional at University Gateway Apartments. “The economy is not what it used to be.”
Students who sign a lease with Gateway are being offered a number of perks. The company is offering to waive the $500 security deposit and the $30 application fee and, until Saturday, is reducing the price of rent from $1,064 per month to $985 per month. Students also receive $200 if they refer a friend who signs a lease.
First Choice Housing, which owns several properties in the North University Park area, also offers students incentives to try to get them through the door.
Currently, First Choice is offering two tickets to a Lakers game when students lease a unit with three or more bedrooms. Students who lease a six-bedroom house get four tickets. Only a limited number of tickets are available, however, and First Choice hopes this will encourage students to act fast.
“We feel that, in today’s economy, students and parents need that little lift. I have noticed that prior to the incentives, students were more indecisive,” said Mehread Koupai, a senior asset manager at First Choice Housing.
First Choice Housing has also rolled back rates to its 2007 rental prices, Koupai noted, and students who sign 11- or 12-month leases are given two weeks of free rent.
“We’ve seen a tremendous response with the incentives,” he said.
Not all housing companies see a need to reward students for leasing with them, however.
“We never need to give away incentives,” said Paul Tennan, executive manager at CDI Management, which owns properties such as The Spot and The Tower. “I don’t believe we’ve ever done a giveaway in direct correlation to signing a lease, but there’s always the need to advertise.”
Tennan added that he thinks prospective renters care more about the facilities than about extra incentives.
“Students see how clean and well-kept our facilities are, and they either want to sign a lease or they don’t,” Tennan said. “If they get value via price or amenities, they’re more inclined to sign.”
Instead of trying to draw in more students, CDI focuses more on tenant appreciation, Tennan said. He noted that CDI frequently does giveaways for tenants, offering items such as movie passes, dinner at L.A. Live restaurants and iPods.
Stephanie Camcho, officer manager at STUHO Student Housing, said STUHO follows the same philosophy, catering toward current rather than prospective renters. STUHO has a referral program that gives students a discount for referring a new tenant, but it doesn’t offer a specific incentive for signing a lease.
Though some students appreciate the incentives, others said they are unnecessary.
“Gateway was the first place I wanted to live, and the incentives in no way, shape or form affected my desire to live there,” said Meghan Mahowald, a freshman majoring in popular music performance. “When I signed the lease, they gave you either a gift card or a bike, and I saw that as unnecessary. Money is already an issue, and it seems wasteful to be giving away such expensive things.”
Mahowald said she would rather see lower rent prices than leasing incentives.
For housing operators, however, leasing incentives are just one more way to get noticed.
“It’s really to increase visibility,” McCaster said. “We want people informed about our housing and our incentives.”