Many Ohio University students who will live in off-campus housing during the 2023-24 school year signed leases early in the Fall Semester to attain desirable Athens housing, and next year, rental agencies expect the housing process to begin even earlier.
During the off-campus rental-search season for the 2021-22 school year, students were finalizing housing plans until May 2021. According to a previous Post report, Athens rental companies noticed students were hesitant to commit to long-term leases while COVID-19 was still a concern, resulting in a much later rental season compared to previous years.
However, Scott Hunter, an owner of Athens Ohio Rentals, noticed this year’s students are signing leases early to ensure they sign for housing they want.
“I think it's a result of people missing it last year, so they jumped ahead of last year's time and they start sooner,” Hunter said. “I’d actually rented my very first one for 2023-24 back in December (2021).”
Tanner Smith, a sophomore studying pre-social work, said he and his group of roommates began searching for houses for their junior year at the end of their freshman year. After looking for the right home all summer, Smith quickly signed a lease this semester around the first week of classes.
Smith said the house-hunting process can be extremely stressful, especially for those unfamiliar with leases.
“It was stressful because some of the realtors can be a little shady with how they talk about their properties, and it seems almost like they are using college students to their benefit,” Smith said in an email. “It was stressful also because you had to hear so much information in so little time and then they stress signing a lease that day.”
Besides feeling added pressure to search for homes and sign a lease quickly, Smith said the cost of living was difficult to accommodate. Ultimately, he said the cost of off-campus housing was the most stressful factor in the housing process.
Patrick Daugherty, an employee of Bobcat Rentals, said it’s not unusual for students to contact rental companies year-round to find housing for future years.
“People sign early to get the best places in the best locations,” Daugherty said in an email. “It's been this way for decades.”
Following the admittance of OU’s largest-ever freshman class, rental companies are predicting there will be an influx of students looking to sign housing leases earlier than students this year.
“Next year, (the housing search) will definitely start sooner,” Hunter said. “There's 1,500 more kids in the market next year with this huge freshman class.”
Hunter said Athens Ohio Rentals has already received calls from students interested in housing for the 2024-25 school year.
Due to the current COVID-19 climate, Daugherty said Bobcat Rentals is seeing its pre-pandemic levels of housing demands. Daugherty said the agency has successfully managed to rent out most of its 2023-24 properties.
“For us, this is a return to business as usual in a post-pandemic environment,” Daughtery wrote in an email. “Most of our places are already rented for next year. We have a few left that probably won't be around for much longer.”
Hunter said properties could possibly be signed for quickly due to students wanting and preferring houses over apartments. However, Hunter said there is a supply and demand issue because there are not many new houses being built in Athens.
“They want houses,” Hunter said. “People want the porches and yards …there's less houses because no one's building houses. They're tearing down houses to build these triplexes, little apartment buildings and things. There's less houses than there was 20 years ago.”
Hunter predicts that Athens Ohio Rentals will start to receive calls this spring concerning available houses for the 2024-25 school year, over a year before the leases would potentially begin.
“I suspect this year the rush will start in March,” Hunter said. “There'll be a huge rush in the spring semester for houses only.”