October brings lease signing rush

Students flock to the off-campus area every school year to sign housing leases

Students flock to the off-campus area every school year to sign housing leases.

Residence Life aims to dispel housing myths

It’s that time of year again.

According to students and landlords alike, October heralds the beginning of lease-signing season, with a deluge of students applying for off-campus housing. But why the rush?

Each year, 3,349 students fill capacity in the dorms, according to the Office of Residence Life’s Web site. This leaves more than 3,000 students looking to find off-campus housing after their sophomore year, according to Stacie Dooley, associate dean of Residence Life for University Apartments and Off-Campus Student Services.

Juanita Werra, landlord at Strack Apartments, attributes the lease-signing rush mainly to scarcity. She also cited the construction of university apartments, specifically the addition of Campus Town in 1994, as another reason.

“When Campus Town was built, they had a sleepover there to encourage people to sign leases in October,” Werra said. “That year, off-campus housing lost a lot of students and had a lot of vacancies. After that, the landlords started renting earlier.”

But at the time, Campus Town was not university-owned. The university acquired the apartments in 1999, nearly five years after the October lease-signing trend began, Dooley said.

Though the Campus Town apartments may have begun the October signing ritual, Dooley said some students have perpetuated it.

“Students worried about the early timeline felt like it was from their peers,” Dooley said. “They hear about someone signing a lease, and then they become anxious. They are aware that sophomores are looking for housing and without any information, they start looking for housing, too.”

To stem the spread of the early lease-signing plague, University Apartments and Off-Campus Student Services used to hold informational off-campus housing sessions for freshmen during move-in weekend. However, this may have had an adverse effect.

“Students said university apartments created more anxiety while they gave information about apartments,” Dooley said. “So instead, we now send out a ‘slow down’ e-mail.”

The email tries to debunk myths about off-campus housing. It stresses, for example, that there really isn’t a scarcity problem, Dooley said.

She said students don’t have to worry about not finding housing since each year there are more living options.

Since the off-campus housing rush began over 12 years ago, the number of apartment buildings in the campus area has nearly doubled from 55 to over 100, according to Dooley. The number of houses have tripled from 30 to nearly 90.

There were 55 apartment buildings and 30 houses in the neighborhood when the off-campus housing rush began over 12 years ago, according to Dooley. This year, there are over 100 apartment buildings and nearly 90 houses.

“There is plenty of housing for everyone,” Dooley said.

Eight new locations were added to the Marquette Tenant Guide this year – generally around the amount added annually, she said.

Dooley said she’s working to discontinue early signing.

“Signing a lease too early can complicate your ability to take advantage of academic opportunities that may take you away from the Marquette campus during your junior year, such as study abroad opportunities, co-op positions and internships,” Dooley said. “Plus, you may not even be friends with the same people by the end of your sophomore year. It’s sad, but it happens.”

Some students agree that the rush to sign early in the fall is unreasonable, such as Cathy Randle, a sophomore in the College of Education.

“When there’s pressure to sign a lease that early, it is really hard to look at all the places you might want to stay and make a quick decision,” Randle said. “We’re busy students, and some property managers don’t offer tours until October. A few weeks is not enough time to make a choice.”

Due to the construction of the new Discovery Learning Complex, which starts in spring 2010, students like Josh Buege, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, have speculated there will be an increased demand for off-campus housing starting this year.

Carmel Hall, Trebor Apartments and Kalt Apartments will be demolished to make way for the five-story, 100,000- square-foot complex on the south side of Wisconsin Avenue between 16th and 17th streets

Off-campus university housing options will be narrowed by 150 spaces.

But Dooley doesn’t believe this will make it more difficult for students to find off-campus housing.

“There has been enough development in the neighborhood that it won’t make much of a difference,” Dooley said. “They’re all pretty small buildings. It’s more their style of housing that students are looking for (that will be affected), since they’re all studios or two-bedrooms.”