How Students Look for Apartments

Catalyst's most recent survey shows what students use to look for apartments.

Austin, Texas—It’s no surprise that when looking for an apartment, college students are using social media. However, it is a little surprising that this demographic doesn’t find traditional apartment advertising effective, according to a survey by Catalyst, an Austin, Texas-based marketing firm that specializes in student housing. Also surprising: college students don’t use one of the most popular social networking sites when they’re looking for a new apartment.

“Although we’ve seen the digital trend for a couple of years, we were surprised at the percentage of students who found traditional student newspaper ads as being ineffective,” John Kerrigan, CEO, Catalyst, tells MHN.

The survey, which included the results of more than 500 college students, showed that 53 percent of students ranked Google and Internet searches as the most important for finding a place to live. Friends’ and family’s recommendations came next on the list, with 37 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Kerrigan predicts that the number of people turning to the Internet for apartments will only increase in the future.

“We feel the trend will continue as consumers’ time spent on media increases,” he says. “Advertisers will need to plan their media buys accordingly.”

Least important for students looking for a new apartment, according to the survey, were ads in the student newspaper, student activities sponsored by apartment communities, online ads. Facebook was also ranked as least important; however, 78 percent of students surveyed said they would use Facebook to learn more about an apartment community.

Though students are increasingly turning to the Internet when researching an apartment, few said they use apartment-specific rating sites, such as apartments.com or apartmentguide.com. Instead, they use search engines.

Catalyst also reported that 98 percent of college students use Google Search to find information, and 71 percent ranked Google as the most important website they use, followed by university websites and Facebook. Many students said they never use Twitter.

Students may be turning to social media and search engines for apartment information, but that doesn’t mean advertisers should go online completely.

“There is always space for spending in traditional media,” Kerrigan says. “We’ve seen an uptick in results driven by direct mail because it’s now different than email messaging. Like the old adage says, ‘everything old will be new again.’”