Area complexes scramble to lease apartments

Published: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 1:34 a.m.
Last semester's books, second-hand futon couches and George Foreman grills by the armload will be hauled out of area apartment complexes beginning this week, as leases, signed last year, end for many University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College students.
And as former tenants become history, apartment complexes in the Gainesville area are scrambling to sign up replacements in a market where apartment complexes are going up faster than Gainesville's college student population.
"This year is going to be tougher than last," said Joe Wiek, president of the Gainesville Apartment Association.
"With a student population that is falling or holding, and an apartment business that is growing, you're going to have a difficult market," Wiek said.
David Colburn, UF provost and senior vice president, said the 47,000 students currently registered at UF include students in distance education and continuing education programs, yet only 43,600 students are actually on-campus enrolled.
"We will, in fact, increase that to 45,000 over the next few years and are likely to hold it there for the near term," Colburn said. "Our freshman enrollment is now set at 6,750 and will remain at that level for the next two years."
Dot Stansberry, assistant manager at Royal Village Apartments, said the construction of new apartment complexes also has caused some existing places to lower rates in order to keep up.
Although many apartment complex officials reported students signing leases as early as January, with their busiest season between February and April, some said they've recently lowered rates or offered signing specials to compete with other complexes for late signers.
"As we finish this last full month of turnover, many more deals are being offered," Wiek said. "Many have had to offer specials including two months free rent and raffles for trips, laptops and DVDs."
DJ Hobek, marketing training director at Colonial Village apartment complex, said the business is so competitive that the complex has had to lower rates and increase lease specials.
"Gainesville is so saturated with apartment complexes," Hobek said. "And there are always more going up."
Joanna Silbaugh, property manager at Campus Lodge apartments, said the 340-unit complex began offering a half month's free rent in May for students who sign with them.
And the specials don't stop at half-off. Kristy Cardozo, property manager at Museum Walk, said the 105-unit complex has been offering one month rent-free as an incentive.
"There is a group of students who understand how the market works and know to wait for places to offer specials before they sign," Cardozo said.
Although most apartment officials estimated their complexes are between 85 percent and 95 percent full once the transition period is over at the end of August, a few reported being at 100 percent capacity since April and May.
Recently, Jackie Crepeau, leasing agent at Brandywine Apartments, said the complex only had one apartment left to fill. "We've never had a problem," Crepeau said, "We always fill up."
The Courtyards has been full since early May, said Aubrey Zaffke, senior marketing director at Trimark Properties, which owns the complex and several others near UF. This year the company completed Royale Palms, located two blocks from the campus, and all units were pre-leased by early April, she said.
Zaffke added that she doesn't think the construction of more apartment complexes causes competitors to lower rates or offer specials.
"There are apartment complexes in town farther away, with higher premiums, that are having a harder time," Zaffke said. "All of our communities are full or close to capacity. But that could be just my experience."

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