Quick turnaround makes spring move-out tough on student rental landlords
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Long days and nights of studying ended for University of Michigan students when exams did nearly two weeks ago. But for the Ann Arbor landlords from which they rent their apartments, that’s when the real cramming began.
In the fall, landlords typically have at least two weeks between one set of renters moving out and the next wave moving in.
In the spring, the turnover is sometimes done in about three days.
“I give myself two full weeks at least in August,” said Julie Welch, owner of HGE Properties in Ann Arbor. “I have five business days in May.”
A week may seem like plenty of time to clean a house and do any necessary repairs, but these aren’t your standard lived-in houses.
Welch rents primarily to students, and students live a little differently than the general population.
One of Welch’s properties on Greenwood Avenue looked like a war zone inside on graduation weekend. Trash bags were everywhere as the six occupants scrambled to clean as best they could and maybe manage to get their security deposit back.
One of the houses occupants, Anastazia Novatchinski, who will be a senior at the University of Michigan, nonchalantly walked through the rubble en route to her third-story room, past tattered furniture, cracked windowsills and up dirt and dust covered stairs.
Simply put, there’s a mess of crap everywhere.
Photos courtesy of Julie Welch
“Sometimes I think they don’t clean the bathroom for a whole year,” Welch said. “It’s really hard. The houses are lived in hard and put away wet. They’re abused.”
The following weekend, the place is unrecognizable, with new floors in the kitchen, clean carpets (some replaced) and freshly painted walls awaitng a fresh set of renters will move in on Monday. It’s the type of project that should have taken weeks, not days.
“It’s hard, but I have a good crew of people, and my son and daughter, they work really hard with me,” Welch said.
The reason for the quick turnaround in May is the small window between the winter and spring terms at the University of Michigan. The last day of exams for the winter term an the first day of class for spring term are just four days apart as oppose to the 18-day period between spring and fall term.
“Students, they want to be moved in right away to get started with classes,” said Zaki Alawi, owner of Michigan Rental. “We try and work with them, it’s not so bad. It’s busy but you prepare for it.”
Alawi said one of the best ways to prepare for a seamless turnaround is to diligently screen renters beforehand. His system seems to be working. He said that on average he only needs 10-20 percent of the security deposit to make necessary repairs.
“Rarely will I see anything that goes beyond 40 percent,” Alawi said.
Another way landlord prepare for the quick turnaround in the spring is by splitting up their leases. Alawi only has to turn over six of Michigan Rental’s 59 properties in the spring. Old Towne Realty turns over 10 of its 80 properties in the spring.
Even smaller landlords like HGE -- which has five properties -- only turns over 20 percent in the spring due to the small window.
“You just have to divide and conquer because it’s just too much to do all at once in that small time frame,” Welch said.