A survey released earlier this month from the National Apartment Association and Houston-based J Turner Research gives multifamily owners insight into an important demographic: college students. Over 11,000 students and 3,500 of their parents at 159 colleges across the country responded to the survey, giving their opinions about everything from security and social media use to appropriate management response times.

Joseph Batdorf, founder of J Turner Research, says the survey was an innovative way to provide data for owners and developers because it took both parent and student opinions into consideration. And not surprisingly; they have different priorities when it comes to what is most important about an apartment.   For example, the key takeaway from the parent’s survey, Batdorf says, is an increased concern over safety and security.  “Even over rental rates and price, even in this economy, security is obviously high on parent’s minds,” he says. “Location ties to security, and that was their next answer.”

On the other hand, students valued price, amenities, location and a positive word-of-mouth referral from friends.  That difference sends an important message about marketing to this demographic, says Matt Fulton, vice president of operations for Memphis, Tenn.-basedEducational Realty Trust (EDR). “We have marketing plans involving a variety of media, but the most valuable is the one-on-one recommendation of our residents who encourage their friends to visit our communities because of their positive personal experience,” he says.  “There is no substitute.”

Mike Hartnett, chief investment officer at Charlotte, N.C.-based Campus Crest Communities, says social media is often the way that positive “buzz” is generated among college students. He was pleased that much of what his company does , including the way they manage social media, matched what he saw on the survey. “Getting the word out is the number one way to influence customers,” he says.

Ted Rollins, chief executive officer at Campus Crest, was also happy the survey confirmed that students want much of what his communities already provide, including large, private bedrooms, security and fast maintenance response times. He says campus living is more than just “sticks and bricks,” but a lifestyle program. “This drives community and transforms student living so they can have a compelling academic experience,” he says. “Keeping kids active and engaged in the community means they are more likely to stay with it longer, and that’s the important part.”

Full results of the survey can be found here:http://www.naahq.org/resources/data/StudentHousing/Documents/Survey%20Says%20Executive%20Summary.pdf