Surge of sophomores signing senior houses

SARAH STOESZ | Staff Reporter
Sophomores are signing leases for their off-campus senior houses earlier than in previous years.

Weybright Real Estate owns about 50 of the off-campus senior houses.  After a wave of signings in January, only 10 of its houses are available to be leased for the 2015-2016 school year, said Brooke Lewis, a Weybright employee.

“After one house leases, they seem to go like wildfire after that,” she said.

Sophomore Haley Rickard signed her lease around Thanksgiving break. She said students feel pressured by their peers to sign the lease for their senior houses.

“I knew it was going to be competitive no matter what,” Rickard said. “We just wanted to beat the pack, get in there and get what we needed because we didn’t want to be scraping the bottom of the barrel senior year for houses.”

The two-year time lapse between sophomore and senior year can cause issues due to unforeseen financial, social and academic situations, Rickard said.

“I’ve already had one housemate say that she can’t do it and she is going to have to find a sub-leaser,’ Rickard said. “Another one is applying to be an RA and wants to keep the position her senior year, so she might not feel the need to live in our house.

“That’s already causing some uncertainty that we wouldn’t have if we would’ve just signed later on.”

Junior Christine Panah said that signing for a house at the end of second semester sophomore year used to be considered early. She said that junior year is a better time to sign.

“I think junior year is fair because by then you have a lot more time to think about it,” Panah said. “You are also a lot more settled into your friend group.”

Since the university does not own the senior houses, Butler could not intervene if early signings were to get out of hand, said Doug Howell, associate director of residence life.

“I don’t see that we could create a rule,” Howell said. “I don’t think the university would get in the way of a student signing a contract with a business person whether it would be about living off-campus or anything else.”

Instead of living in an off-campus house, seniors can live in the Apartment Village. The contract for living in AV is also binding. Unlike the contracts for off-campus houses, Butler has built in reasons to cancel the contract such as studying abroad, having an out-of-state internship and graduating early, Howell said.

However, 90 percent of seniors still choose to live in off-campus housing, Howell said.

The landlords for the senior houses are most likely not going to prevent sophomores from signing their leases until their junior year, Howell said.

“That’s business 101,” Howell said. “You have a captive audience, and you have a product to push, and as soon as you can get them to sign on the dotted line the better.”

The power to reverse this trend is in the students’ hands, Howell said.

“It is a peer pressure type situation,” Howell said. “I think that if students realize the housing isn’t going anywhere, it would be better for them to wait because you get a lot more clarity in the year before senior year as opposed to two years before.”