Degrees of housing comfort

College students can consider options beyond hostels

When it comes to housing options for the young college-bound, in-campus hostels used to be the only choice in the past. A report from JLL, a real estate advisory firm, shows that in education hubs such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan, student housing needs are unmet to the tune of 60 per cent. Even in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, where housing is adequate, students and parents consider off-campus housing for better comfort. For a price, private players provide many facilities and comfort that go beyond the plain rooms, routine food and simple amenities of a university hostel.

What’s offered

These accommodations offer the option of private or shared rooms to students. The rooms are usually fully furnished — with bed, chair, table, cupboards and wardrobe. Many of them also offer air conditioning. The homes have a common kitchen where you can cook, but some do not have a full-fledged kitchen, there isonly a pantry. Common facilities include TV room, library room, gym and indoor game room. There is also high-speed internet and wifi.

You get services such as laundry and house-keeping. All meals are usually provided and some even deliver food to the college. There is a dedicated facilities manager and helplines are available to take care of medical and other emergencies.

Safety features include biometric access and CCTV cameras as well as security guards at the facility. Students may also get pick up and drop facility to college and airport. There may also be extra beds for parents to stay, when they come to visit.

Some providers go beyond these services to include hobby or skill development classes, career counselling, internship opportunities and networking sessions, as a value-add to students. A few also include a business centre — for printing, stationery and other services students may need.

What it costs

These hostels can be viewed as equivalent to the paying guest rooms for working professionals. The costs tend to be comparable, albeit a little higher, for facilities with similar features. The price for a room ranges between ₹7,000-26,000, depending on the level of sharing and services provided. For example, a basic room with triple-sharing may be in the lower range; a private room with centralised air-conditioning, salon and fitness classes would be at the higher end.

Usually, the rates are all inclusive and many services do not have an opt-out option. Prices can vary widely based on the location as well. Larger cities and central locations tend to be pricey, while smaller college towns such as Manipal or Jaipur or the suburbs of cities tend to be less expensive.

Often, rooms have separate electric meters and utility is charged on actual usage, over and above the rent. You also pay a security deposit, about two months rent. This will be offset towards any damages and wear/tear and any unpaid dues.

If your rent payment is delayed, you may be charged a fine. Many providers require that the students sign up for one full year. Penalties may be levied if you leave before the lock-in term.

What to check

When you look for student housing, you can follow three routes. One, look at general listing sites or advertisements that also feature student rentals. Two, track aggregators who specialise in the student segment. Rather than just list vacancy, they actively look for and verify the features in the properties. Three, look directly for service providers who run the hostels.

No matter how you find the rental, the key parameter to look for is quality. Unlike renting a home, service is a key aspect for which you are paying; you must ensure there is a process to ensure that service levels, such as quality of food, cleaning, are kept up. You can ask for references and check online sites such as consumer complaints for issues reported. Be sure to ask how they screen and select their employees or contractors to ensure there are no safety risks.

Some of these providers have tie-ups with the college management to run the hostel. They may be more reliable than standalone services.

You must remember that unlike developed countries where there is accreditation and regulations for the private student housing segment, there are no legal guidelines now. So, the onus is on you to ensure that you are in a safe place.

The author is co-founder of Rana Investment Advisors

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