Housing options: Who is to blame for early leasing?

Allison Mueller

Emily Dean/ Winonan

With October coming to an end, students are already scrambling to sign leases for the upcoming summer.

While many are used to this long-standing tradition, students who are newer to the house hunting culture in Winona may be confused as to why they are signing a lease nine months in advance.

Nicole Cullinan, a junior mass communication major, said she thinks there is pressure from landlords but also competitiveness amongst peers.

“It’s the name of the game in Winona. There is competition, and maybe that is why there is so much pressure,” Cullinan said.

Cullinan said she was stressed last year when she tried to find a place to live for her junior year. She said the pressure is not just put on the students but also by landlords in the community and Resident Housing Association on campus.

“In October I signed up for East Lake, because I didn’t feel like I had any other option,” Cullinan said. “For on-campus housing you have to put down a deposit and might lose it in x-amount of time, so you have to make a decision quick.”

Cullinan said this pressure and quick decision making is a downside of finding a place to live.

“By April I was already apprehensive about living in East Lake. It’s a really nice facility, but I wasn’t excited about still having the rules of a dorm. I was used to being closer to campus, and I wanted to keep it that way.”

Cullinan said she was able to find a house with her friends located only a couple blocks away from campus but said she had wished she was given more time to make this decision.

“It’s a scary thing when it’s your first time being away from home. It’s such an adult commitment,” Cullinan said.

One of Cullinan’s roommates Hannah Ingebrand said the landlords of Winona and the students are equally to blame.

“Landlords make students feel that if they don’t sign now that someone else will sign before them. That in turn makes students feel that they want to sign early and encourage landlords to have a lease available,” Ingebrand said.

As for Ingebrand and Cullinan’s current housing situation, Ingebrand said their landlord emailed them about resigning after only living in the house a couple of weeks.

Although students seem to think landlords put on the pressure, Scott Hanson, president of Bluff City Properties, said he thinks students are to blame for early lease signing.

Hanson said they try to hold out on advertising until October but students inquire about houses much earlier.

“Sometimes we start getting calls in July [for next June]. We try to hold out for our current residents,” Hanson said. “We can only hold off so long before we start to lose customers.”

Although Hanson has been working for Bluff City Properties for six years, he said housing providers who have been around longer than him will say students used to sign leases in March, and every year it has been pushed earlier due to student demand.

“It has not always been like this,” Hanson said. “I think its gotten to the point where students know that they want to live off campus, and they know if they want to get that perfect place they have to start early.”

An advantage of early house hunting, Hanson said, is that the people who are looking early in the fall are usually the most organized and know what they want.

To Cullinan and Ingebrand, signing early is still a disadvantage to students.

Hanson said, “The negative would be the sooner people sign the more groups break up, people go to different schools, or change their minds.”

Hanson also said students should not be surprised by this trend of signing leases in fall.

“This early stuff is not something that is unique to Winona. If you were to look at any other college town, it’s a common thing.” Hanson said.

Hanson said one thing that sets Winona apart from other schools, however is Winona State does not require students to live on campus for a set amount of time, so there will be more students looking for off campus housing at one time.

Hanson said he is not sure lease signing will ever be pushed back as far as  March, but he does think this process needs to become a collective effort between students and housing providers.