Anna Bateman arrived at 4 a.m. Tuesday to camp out in front of Bryant Real Estate’s 1001 N. Lumina Ave. office. She rotated shifts with friends Rachel Oxendine and Blaine Blackburn, securing their position as first in line.
A layer of comforters softened a small patch of mulch just large enough to fit her tent.
“It’s actually really comfortable,” the sophomore University of North Carolina Wilmington student said. “I think we were being a little dramatic with getting here two days early, but we just wanted to be safe.”
Each year, the demand rises for student housing on Wrightsville Beach while the supply of homes remains relatively stagnant.
“I thought you were protesting Wall Street or something,” longtime Wrightsville Beach resident Donna Clemmons joked as she passed by the students’ temporary quarters.
Bryant Real Estate began accepting completed student applications, co-signers and notarized paperwork beginning Thursday, Dec. 1, starting with the first campers queued.
Sophomore UNCW student Matt Gaze snagged the third spot in line Tuesday morning.
“Actually, y’all scared an entire fraternity,” Gaze confessed to Bateman, who scored the coveted first dibs.
With around 15 homes on the island that participate in the student rental program with Bryant Real Estate, general manager Jason Bryant boils this phenomenon down to simple supply and demand.
“If we had more homes than students, we would not feel the need for this process, but this allows for the most structured and fair approach to meet the needs of both parties,” he said.
The relationship between tenant, homeowner and property is a mutually beneficial one, local real estate managers say.
“The biggest benefit with student rentals is guaranteed income,” said Carey McMullen, general manager of the vacation rental division at Intracoastal Realty.
Intracoastal Realty runs a similar student rental program less than one mile away and two months ahead of Bryant’s.
Typically from mid-August to mid-May, student rentals provide reliable income during the offseason and the “perfect window” for increased revenue throughout the on-season. However, out of the 125 rental properties Intracoastal manages, only 10 are currently open to student renters.
Intracoastal’s student waitlist is currently sitting at around 50 to 100 hopefuls. McMullen estimated they usually end up housing only two or three groups each year.
“Really the best way to get in is if you know people who already have a house who can grandfather you in,” McMullen said.
Excluding services like Craigslist and Vacation Rentals By Owner, both Bryant and Intracoastal’s seasonal offerings are the most notable student rental programs on the island.
While both Bryant Real Estate and Intracoastal Realty openly recognize the economic value in student renters with such programs, Wrightsville Beach homeowners are slowly warming up to the idea.
McMullen attributes this shortage in supply to the bad stigma that comes with being a student renter, but believes a lot of their owners are starting to get away from that.
“You’re moving into a multi-million-dollar beach house. You can’t treat it like a fraternity house, you can’t have huge parties,” she said.
With a stringent eviction policy, Intracoastal’s homeowners that participate are slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea of responsible and respectful student renters.
Bateman, Gaze and the slew of other student hopefuls who camped in front of Bryant Real Estate will learn in early March if their efforts will be rewarded.