Driving through Tuscaloosa, you can clearly see all of the construction happening on and around the University of Alabama’s campus. It seems like new apartments and condominium developments are being built around every corner. Students and their families, Alabama football fans, retirees, and others alike are continually making the decision to rent and buy these new properties around town.
Student Housing Apartments
In fall of 2020, the University of Alabama recorded having 37,842 enrolled students. As of January 2020, the University also recorded offering 8,262 beds to students on campus in dormitories. Where does this leave the other thousands of students? Living in houses and apartments around campus. Some of the students living in Tuscaloosa choose to rent houses or duplexes or triplexes with their friends. On the other hand, the locations and amenities offered by some of the newer apartment buildings make them hard to resist.
I asked a current student at the University, Mary Margaret, about her experience living in an apartment this past school year. Mary Margaret described that she chose to live in an apartment because all of the houses that she and her roommates were interested in were already rented by the time they started looking. It is not uncommon for students to begin the house search for the next school year as early as October. By waiting until later in the school year, she was left with fewer single-family living options. She said that it was not hard to find an available apartment and that they chose their complex because of its location and positive reviews.
The Housing Subcommittee of Tuscaloosa provided this map from a presentation in January of 2019 showing the existing developments that were currently being marketed to students in Tuscaloosa. These developments total approximately 30,000 beds. To view the whole presentation click here. This map does not include independent houses or other duplexes/triplexes that many students also choose to rent.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published in a report that students in the Tuscaloosa Housing Market Area paid $940 median rent per month, which was a 25% increase in monthly rent from 2013. It is typical that places closer to campus or newer buildings have higher rent, presenting another variable for students to consider when deciding where to live. Below is a graph provided in the same report showing the average monthly rent and vacancy rate in the Tuscaloosa HMA from the years 2005-2019. It shows the almost steady increase in average monthly rent prices in the Tuscaloosa HMA. To read the whole report click here.
This increase of demand and prices of student housing has been controlling the Tuscaloosa market prices greatly. Because of the high student rent prices, there is a lack of affordable housing for lower-income individuals and families in the city. The City of Tuscaloosa has released an extensive 5-year plan outlining the plans and issues that they are currently facing within the Tuscaloosa housing market. To read this plan click here.
Tuscaloosa game days are a unique experience. Fans come from all over the country to watch the crimson tide play football on Saturdays in the fall. Some of those coming from out of state, and even some within a short driving distance of the stadium, look for places within the city to stay the night. Instead of paying for hotels multiple weekends throughout the year, these people look for permanent places to buy or rent. With this influx of fans and the current success of the football program comes the development of luxury condos in Tuscaloosa.
One of the latest condo developments has a location unlike any other. Just steps away from the stadium, Westgate Luxury Condominiums provide a unique gameday experience. To read the Birmingham Business Journal article on the new Westgate, click here.
Spectrum Capital LLC and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company began construction on the condominium complex in 2018. Amenities for guests and residents include private parking, grocery delivery, a fitness center, a kids fun zone, onsite management, access to The SkyGate™ Club on the rooftop of the building, gameday catering, and walking distance to Bryant Denny Stadium and other campus landmarks. The condos range in size and price, some costing upward of $2 million. To read more about all of the amenities click here.
I interviewed a student whose family recently purchased a condo at Westgate. She said that they chose to buy not only for gameday purposes, but also as investment because of the ability to rent out the property when they are not in town and because of the increasing property value. Many buyers are willing to pay the higher price, knowing that they have the ability to bring in money at the same time by renting out the condo.
Condo Growth in Tuscaloosa
In Tuscaloosa, the average sales price of a condo has increased by 63.0% from April 2020 to April 2021. Condo sales have also increased by 94.1% from April 2020. To read the full Tuscaloosa Condo monthly report click here.
There are many condominium complexes around Bryant Denny Stadium that provide convenient locations for fans coming into town for the games. Below is a map showing the properties currently or in progress around the stadium, as of the year 2020. The areas shaded light blue represent the condominiums.
There are many possible explanations for the increase in sales and average price of condos in Tuscaloosa, but one of the most influential is the football program at the University of Alabama. The program “has an estimated average economic impact of $20 million per home game,” according to the US Department of Housing and Development’s Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis of Tuscaloosa. As long as the team continues to be as successful and lucrative as they are currently, there is a great chance that the city will continue to see an increase in condo development and buys around Tuscaloosa.