Everyone has their own perception on when's the right time to sign a lease. Some of your friends might be telling you to sign as early as August to lock down a good house. Others might be telling you to wait as late as May so that you can have more options. Who's right?
The graph above is from an article from Realpages.com which highlights a 10% increase in pre-lease velocity from March to April. Basically, investors are getting excited that more students are signing leases and putting money down months before they ever move in.
The more provocative number is the 16.2% increase in velocity from October to November. Such a high increase might be explained by a competition for high-demand properties off-campus. Personally, I would be really interested to see the difference in quality from a house pre-leased in October versus a house pre-leased in April.
On my campus, the closest houses with the best landlords can have a waitlist that extends past 2 years! The right time to lease basically becomes a discussion of supply and demand. If the supply of housing is low and the demand for housing is high, you might need to compete against your classmates and lock-down a house as soon as possible.
The Toku View:
Honestly, your perception of the market is the reality. Many landlords might persuade you to sign early because they want to avoid vacancy. Many schools might persuade you to sign later because they want you to wait and see if you can live on-campus. All that matters is what you want. If you are the type of student thats proactive, you probably want to pre-lease as soon as possible. If you are a student that just wants to go with the flow, you probably want to wait and weigh all your options.
Do what you feel is right. And if you need any help, Toku got you.