Turn Blog Header 1024x384 - Navigating the Changing Tides of “Turn”

As the academic year comes to a close, off-campus student housing experiences a significant transition period. Thousands of students pack up their belongings, bid farewell to their apartments, and make way for a fresh influx of new residents. This annual phenomenon, known as “Turn”, brings forth a myriad of challenges that both owners and operators must navigate. In this blog, we spoke with Director of Facilities, James Graham, who shares new trends and risks for the 2023 Turn season.


Heading into this Turn season, are you seeing any emerging trends that are different from previous years?

Many aspects of our world have changed since 2020, creating a lot of new obstacles to overcome, both man-made and natural. Luckily for us, this year looks to be pretty stable in comparison. While the conflict in Ukraine continues, many of the parts and materials sourced there have found other manufacturing locations, and shipping has done well to recover in providing supplies via different routes and processes. We are keeping an eye on shipping delays out of ports in California due to labor shortages, where processing at terminals in that area of the country are beginning to stress maritime supply chain shipping to levels not seen since the peak of the Covid pandemic. This could have a cascading effect for many goods from Asia which would include student housing furniture orders; however, at this point in the year, most deliveries are already in port or offloaded, so only late orders may be impacted.

Not everything from Covid-19 was a negative. While travel was largely restricted and we wanted to limit person-to-person contact, we learned as an industry, and as a company, ways to be incredibly self-sufficient on site and still be successful. We implemented customer-service focused procedures that kept our teams safe and our residents happy. One of those growths was creating and expanding our VIP check-in procedures, which helped expedite move-ins and created a new way of welcoming residents home. That process has continued to grow and evolve the last three years, with the focus remaining on providing new residents with excellent customer service.

Additionally, after enduring years of unprecedented uncertainty, we’ve put in the legwork behind the scenes to begin all levels of Turn preparation almost 10 months in advance. We start discussing furniture orders in Q4, hold roundtables and pep rallies, and host red-flag office hours with dedicated shared service subject matter experts to support our teams for months ahead of the actual Turn period. These building blocks are what help us maintain preparedness and positivity going into the most stressful time of the year. While there may still be communities that endure problematic turnover due to unplanned emergencies, the number of those goes down each year and we continue to learn and improve from each of those incidents.


Have any of our communities experienced impacts from supply chain issues? How are we mitigating this risk?

Ever since 2020, we’ve moved our furniture orders up and expanded our relationships with our furniture providers, which has helped mitigate delays. Utilizing different vendors with products from Canada and Mexico to supplement vendors who order from Asia has helped limit the impact of delays. However, to lower the risk, we’ve moved all of our furniture orders to early January to give as much lead and shipping time as possible before mass delivery in July and August. Since making that adjustment, order failures and delays have been largely avoided.

We’ve taken this approach with our other supply providers as well. Adding secondary supply vendors has allowed us to leverage major partnerships in terms of price and timing, for the benefit of all our communities. Although I will say, our larger partners have done a great job in preparing for Turn orders and supply chain issues to keep them from impacting us. Our last major issue was in 2021 during the wide-spread freezing weather in Texas which impacted petroleum-based products (paint, plastic, mattresses, foam, etc). Results of those unexpected weather conditions have been largely corrected and recovered with no concerns this year.


Have our partnerships with preferred vendors helped alleviate any stressors of turn season or combat any supply chain disruptions?

Cardinal has been able to negotiate and partner with several large vendors which has helped us limit disruptions that are truly a global impact which cannot be helped. Our partnerships with multiple large furniture vendors, MRO and supply vendors, and even our national partnerships with service vendors have helped mitigate everything from supply chain shortages to labor shortages for our company and our Clients.


Are there any other risks we are closely tracking that may impact an otherwise successful turn?

One of the biggest, growing concerns for our teams during Turn this year is related to weather and natural disasters. Texas is currently undergoing one of the hottest starts to summer ever, while Colorado just endured its fourth wettest May, and wettest start to June in recorded history. Changes to our understanding of local and national weather patterns will impact the way we operate – especially in July and August where we see hotter temperatures, more severe thunderstorms, longer droughts, and numerous tropical events. When Texans can bake cookies in their cars due to 120-degree record heat, in the same year that we’ve recorded the third highest number of tornadoes since 1991 through March, and record-breaking tropical storms are developing earlier than ever recorded – weather is quite easily one of the biggest variables we must pay attention to this year as we head into Turn. Whether it’s general storm safety, following heat-safety precautions, or just being aware of what is coming and how to respond, it will help all of our teams survive another Turn this year.


Turn is a time of heightened activity and hard work for the student housing industry, and we understand the dedication and effort required to successfully navigate this busy period. Cardinal Group wishes all our fellow student housing industry professionals a great Turn season and remember, behind every form filled, room cleaned, and key handed over, there is a student whose journey you have influenced!


About Cardinal Group Companies:

Cardinal Group Companies is a leading provider of real estate services based in Denver, Colorado. With a diverse portfolio of residential properties and a commitment to exceptional customer service, we are dedicated to making a positive impact in the communities we serve.