I am taking Microeconomics this term (and have my final tomorrow, eek!) and we talk about markets, supply, and demand quite as a bit. As we all buy things, analyzing markets and consumer behavior is pretty interesting, especially when you start looking into abnormal or malfunctioning markets, like monopolies.
Having come to A2 from NYC, the vast differences in the rental housing market definitely caught me off guard. In New York, as soon as you see an apartment you like, you have to put in an application for it, lest someone else snatch it up. And you can't really look more than a month in advance of your move. So, there's about a two week period of being glued to your cellphone. Stressful!
Here, housing rentals are nearly the opposite - people look for housing almost a year in advance. Leases almost exclusively run September to September, or May to May, and a nine month lease is highly coveted. Perhaps most shockingly, your landlord can ask you if you plan to move a mere seventy-five days after your lease starts. After my first year in A2, I decided to move, and ended up signing a lease in December for an apartment I wouldn't move into for another eight months.
Some of the vagaries of the A2 market caught me by surprise. The worst of all was when I moved out of that first apartment. Stupidly (or not, as I contested), I assumed that my twelve month lease actually ran for twelve months. But in actuality, it started on August 26th and ended on August 19th of the following year (though I was still charged a full month's rent). Getting a phone call from your landlord asking why you haven't turned in your keys yet made for a horribly stressful, though ultimately catastrophe-free, move-out, as Mr. Houston can attest to.
Unsurprisingly, the University takes a large role in setting some standards for the rental market and in "approving" landlords. Also unsurprisingly, there are a few mega-landlords in town - Wilson White and Arch being two of the best known - but they don't necessarily dominate. I had a good experience with my first landlord, CMB, who were very understanding regarding my confusion about my move-out date. My current landlord, Arbor Properties, is also quite good, though much smaller in size and holdings. Despite the idiosyncrasies of the market, at least it's not a monopoly.