Approximately 20 months ago several hundred female BYU students made history by becoming the first of many girls to serve missions as 19- and 20-year-olds.
In the October 2012 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced that worthy 19-year-old women would be permitted to serve full-time proselyting missions. Shortly after this announcement, more sister missionaries received their mission assignments in Provo City than in any other city in the world.
The LDS Newsroom reported that from October 2012 to October 2013 the number of sister missionaries serving increased by 142 percent from the previous year.
With many sisters deciding to defer from their education and serve missions, many were faced with the problem of selling their housing contracts. One of those was Bethany Pratte.
“There was a great exodus of girls leaving Provo for missions after the announcement,” Pratte said. “It was a struggle for some girls to sell their contracts, but as for my roommates and I, there was no conflicts.”
The front desk manager for Vision Real Estate, Amy Olsen, said girls did not hesitate to try and sell their contracts after President Monson made the announcement.
“It was pretty immediate,” Olsen said. “We had maybe 15 to 20 girls trying to sell their contracts that winter, and it was a miracle that all of them did.”
With so many girls struggling to sell their housing on their way out of Provo, it might stand to reason that those sister missionaries coming back would struggle for women to find housing as well.
Vision Utah Property Manager Saundra Stewart said, however, that with the construction of new properties, Provo is prepared for a large return of girls.
“While there may be a lot of girls returning from their missions, there is also a lot of available housing,” Stewart said. “Because there has been so much new construction recently, there is an abundance of housing available to people, but if your property isn’t as well known, it can still be hard to fill spots.”
While some complexes are filling up quickly due to the return of all these sisters, others have yet to be affected by this large return force.
The rentals assistant manager for FCS Management, Carla Avila, reports that gender-housing trends have yet to create any dramatic change due to the age change.
“Things have pretty much stayed the same,” Avila said. “Right now we are pretty much booked for men more than women. We are thinking that a lot of them have not returned quite yet. We have seen a slight increase — last year, it was closer to July that we were completely booked, and now here in June we have a room here and there. Our main properties are Timpanogos Gateway, which has some spots still available, but our main property is Belmont, which is pretty much booked.”
While some property management companies have yet to see any change due to the return of many sisters, others have been filling up their female occupancy earlier than expected.
Amy Duce, assistant to the general manager at Vision Real Estate, said Vision has been getting calls from mothers, sisters and friends hoping to sign up a missionary who is still in the field for fall housing.
“There are definitely a lot more coming back, and their moms are all over the place,” Duce said. “We’ve got a pretty decent wait list even now at some of our places, and they are very full. … Certain complexes have more of a wait list for women than men.”
Vision’s most popular apartment complexes include Lanai, Belmont and Santa Barbara.
Pratte returned from her mission in Fresno, California, on June 4 and isn’t wasting any time find housing.
“I have had a few offers to live with friends who have been saving spots,” Pratte said. “Lucky for me I have some friends who have some connections so I am relieved that it has not been too difficult.”
Pratte’s mother, Lareen, felt confident her daughter would find housing on her own upon coming home.
“I really haven’t helped at all,” Lareen Pratte said. “She is independent and responsible. My only request to her was that she have good roommates.”
More than the struggle to find housing is the struggle to adjust back to non-missionary life, Bethany Pratte said.
“The first few days were awful,” she said. “This came as a bit of a shock because although I had heard about there being an ‘adjustment’ I didn’t think it would have much relevance for me because I was so ‘normal.’ But every day gets easier and better.”