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October 4, 2012 / patrickbelhon

Buying or Renting: Off Campus Housing Options for College Students

Real estate agents in California are finding a whole new segment of home buyers. Parents of children who are attending Stanford, UCLA, USC and other colleges and universities throughout the Golden State, are expressing great interest in buying homes in college towns.

Traditionally, when your son or daughter left the comfort of home to attend college hundreds or thousands of miles away, they chose to live in a dormitory located on the college campus. Times are changing, and today, the big trend in student housing has shifted from the dormitory to houses and apartments a few miles from the college.

Some students are forced to find housing away from the college campus because there are not enough dormitory rooms to accommodate everyone who wants to live on school grounds. Others prefer to live off campus because they have more freedom and do not necessarily want to participate in all of the extra activities that are a part of a college student’s life.

Living off campus also forces a student to deal with real life situations more often than if they were sheltered on the college campus. If you live in a dormitory, you probably get a meal plan and have all your meals prepared in the cafeteria. You do not have to cook and generally, can keep your dorm room in whatever state of cleanliness and neatness that you choose.

If you live in a house away from the college, you usually share it with one or several roommates. Property owners often rent out their three or four bedroom home in a college town to students. Each student gets a bedroom and shares the rest of the house with the other roommates. Students must learn to get along and contribute to the household as they would in the real world.

Parents with teenagers, who are going off to a college or university, are faced with a choice. If a student is going to be attending school for the next four years and will be living off campus, is it better to buy or rent a house or apartment? If you can afford it, buying a house where your child can live while attending classes, makes sense on several different levels.

Part of the reason for purchasing a house is to assure that your child will have a nice place to live when he or she is away from home. Parents know that their child will look after the house and make sure it is well maintained. While providing the nicest accommodations possible is important, the real reason parents decide to purchase a house in a college town is because it can be a very good investment.

Houses in college towns are among the most expensive anywhere in the United States. According to a November 23, 2011 article in MoneyWatch, entitled Real Estate Trends: College Town Real Estate, five of the top ten most expensive college town markets are located in the state of California. Average home prices at some of the most widely attended colleges and universities in California are shown below.

  • Palo Alto – Stanford University – $1,300,000
  • Los Angeles – USC and UCLA – $833,087
  • San Jose – San Jose State University – $650,111
  • Berkeley – University of California Berkeley – $636,958

Buying a house, at the right price, in a California college town, can actually be a great way to reduce the cost of room and board during the school year. Most students attend college for about nine months of the year. Renting, even a modest apartment, in a town with a major college or university, can easily cost $800-$1,000 per month. Assuming you can afford to purchase a house and maybe have a mortgage of $3,000 per month, your son or daughter can live rent-free and two or three roommates can help pay the mortgage each month.

Why pay for a rental unit or dorm room with money that you will never get back? Owning a house near campus, while your child is a student at the school, saves you money every year.

California real estate is slowly recovering and is likely to appreciate substantially the longer it is held. Interest rates for mortgages are at historic lows. Being located near campus, student housing will always be in demand. Parents, who are long term investors, can hold on to the house after their son or daughter graduates, and use it as a productive, income producing property. Rental income can pay the mortgage and the real profits will materialize when you sell the house and cash in on the equity.

Read more about Real Estate Trends here at CBSNEWS.

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