A college property purchase can prove to be an astute financial investment as well as a superb learning experience for the student.

Duane Duggan, Realtor and Author RE/MAX of Boulder

In college towns across the country every August, college students start returning for the fall semester, generating a torrent of real estate activity. Because the rental housing market tends to be tight in most college towns, many families consider purchasing a home for their college student to live in while attending school. It usually takes 30 to 60 days to close on a home so the time to start looking for that perfect place is now.

A college property purchase can prove to be an astute financial investment as well as a superb learning experience for the student. In Boulder, if a parent bought a condo in the 1980s and held on to it for four years, they most likely would have sold it for about what they paid for it. On the other hand, if a parent bought a condo in 2012 and sold it in four years, they most likely would have made enough profit to pay for their child’s in-state tuition at CU-Boulder. In 2021, there is an inventory shortage of available condos and there has been continued upward market pressure on prices. This makes it tougher to find a place to buy, but history has proven it can be worth the effort.

Owning the property a student lives in while attending college can offer several benefits. The student will have a greater sense of stability by not having to look for a different apartment to live in each year. You, as a parent, can pick the lifestyle that will help your student succeed in school by choosing the location and the quality of housing that best fits his or her needs. Over the past few years, apartment rents in college towns have typically increased on an annual basis. By purchasing a property with a fixed rate mortgage, your student’s housing expenses will be fixed. In addition, your student won’t have to deal with paying security deposits, going through the hassle of getting the deposit back, or worrying about storing furniture over the summer break. Moreover, during the process of purchasing a home for your student, you will be providing your child with an excellent learning experience. Your student will gain insights into the process of investing in real estate and will also learn about the responsibilities that go hand in hand with property ownership.

In my own life, both of my sons attended CU-Boulder and I bought each of them a condo using owner-occupied FHA financing. Each lived in the unit and had a roommate who paid rent to help cover the monthly mortgage. At the end of their college careers, my sons had built up significant equity they could use in the next phase of their lives.

I have also had clients who have bought real estate for two, three or more of their children to live in while attending college. In some cases, this spanned 10 years. Rather than throwing money down the “rent drain,” they have built equity in a real estate investment over this period of time.

Here’s a simple worksheet to help you determine the month-to-month expenses for owning a condo or house for your college student while you evaluate if this is the right decision for your family:

In my next article, “Part 2: Buying College Housing Starts Now,” I will provide you with a list of items to think about and plan for when deciding whether or not to buy a condo or a house for your college student.

By Duane Duggan. Duane has been a Realtor for RE/MAX of Boulder in Colorado since 1982 and has facilitated over 2,500 transactions over his career. He has been awarded two of the highest honors bestowed by RE/MAX International: The Lifetime Achievement Award and the Circle of Legends Award. Living the life of a Realtor and being immersed in real estate led to the inception of his book, Realtor for Life. For questions, e-mail DuaneDuggan@boulderco.com, call 303.441.5611 or visit boulderco.com.