Buy a House for College?
"Animal House" photo courtesy Hollywood Teen Movies
College students are settling in, dominating desks and chairs at coffee shops near campus, tapping away on apple-emblazoned laptops as little white umbilical cords sprout from their ears. Meanwhile, picture their parents at work struggling to pay for tuition and a room in a house shared by four other kids -– a house so wrecked that it threatens not to make it until graduation, even if the kids do. Why do images of Animal House (photo above) and Bluto come to mind?
A friend sent me the article "College towns feed second home craze," which describes parents investing in real estate in the hopes that the house might appreciate enough to offset the cost of room and board for their students.
It’s not a new idea. When my son, the first of our college-bound kids, went to Western Washington University in Bellingham, I thought about buying a house where the other kids could live when their turn came, and then we could sell it after everyone had flown the coop. But then I visited the four roommates, all guys, in their rental house on High St. (appropriately named).
They had four old TVs in the “living” room so they could get every game anywhere anytime. There were unidentified objects in pans on the cold stove, and there was a wall of empty beer and whiskey bottles creating an entryway element on the front porch. I decided against being a landlady for college students – especially my own.
And looking back, it looks like houses in Bellingham have gone wild, appreciating some 163 percent in the past 10 years (or about 22 percent annually recently), more than enough to rebuild a front porch and have a pile of bottles hauled away. I looked at comps in the blocks around the house they ruined – er, ah, lived in — to try to get an idea of what I would have made. A similar house was valued at about $104K nine years ago, then sold in 2001 for $122K, and then in 2006 for $279K – 171 percent appreciation!
I’m glad I didn’t do it, honestly. Peace in the family and all that. But I’d be holding a chunk of change I don’t have now.
The article comes down on the side of buying, but it does acknowledge my situation: “You will have a constant pool of renters, even if you eliminate the uncertain category known as ‘undergraduate males.’”