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College towns offer a wealth of out-of-the-box investment opportunities. Large universities can help insulate local economies and housing markets from the recent boom-and-bust trends that other metro areas may suffer from. You might not want to become a landlord, but with the right management company you can reap all the benefits of college-town rentals with none of the hassles.

Rental Properties

As students are the hallmark feature of the “college town,” it is no surprise that student housing represents the greatest investment opportunity around universities and colleges. There is no such thing as a sure thing with any investment, but college towns offer stable rental markets, no matter what is happening in the rest of the economy. In fact, with many unemployed professionals returning to school, enrollment numbers have received a recent boost.

The Department of Education predicts that college enrollment will rise by more than 15 percent over the next ten years, and those students will need a place to stay. Most colleges have already maxed out their real estate for student residences, and those students will need a place to live. Depending on the town you’re looking at, you have a number of options to diversify your investments.

If you are looking to make a long-term investment, target cities in high growth states like Florida and Texas (both states have a number of high-enrollment public universities).

Apartments: If you have the means to buy a stake in an apartment complex in a college town, you’ll have a safe investment for years to come. Apartments can provide steady, nearly inflation-proof sources of income, with a fraction of the management headaches. In college towns, apartment complexes will almost always be at-or-near capacity, with students facing a lack of on-campus housing and not wanting the responsibility of maintaining a house.

Unlike other rental properties, college town apartments are usually guaranteed year-long occupancy. Since tenancy is determined by the school year, rather than a job or vacation, college rental properties typically have high-demand and low vacancy.

Condos and homes: You may be rightfully wary to rent a house to students, but remember that you are always in charge of who rents your property. Keep in mind that the number of graduate and professional students in the US is expected to rise by more than 25 percent over the same 10 years. Many of these students will be married, working professionals. If you are worried about renting to a group of sophomores, do some research on housing developments surrounding the school – the vast majority of undergraduate students will live within one-to-five miles of campus. Graduate and professional students typically look for housing options outside that range.

Is It the Right Choice?

The most important factor once you’ve decided on your rental property is patience. Whether you actively manage your property as a landlord or hire a management company to take care of the day-to-day responsibilities, you’ll see a fairly constant stream of revenue from your rental property. But to get a true return on your investment will require time and some hard work. It may take a few years, but if you maintain an attractive property and are careful with your tenants, you can turn even a single property into a valuable investment.