Real Estate Investment and your College Kid

If you are the parent of a college kid,  you might want to take a minute to think about real estate investing.  You’re already spending a ton of money sending the kid to school, “investing” in his or her future, so why not hedge your bets on an investment that might actually pay you back someday?  Think about it- you’ve got at least four years of living expenses to pay for on top of the tuition. You can either throw it away paying for a tiny, overpriced dorm or some dumpy, overpriced rental, OR you can take that money and put it toward something that has a future. Like real estate.  Let me explain…

I went to Western Washington University, here in Bellingham, so I will use it as an example, though the numbers would likely look quite similar in just about any college town. Rates per person at Western’s dorms run roughly $500 (3 kids in a room) to $800+ (single occupancy) per month, NOT including food expenses.  Rental rates anywhere near campus run about $400-600 a month per room, depending on the number of rooms.  Studios and 1-bedrooms are commonly $700-900/month, whereas you might find a decent  3-bedroom for $1400.   Let’s be conservative and say it’s about $600/month on average, per room. Over 4 years (48 months) that’s almost $30,000(!) that you will NEVER get back.  As Everett Dirksen famously said, A billion here, a billion there…pretty soon you’re talking about real money!”

Consider this:  Right now, you can buy a 1-bedroom, 600 square foot condo, built in 2006, less than a half-mile from Western Washington University, for $140k.  With 20% down at 6% interest, the monthly payment, which includes taxes, insurance, and HOA dues (W/S/G) comes to about $925, leaving only electricity and cable for expenses.  Sounds like kind of a lot, doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.

  • Similar units in this building are currently renting for between $725 and $800.
  • You can write off some (maybe  all) of your interest payments , giving you roughly 25% back at tax time, depending on your bracket, making the effective monthly expense closer to $700. Make sure to talk to your accountant about this and other creative write-offs you might find…

  • As an owner, your monthly expenses remain fixed over time.  According to Cory Walken, a colleague who studies rent growth in the area, rents near Western have increased at an average of about 6% per year, over the past 5 years.  Assuming that trend were to continue, the monthly rent on that same unit would go up  to almost $900-$1000 by the 4th year of your student’s education. Over 4 years, that would cost you between $38000-$42000 in rent! Gone, flushed….never to be seen again…
  • Don’t forget about appreciation! Even in these tough times, most analysts are expecting the market to have corrected itself in the next couple of years, meaning there is a good chance the value of your investment will begin to increase during the 4-5 years that your student will live there.  That’s right, you might even MAKE money on this thing! Worst case, you can always hang onto it to make sure the kid doesn’t try to move back in with you after college…

This is just one example, of course.  There  are several other condo opportunities I can point you toward.  There are also houses and duplexes, etc… The numbers can look even better if you buy something with more rooms. Then, you can collect $500-$700/month of OTHER PEOPLE’S money! That ‘s the best kind of money, after all…

If you’d like to look more seriously at this type of investment, keep in mind that there are all kinds of different programs available, requiring anywhere from 3.5% to 20% down.  You can buy as an investment property, as a second home for yourself, or possibly as a first-home for the kid, which means eligibility for the $8000 first-time buyer tax credit. Each of these options has it’s own credit and income requirements, as well as unique tax implications.  Again, I would suggest consulting your accountant, as well as a mortgage professional, to make sure you understand clearly these particular details. You can talk to me if you want to know where to find these properties.

I can be reached on my cell at 206.883.6668, or by email at

This post simultaneously published by Rob LeRoy at

Rob LeRoy is a Seattle real estate agent and social media marketing coach with eXp Realty.

3 Responses to “Real Estate Investment and your College Kid”

  1. sal butoni September 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    How about…let the college student work a bit…encounter life with roommates…learn about expenses and responsibility…be a young adult capable of terrible and wonderful judgements.

    Call or write mum and dada often but don’t ensnare their liability while college student learns what wings are. I find the method of selling via umbilical cord is distasteful and of questionable value to any family unit or individuals within. Unless a tremendous umbrella policy is in full effect…this idea is financially foolish and even in the most positive spin…who needs another sheltered college grad?

  2. Cristobal September 9, 2009 at 8:23 pm #


    So the $14,000 I paid for rent while in college was a learning/life lesson? Sounds expensive. Sounds like another year in a state school.

    Why not teach by doing? Why not have the college career be an opportunity for investment in your future and your childs?

    I see your point, not spoiling your child in his/her first year away from home. But the concept here should be “they need shelter, Shelter can be a good investment, take a look at it as a solid possibility, so you don’t have to spend your golden years in a bunk bed because you were trying to teach your 18 year old another lesson”

    Regarding who needs another sheltered college grad, the folks under the overpasses in Whatcom County would like a word with you.

  3. Rob LeRoy September 9, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    I’m sorry Sal, but I think you have missed my point. This article is geared toward parents who are planning on paying all or most of their child’s expenses throughout college. Though I have mentioned that buying a place outright for your child is one option, it really isn’t the one I’m advocating. I am trying to save money for those parents, not encourage them to spoil their children.

    However, there are lessons here for the kids either way. Why not use this situation as an opportunity to teach kids about how things work in the “real world”? Let them see what the bills really look like, and what it really means to take care of a home. As a graduate of Western, I have seen (and lived in) more than a few rentals that were used and abused year after year by kids who had no reason to care about the homes they occupied. I didn’t know the first thing about the real costs of living when I was in school. In fact, that has a lot to do with why I wrote this piece- I have long wished that I had known enough to buy a house back then, rather than throw away years of rent money.

    I am certainly not advocating the spoiling of anybody’s kids. Although my tuition was covered by student loans, I had to make my own money to pay for everything else, which meant I had to work from day-one, all the way through college. I believe I am better off for it. But that’s just me…Not every student is the same, and not every parent agrees in that approach. There is certainly something to be said for allowing your child to focus their energies 100% on their studies. Or, why not come up with a hybrid plan? Buy a place for the investment opportunity and make your kid pay rent. That way they’re still forced to get a taste of the real world, and you can recoup some of that tuition expense down the road. Everybody wins!

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