Your Guide to Investing in Student Housing

Expanding your rental home portfolio requires consideration and strategy beyond just finding a home that is rentable and affordable. Each property is an investment and some locations offer a unique business model that you can benefit from. Affordable housing near any college or university, for example, will immediately become a candidate for student housing, a potentially profitable but more volatile form of property rental.

Student housing is livelier, faster-paced, and more accident-prone than typical investments, but also potentially very rewarding. Let’s dig deeper to find out if student housing is a smart investment for your landlording style.

What It Means to Rent Housing to Students

Students in college and university – and their friends already in the job market – are young. They are often renting a home without parents for the very first time, maybe with a little practice from the dorms. They don’t know how to fix things, many students have not yet learned how to clean, and late rent payments with a fantastic (often real) excuse about exams and all-nighters are par for the course. But if you have a thick skin and a sense of humor, student renters also provide never-ending demand. If the university continues to operate, you will have new students every year and may even develop a waiting list for properties near campus.

Pros and Cons of Student Housing Investment

Pros of Renting to Students

  • Endless demand and wait-listing
  • Chain referrals from good student tenants
  • Reliable rent when paid by parents
  • Low cost-cost amenities chosen for durability
  • Small and unusual properties included
  • Never-ending entertainment value

Let’s take a look at the pros of managing student housing. The biggest benefit is that demand is endless. It’s so endless there are wait-lists for near-campus housing and when students change plans mid-year, another roommate is ready to hot-swap and take over the lease. Students tell their friends about great places and you may even get a chain of good, studious tenants who refer each other to your property each year.

Expect students to be inexperienced at rent payment, but often with parental backup. Some parents will even sign the lease. You can choose between durable, low-cost housing for most students or luxury student housing for parents who insist on sponsoring the best for their collegiates. You can also choose properties that would be less appealing as family homes, like small and strangely designed houses, as students are not picky and often like strange spaces.

As an added bonus, students make entertaining and interesting tenants, so if you don’t mind the antics, you will rarely find student housing to be boring.

Cons of Renting to Students

  • Inexperienced renters
  • Untimely rent payments
  • Increased rate of damage and repairs
  • Increased cleaning requirement during turnover
  • Demand for short-term (semester) rentals
  • Roommate hot-swapping

All the pros aside, student housing is challenging to run. You will need energy – or an energetic team – to keep up with minor repairs like dents in the drywall and loose faucet handles. Expect excessive calls for repairs (and drain clearing) or eerie silence with inexperienced young renters who don’t know when to call for maintenance. You may get lucky with a run of reliable young students or unlucky with a pack of partiers. 

Student housing is most adaptive with 6-month leases and even if you enforce a 1-year lease policy, expect hot-swapping of roommates because students are tied to the semester-based schedule.

Special Legal Considerations for Student Housing

Your city or state may have specific regulations when it comes to renting to students or to residents below 18 or 21 years old. Because students do not yet have their full rights  (ex: to drink, book hotel rooms, or rent cars), and some freshmen are still 17 and legally minors, you will want to write your lease carefully and proceed with caution. In most locations, there are no special rules for renting to students and young adults, but the penalties for renting a hazardous unit may be increased if perceived as taking advantage of inexperienced tenants.

With this in mind, use safety and transparency as your rules of thumb. Write a clear lease and make a habit of going over it with new student tenants regarding both their responsibilities and what they can ask of you – like timely repairs. You will also want to pay special attention to safety and repairs during turnover. If the unit is never empty, be sure to schedule annual or biannual inspection-repair visits.

Choosing the Right Property for Student Housing

What kind of houses can you choose for rental student housing? This is an important consideration. The good news is selection is one of the perks for student housing investment. There are exactly three requirements for student housing:

  1. Near to campus (or the bus route)
  2. Safe and livable
  3. Durability

Location and Livability

Students will live just about anywhere, but it must be close to campus, on the bus route, and decently livable. Performing your legal duties as a landlord will more than fulfill most students’ demand for property quality, but location is key. The closer your properties are to a college campus, the more students will want to live there.

Any House, Any Size, Any Style

Students will stay in small houses, homes with strangely shaped rooms, lofts, attics, basements, and homes with no yard. The usual family-friendly considerations need not apply and most students are especially spry if there is a knee-wracking staircase or even a ladder to the loft. Students expect to live closely packed together, to share multi-bedroom homes as roommates, and to take over buildings by moving in with friends.

Interesting apartments are, in fact, one of the rights-of-passage for young adults renting their first homes. Many want to come away with a few strange tales about the attic apartments and strange campus houses they lived in during their wild college years. Older boarding-house-style homes, which are hard to rent room-by-room to any other demographic, are considered excellent student housing. Apartment buildings and townhouse rows can quickly become overrun with student tenants as roommates and neighbors.

Student Housing Durability

The final deciding factor for student housing investment property is durability. Can the house take an endless stream of energetic, inexperienced tenants who may party, exercise, and do unpredictable school projects on premise? The good news is that if you’re ready for light renovation, most homes have the “bones” to be durable student housing, and just need a fresh coat of gloss (read: washable) paint and new laminate board flooring. Throw in a few heavy couches and bed frames, and you’re student-ready.

Create a Custom Student Lease Agreement

Students are not your typical renters, and leases can be written with any terms that are most convenient to the two parties. Write your lease in a way that helps students become better renters by outlining the rules, using plain language, and providing a few training wheels and safety bumpers in the policies to help them learn without creating conflict or debt.

  • Make it a visual syllabus – easy to read
  • Outline house rules
    • Quiet hours
    • Drain care
    • Trash day
  • Flexible rent payment dates and penalties – training wheels
  • Included utilities or links to utility providers
  • Room for roommates
    • Wait-lists and referrals
    • Hot-swapping leaseholders
    • Guests and long-term guest policies
  • Copies available on request and online

How to Screen Student Tenants

Screening student applicants can be challenging because they do not already have a rental or credit history. Most have just taken their first big financial step in life – by taking out student loans. How do you screen a student tenant with no financial history to show their suitability? It is possible to ask more holistic questions while respecting the fair housing laws about certain personal details.

Ask Student-Housing Questions

  • Do you have roommates ready to move in with you?
  • Do you require roommate match-making?
    • see – your waitlist and other applicants
  • When does your school term begin?
  • Will you be staying through the summer?
  • Do you see yourself in this home for your duration at this school?
  • Do you have pets, or do you plan to get a pet?
  • What are your personal quiet hours for sleep or studying?
  • What is your field of study or chosen degree?

Have Parents Co-Sign the Lease

One of the cleanest solutions is to have a parent co-sign the lease and take responsibility for timely rental payments. From there, you can do the usual tenant screening checks on the parent to confirm sufficient income, a reliable credit score, and a good rental history.

Managing The Revolving Door of Student Housing

Student housing is a profitable and extremely active way to invest in rental homes. students change their housing situations every semester and every summer break. You may have students who stay put for all four years of school and students who only stay for a few months before hot-swapping their lease with another resident.

Fortunately, you don’t have to manage your lively student housing investments solo. With online tools like LandlordStation to streamline your property management and help students keep up with online bill-pay, helpful documents, and maintenance requests, you can simplify the effort of managing student housing.

To discover online property management through LandlordStation, contact us today!

The New Landlord Primer

You’re all smiles as you plan to dip your toes into the lucrative real estate industry. Or maybe you’ve already built a property ready to usher in your first tenants.

Either way, as a first-time landlord, the things to do can quickly overwhelm you.

Don’t worry- we are here to hold your hands as you take those baby steps. Here are some of the things to tick off your checklist:

1. Take Cover- Obtain a Landlord Insurance

Before opening your property’s doors to tenants, ensure you’ve purchased landlord insurance. You don’t want to suffer from common issues when renters occupy your property.

You can choose from three types of landlord insurance policies:

DP-1 policy

It’s the least expensive and covers only stated risks. These perils can include:

  • Riots
  • Fire and smoke
  • Windstorms, hail, and lightning
  • Vehicle-caused damages
  • Explosions

But you’re not guaranteed compensation for damages from any of those issues.

DP-2 policy

A DP-2 protects you from more types of risks. The policy explicitly names covered risks, just like DP-1 policies. 

Apart from covering what a typical DP-1 does, DP-2 policy may also include:

  • Frozen pipe and electrical damage
  • Falling objects
  • Damage resulting from ice and snow weight
  • Flooding 
  • Building collapse

DP-3 policy

This policy is an open peril cover that lists any specific risk not included in the above coverages.

2. Compile a Thorough Lease

The lease agreement is a binding contract that stipulates what you and the renters can and cannot do. The document also explains the steps to take if any party breaks the agreement.

Remember to cover all bases when writing a lease. Sure, a two-page document may cut it for some time. But what if something that wasn’t covered adequately in the document crops up? 

Ensure you’ve included and described these items to safeguard your interest while adhering to legal obligations:

  • Length of lease and provisions for automatic renewal
  • Name and status of every person that will be residing on your property
  • The period allowed for tenant’s “guests” to occupy the property 
  • Rent, when its due, and penalties for late payments
  • General deposits and security deposits plus circumstances that will cause you to hold the deposit
  • The party responsible for utility bills
  • Rules regarding pests
  • Property maintenance
  • Insurance

The exact clauses, terms, and language may vary with states, so do your homework perfectly.

3. Befriend the Laws

You want to remain on the safe side of the law. After all, who wants to contend with lawsuits that can tarnish their images and waste resources?

The trick is to know and adhere to all fair-housing acts. This law protects tenants against discriminatory practices in housing based on seven factors:

  • Sex
  • Color
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Familial status
  • Race
  • Religion

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for enforcing this act. 

Here’s a well-kept secret: A person from HUD can pose as a renter on your property to see if you follow their act. Don’t let them trap you.

Also, if a renter feels like you’ve discriminated against them, they can file a claim with HUD. The department will then conduct investigations to get to the bottom of the matter. 

To avoid such accusations and comply with the fair housing act, assume every potential tenant works for HUD or is attempting to accuse you of breaking the laws. 

  • Treat every tenant with dignity and respect
  • Screen tenants consistently and employ a uniform qualifying standard- request the same documents, fees, and details
  • Check your federal, state and local fair housing laws to ensure you aren’t missing any mark. Be sure to stay abreast with all laws by researching in the right places for updates

4. Screen Tenants and Their “Guests”

Although we mentioned this point above, it needs its own section. Yes, it’s that important. 

Your renter might be a nice person who lets family and friends couch-surf while they look for their places. Or, due to a whirlwind of romance, their significant other might overstay at your property. Whatever the situation, complications may arise in the long run.

On the surface, unscreened guests staying beyond the reasonable time frame might not be the biggest deal. But here are some of the dangers they pose:

  • Unknown Background: Screening helps uncover every occupant’s criminal and credit background. You want to ensure no one turns your property into a launch-pad of criminal activities. 
  • No security investment in the property: Unscreened guests don’t have a monetary investment that incentivizes them to maintain and clean the property. 
  • No consequence for disruptive activities: The unscreened occupants also aren’t the ones who stand to lose their space when they argue, play loud music, or ignore complaints from neighbors.

Let’s face it- it’s difficult to stop tenants from hosting unscreened occupants. Your best bet is to limit how long these guests can stay. Remember to include this policy in your lease to make enforcement a breeze. 

5. Property Management Vs. Self-Management

Choosing between hiring a property manager and self-managing isn’t as easy as it sounds. A novice in the industry may view their property as a simple equation of rental revenue – (costs + mortgages) = profit.

But that’s just a basic mantra. It’s also recommendable to account for landlord duties, time, and energy. The duties include:

  • Maintenance
  • Addressing vacancies
  • Dealing with tenant relations
  • Rent collections
  • Lease enforcement
  • Other duties – Think taxes, tenant turnover, evictions, insurance, rental law enforcement, inspections, and adjusting the rent. 

Managing all these duties can be a stressful 24/7 job. But with a platform like LandlordStation, your task becomes painless. Our one-stop solution will cover everything from tenant screening to document management and online rent payments to renters insurance.

Hiring property managers come with perks of benefits. These professionals make it their duty to understand the rental industry’s fair housing laws and best practices. 

Property managers also enjoy powerful links in the industry, thanks to professional groups and associations. So staying abreast with changes in rental laws is painless.

However, these professionals typically charge 7-10% of monthly rental income to handle all the above duties and issues. For instance, the monthly fee may be $100 for a property whose rental income is $10,000. Plus, getting a trustworthy manager can be challenging.

6. Require Renters Insurance

We see you asking, “But I have my property insurance.” That’s great. 

However, a smart landlord requires all tenants to have their own insurance policy. These policies protect you against extra liabilities.

While your homeowner insurance covers the actual structure and dwelling, the renters’ insurance protects the tenants and their property from losses.

For instance, your landlord insurance policy will cover building damages caused by a burst pipe, fire, or electrical issue. But what if the fire, water leak, or power surge destroy your tenant’s personal belongings? That’s where the renters’ insurance policy comes in.

Most renters’ insurance policies also include additional living costs incurred from insured misfortunes. Consider a situation where you need more time fixing that pipe, repairing drywall, and replacing the flooring. Such a situation can force the tenant to look for a temporal place, for example, in a hotel. Fortunately, their renters’ insurance policy may pay for extra expenses above their normal living costs.  

7. Get Loan To Purchase Your Property

Looking to finance your dream but don’t have ready cash? A loan may come through for you.

But while loans for rental property share some similarities with mortgages for residences, there exist significant differences. Be sure to do your homework and research the rental loan requirements, including:

  • Credit scores: Ensure your credit score is attractive. Sure, Fannie Mae can give up to 10 loans. But the more the loans, the more the potential risks, leading to increased credit score requirements.
  • Cash reserves: Lenders want to ensure they can get back their money and interest even if the first six or so months don’t see tenants on your property.
  • Higher down-payment and income: You may have to put down at least 20%. Also, most investment loans tend to have more stringent limits on loan to value (70-80% LTV). And your W-2s or tax returns must show stable income. 
  • Find the right lender: Be sure the lender has experience handling loans for investors and landlords. You don’t want unnecessary delays or loss of your desired property. 
  • Rent loss insurance: If an unfortunate event leads to damaged property and loss of rental income, this policy will protect you. It’s usually included in your property insurance coverage.

You’ll choose between two types of loans depending on the number of units in your property:

  1. Residential loan: It’s suitable for properties with four units or less. This loan is more or less like the traditional mortgages but comes with more stringent requirements. 
  2. Commercial loans: It’s designed for properties with five units or more. While the requirements are more stringent than residential mortgages, you can use them to finance any business (not just residential property). 

Wrap Up

Being a landlord can be a rewarding investment. And with the right strategies plus tools of work, your property management duties will be painless and you’ll be on your way!

Building The Rental Marketplace of the Future: Why We Acquired RadPad

There has been a notable shift in the rental market in the last few years. The Millennial generation has come of age and is trending heavily towards renting rather than purchasing their homes, and this has opened up a new set of needs for the marketplace to allow landlords and tenants to more easily communicate and do business with each other. Renters took their search online years ago with sites like Zillow and Trulia, but are now demanding more than just the ability to look at listing sites for possible places to live.

More than any generation before them, Millennials are transacting on their mobile devices, not just looking for information, which is why we believe that the future of the rental business, especially for the independent landlords who make up more than 50% of the market in the US, is not a software (like Yardi or Realpage) or a lead gen media site (like Zillow/Trulia) but a transactional marketplace; effectively a 12-month long Airbnb.

This is why we acquired RadPad.

A new generation of renters needs new ways to pay rent, find a home, build their credit, get insurance, and interact with their neighbors. While LandlordStation was building a position as one of the largest service providers in the country for independent landlords and property managers, RadPad was busy innovating for renters. With a cutting-edge technology platform, RadPad had begun to change the way that renters approached this market, and adding that technology to our existing base of landlords, as well as some of our insurance and utility products, was the best way to push both platforms even farther.

So what is a “rental marketplace”?

One of the biggest shortcomings that we see in the old way of doing things, is that the time period from vacancy to first rent payment is a series of awkward introductions, cold leads, and mistrust. Renters and landlords find each other semi-anonymously online with no real knowledge of the other’s history. The landlord demands that the renter go through a background check and bases their decision off a credit score (which is not necessarily built as an indicator of a good tenant). This system worked when people signed one or two leases in their entire lives prior to buying a home. But for a generation that is renting well into their 30s, it’s like the car buying process x 10.

Radpad’s solution to this is simple and elegant: allow renters to build their profiles within a confined rental marketplace, and thus build trust within a verified community. Renters can verify all aspects of their rental lives from ID, social security number, credit score and income to Facebook, Linkedin, and contact information, and they can share those verifications with landlords with a single click from their iOs or Android app. They can log in socially so they can see if they have friends who are in the community, or if they share a friend with their potential landlord. They can message within the apps, so they can avoid giving out their mobile number to every listing they come across. And they can build their credit history by opting to have their rent payments reported to the credit bureaus in the same way that mortgage payments are.

On the landlord side there are similar benefits. In markets with a critical mass of tenants like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas, landlords can fill vacancies faster, with warmer leads, and verified tenants. They can shorten the process of rental applications and background checks because they are effectively built into the renter’s shareable profile. Their listings on RadPad look and feel better than on other sites because they are free of ads, promoted real estate brokers, and pay-to-play pitches, all of which leads to a clean interface that drives higher engagement and better lead generation for the landlord.

The best part about the marketplace model is that there is no barrier to entry for either party. The system is completely transactional and based on success. Our goal is to be the platform that is the default transaction processor for the rental market, from listings, leads, and background checks, to rent payments, insurance and utilities. Each individual rental unit produces more than 75 individual transactions annually, and RadPad + LandlordStation has the ability to process them all.

With its most innovative feature, RadPad also allows the tenant to pay their rent online with a credit or debit card even if their landlord does not accept online rent payments. The payment is made through the RadPad app, and if the property does not to accept payments online, RadPad simply sends a check through the mail with a guaranteed on-time delivery to the tenant.

Combining RadPad’s technology and listings traffic with LandlordStation’s product expertise and more than 80,000 existing landlord accounts will pave the way to a single transactional marketplace allowing for a seamless experience for renters, landlords, and the various vendors that serve this market; making things easier, quicker, and cheaper for all parties involved.

We look forward to the many challenges ahead in building the rental marketplace of the future.