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Your Guide to Investing in Student Housing

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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!

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