For aspiring real estate investors, college towns present a unique opportunity. A new crop of potential renters arrives every year as the old ones graduate.
Rental prices tend to be more stable in college-adjacent communities, which makes long-term price planning easier than it might be elsewhere. The community amenities that are natural to college towns — restaurants, nightlife, transportation, etc. — market themselves and, in many cases, your renters are backed by loans and/or money from their parents.
”What makes college towns attractive markets? Well, they tend to have strong economies, low unemployment rates and high population growth,” said Alex Shekhtman, founder and CEO of LBC Mortgage. “They are also generally more affordable than major metropolitan areas.”
GOBankingRates heard from a variety of real estate experts from various backgrounds and locations, and the same handful of college towns came up over and over again as excellent places to invest in property.
Ithaca, New York
More experts mentioned Ithaca than just about any other city in America. The small Upstate New York hotspot is home to its namesake college as well as an Ivy League powerhouse. As an added benefit, it’s nestled among some of the most pristine natural beauty in the country that draws tourists from all over the world.
“Ithaca is one of the best investments for a college town investor,” said Shri Ganeshram, CEO of Awning.com, a real estate company for investors. “Housing in Ithaca is inexpensive; and, besides providing a place to live for students of Cornell, it’s also located in the Finger Lakes surrounded by mountains, vineyards and waterfalls.”
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor is a much bigger city than Ithaca with a much bigger student population that generally pays much higher rents — but it’s an attractive market for many of the same reasons as Upstate New York.
“Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the country,” said Jennifer Spinelli, founder and CEO of real estate firm Watson Buys. “Ann Arbor is an attractive real estate market because of its strong job growth, quality of life and affordable housing. The town has a low crime rate and is home to several large employers, including the University of Michigan. The local economy is also bolstered by the presence of several tech startups and a thriving arts scene.”
Like the previous entries on this list, Lawrence has strong economic fundamentals, relative affordability, excellent cultural amenities and, of course, an enviable hometown university.
“Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas and has a population of around 87,000 people,” said Matt Teifke, founder and CEO of Teifke Real Estate. “The city has a thriving economy and is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. Lawrence is also a great place to live if you’re looking for a college town with a more laid-back vibe.”
Like so many other towns on this list, Boulder is attractive because it’s more than just a college town — its stunning natural beauty, booming cultural scene and rising home values are fueling steady population growth.
“Boulder is home to the University of Colorado and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts,” said Shaun Martin, CEO of The Home Buying Company. “The city has breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and is also home to a vibrant arts and music scene.”
If you buy now, it’s likely that your investment will be worth more in the near future.
“The real estate market in Boulder is very competitive, with high demand for both rentals and owner-occupied properties,” Martin said. “Prices have been rising steadily in recent years, and there is potential for continued appreciation.”
When you think of college towns, one of the five largest cities in America might not come to mind, but don’t scratch the City of Brotherly Love off your list just yet.
“As college towns go, Philadelphia is an investor’s dream,” said Brett Rosenthal, Realtor and team leader with the Revolve Philly Group at Compass in Philadelphia. “With nearly 150,000 students attending one of the many colleges and universities in the area, there is always a steady demand for housing.
Rosenthal — who helps investors who specifically come to Philadelphia to buy properties near Temple, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania — cited four main reasons Philly is a winner:
- There is simply not enough on-campus housing to support all of the students
- Philadelphia is still affordable compared to college cities like Washington, D.C.
- Lots of housing is on the market right next to all of the big schools
- Home prices continue to rise in Philly, so most investors can count on appreciation.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Like the other cities on the list, Bowling Green is an attractive college town because the college itself is only part of the draw.
“Bowling Green is the home of Western Kentucky University, which has regional campuses in several nearby cities,” said Barry Richards of the EXIT Realty Garden Gate Team. “Situated on I-65, Bowling Green is a great location for manufacturers, including the headquarters of Fruit of the Loom and the General Motors Corvette plant.
“A cultural scene including the Capitol Theatre and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC), great restaurants, a minor-league baseball team, an amusement park and activities for all ages make Bowling Green an attractive location for buyers working locally or commuting to Nashville.”
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