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Teen Headed To College? 5 Off-Campus Housing Tips

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30 percent of all first-year students live on campus, and an additional 27 percent live off-campus away from their parents. However, when college students are included, from freshmen to seniors, on-campus housing is only utilized by 20 percent of the nationwide student body. 

Clearly a large percentage of students will eventually need off-campus housing. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of rental options available, including houses, but it is essential for students and parents to carefully consider many factors before selecting a place to rent or buy. If the main objective is for the parents to buy a property that the child can use during his college years, and then turn it into an investment property after, you must look at the following points from both sides of the coin, as a lessee and lessor.

Five Things To Look For In Off-Campus Housing

1. Renting or Buying – It is necessary to stay within a reasonable budget, but you also need to consider the fact that each area has an average rental rate. Attempting to go too far below this rate will force students to live in areas that are undesirable. Therefore, you should research the area under consideration. For example, if your college-bound teen wants to attend school in Austin, Texas, you can look up average rental rates online or consult an experienced realtor to help you explore your options and set an appropriate budget. A directory such as Movoto will help you localize the search areas since Austin is home to numerous universities and colleges. As buyers, parents need to look into areas that properties have a history of holding their value.

How about being the landlord instead of the tenant? You could purchase a house near campus, install your son or daughter, and pay off the mortgage by renting rooms to other coeds. This is a great way to house your college student, invest in income property, and generate income long term—as a landlord—or short term—by selling up after your young genius graduates.

2. Solid Security – For most parents facing an empty nest, their child’s safety is as important as their education. Obviously gated apartment complexes with on-site security patrols are preferable for the student and for their parent’s peace of mind. If this is beyond your budget, you can still research the crime statistics online by zip code, and the local police department can give you detailed information about a specific neighborhood. Keep in mind that the cheaper the rent is, the more likely it is that the house or apartment might be located in or near a high crime area. Even if the asking sale price might be affordable, consider how easily or difficult it would be for you to rent to other students in that area.

3. Responsive Landlord – Many people have funny or scary stories from their college years about having rented an apartment from a slumlord. Today, even for the most fearless or adventurous student, that’s simply not a wise option. Signing on the dotted line with an unresponsive landlord can mean signing up for all kinds of headaches: minimal security; poor lighting in hallways; neglected electrical and plumbing repairs; and infrequent trash collection, to name a few. If the student has a car, does the landlord provide safe well-lit parking near the building?

An indifferent absentee landlord can leave students to fend for themselves in a stressful environment, and this is not conducive to proper studying. Look for online reviews of the landlord under consideration. Talk to current tenants about their experiences. Scrutinize the lease carefully before signing.

When you are the landlord, you need to treat your renters in the same way that you would like your own child to be treated. This means taking care of repairs or maintenance in a timely manner and keeping the area safe.

4. Campus Access – Off-campus housing should not involve intensive daily commuting. Simply choosing a nice place to rent in the right city is not enough to ensure that a student will be able to easily access their classes. This is especially true in cases where the student will be relying on public transportation.

Assess the distance between each rental property that you are considering and the closest mode of public transportation that goes near the campus, both buses and trains. What’s the traffic like during rush hour? Are bus stops well lit at night? Do buses run reliably even in the evening? If the subway is involved, how safe and reliable is this service? Does the school provide shuttle service to the area where your child or your future renter will live?

5. Local Amenities – As appetizing as an area with lots of bars and restaurants might be to a college kid, it can spell disaster for their health. Look for communities with basic amenities: a grocery store; a convenience store; and a drug store. Are they all within walking distance? Do any of them offer student discounts? Is there a minimal care clinic nearby in case of emergencies?

As parents, we want the best for our children. A positive college experience is one of them. Where they live plays a huge part in that experience. When you find the perfect housing arrangement for your child, you are helping to make his college years memorable.

Freelance writer Nadine Swayne knows how crucial it is for parents to know what to look for and what questions to raise when shopping for safe off-campus housing for their young charges. Whether renting or buying, a local realtor can relieve some of the stress for parents and child.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hayesandjenn/4732804181/

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Teen Headed To College? 5 Off-Campus Housing Tips
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