Renting to college students can be a smart move if you’re prepared for some of the unique property management challenges and can offer in-demand amenities.
Off-campus student housing is often seen as “recession resistant” and has seen strong performance recently, says Ryan Lang, vice chairman and head of New York-based commercial real estate firm Newmark’s student housing group.
Total enrollment at degree-granting postsecondary schools is projected to rise 1.6% between 2022 and 2028, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But where those numbers will land depends on the region and type of institution.
Here’s what to look for as you evaluate student housing markets.
When Philadelphia-based Campus Apartments invests in student rentals, the business analyzes the specific university as carefully as it does the property, focusing on unique campus characteristics and student demographics, says Miles Orth, COO at Campus Apartments.
Most investors look for schools with at least 20,000 students and powerhouse athletic programs, like those in the Big 10, Southeastern, Big 12, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast conferences, Lang says.
“Students want to go to schools with great access to amenities and entertainment,” he says.
Don’t forget to consider whether the college is considered a “commuter school.” If a large share of the student body commutes from home rather than living locally, there might be less demand for student apartments.
It’s also a good idea to leverage local market data to get an understanding of rents, vacancy rates and operational costs at competitive properties.
Undergrads aren’t the only people looking for rental housing close to campus. Harbor Property Management, which owns small- and medium-sized apartment buildings near the University of Chicago, often rents to graduate students and faculty. Harrison Cohen, co-founder and principal, says Harbor doesn’t target properties to specific groups within the university community, but a property’s location — for instance, whether it’s near the law school or close to the undergraduate campus — often influences which group it attracts.
Read more from this series on student housing for real estate investors:
3 things to know before investing in student housing
What students want in apartment rentals