Ever since the real estate bubble burst a few years ago, many have shied away from investing in what was previously considered one of the hottest investments around: real estate.
However, now that the market is slowly on the mend, you may be toying around with the idea of looking for property to invest in. One place you should definitely consider? College campuses in Philadelphia and the areas around them.
“The abundant number of growing universities in the Philadelphia area has created a high demand for student housing,” said Matin Haghkar, a realtor and real estate investor in Philadelphia. “These universities have high tuition costs and it’s expensive to live in on-campus dorms; this allows local landlords to be competitive in their rental pricing.” Additionally, schools restrict tenants/students in the dorms by not allowing certain freedoms, such as pets and painting, so the idea of living off-campus becomes much more enticing.
It also doesn’t hurt that Philadelphia is located less than two hours from New York, Atlantic City, and Washington D.C. “Real estate prices are still very low compared to most major cities, which is another reason why these properties have consistently been appreciating in value over time during the recession when other locations were suffering,” said Haghkar.
If the idea of renting to teens and very young adults sounds like a big risk, Haghkar said to consider that you’re not only renting to college students—you’re renting to their parents as well. In many cases, those who send their children to universities often have a better socioeconomic standing, so they can either afford to pay for their child’s rent or co-sign for them. As a result, there’ll be less of a chance that rent won’t be paid on time.
One of the best aspects about investing in these particular areas is that there will always be a need for college students to find a place to live. “At the end of the day, my university-based real estate investments didn’t decrease in value during the recession when many other investments decreased for investors across the country,” he added.
According to Haghkar, these factors have given him the ability to buy investment properties earning upwards of 14 percent per year for both himself and his investors/clients. Not too shabby.
If you’re considering making the investment, Haghkar offered a few pieces of advice.
First, location is everything.
“The property on one block might cost 30 percent less than the property on the next block, however it might not be worth it because no students are willing to live on that block,” Haghkar said.
Although investing in university areas is a smart decision, there are some that are more investor-friendly than others. On the other hand, some areas may already be saturated with real estate investors, so there’s too much supply and not enough tenants.
Second, you need to make sure the timing is right.
“When you are trying to keep your properties occupied, you need to market your property at the exact right time; each university has a certain deadline for signing up for housing and you need to be sure to catch that wave,” he added. “If you do, renting out your property is easy. However, if you miss the “hot” season, your property may sit empty.”
Lastly, Haghkar said to make sure you contact a realtor with specific experience in this facet of real estate investing. By working with an experienced realtor, he or she can help you avoid mistakes and ensure you purchase property on a popular block where there are no restrictions established by the university or city.
And if you do make it big, Haghkar said to consider hiring a property manager. But be cautious, as this can be tricky; some companies won’t manage your property the way you would, but good help is essential to growth.
The investment opportunity can be a good one, but you need to understand where the pitfalls are.