In Part 1 of my previous article, “College Home Buying Starts Now,” I explored how buying a condo or house for your college-bound child can be a valuable investment, offering financial and other benefits.

To assist you in making this decision, here’s a helpful guide:

Helping your college student establish credit

If you decide to have your college student on the mortgage and deed, you can help your student establish credit prior to making a mortgage loan application by obtaining a credit card in his or her name, preferably a year prior to your house or condo purchase. In addition, if the student has a car, it is a good idea to have a small loan on the car in the student’s name, which can also help your student’s credit rating. It is also a good idea to meet with a mortgage professional to discuss strategies well in advance of a possible purchase.

Method of ownership for the “student property”

It’s necessary to talk to your accountant and attorney to determine the ownership method that works best for you. Some parents will buy the property as a second home or as an owner-occupied property with the student on the deed and loan. Others will treat it 100% as a rental property for additional tax benefits. There are many ways of holding the title including creating a family limited liability company (or FLLC).

One option is to buy a 1-bedroom condo for your student to live in alone. However, a 2-bedroom unit will allow for a roommate, and the rent from the roommate can supplement the mortgage payment. If a 3-bedroom unit or home can be found, the rental income from 2 roommates can help the monthly cash flow even more. Be aware that there are occupancy limits imposed in some communities. In other words, check the local ordinances before deciding if it is okay to have 5 students living in one property. In Boulder, zoning rules allow 3 unrelated people in a low-density zone and 4 unrelated people in a medium or high-density zone.

Even though the potential roommates are typically close friends, it is a good idea to have a written rental agreement for roommates. The roommate rental agreement should cover all of the terms typically found in a residential lease such as:

  • Lease term
  • Rental rate and due date
  • Security deposit
  • Notice to vacate
  • Utility payment agreement
  • Maximum occupancy
  • Parking
  • Pets

Financing for the “student property”

If a condo is being purchased, the type of financing and down payment options available can be determined by the owner occupancy ratio of the condo complex and what particular approvals (FHA, Fannie Mae, etc.) are available. It is good to have the lender check to see if the complex has the approvals for the type of financing you are considering.

Is it better to purchase a house or a condo/townhome?

This decision depends on whether or not the student will be able to maintain a house and be responsible for exterior maintenance, snow removal, lawn care, etc. Often a condo suits student life best since most college students are not interested in mowing the lawn in their free time. Typically, an owner will be paying a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) fee at a condo or townhome in order to cover these maintenance items. This will increase the monthly cost but will ensure that the upkeep and maintenance tasks are completed.

Advantages of a condo for a student

  • No lawn care, snow shoveling, or exterior maintenance
  • Easier to “just leave” for the summer

Disadvantages of a condo for a student

  • Owner occupancy ratio of the complex could affect the ability to purchase, sell or refinance
  • Homeowner’s Association fee may be high and out of your control
  • Loud music or parties might bother nearby neighbors

Advantages of the single-family home

  • No concern over occupancy ratios
  • A single-family home might be easier to resell than a condo since you tend to have more competing properties when selling a condo or townhome
  • Often there is no Homeowner Association fee

Disadvantages of the single-family home

  • The student needs to mow and water the lawn, shovel snow, and maintain the home
  • Neighborhood may be less friendly to a group of students living there

What to do with the rental property when the student is ready to move on

When the student is ready to move on and has hopefully graduated, there are a few options to consider. The owners can keep the property as an investment rental, the former student may keep it as their first home, or you can exchange it for a real estate investment somewhere else. As an example, one family I worked with purchased a property for their first child who attended and graduated from CU-Boulder, then sold the property in Boulder and bought a new property in a different college town where their next child was planning to attend school.

Potential financial benefits include:

  • Possible appreciation in value
  • Possible tax benefits
  • Debt reduction on an amortized loan which increases equity build up
  • Keep as an investment after college for cash flow

Buying a home for your college student is a major decision. By consulting the right professionals, you can develop a housing plan that offers numerous short- and long-term benefits for both your student and your family.

Duane graduated with a business degree and a major in real estate from the University of Colorado in 1978. He has been a Realtor® in Boulder since that time. He joined RE/MAX of Boulder in 1982 and has facilitated over 2,500 transactions over his career. Living the life of a Realtor and being immersed in real estate led to the inception of his book, Realtor for Life. For questions, e-mail, call 303.441.5611 or visit