Are you thinking of becoming a College-Town Landlord/Investor?

So, you have joined the MULTI-DWELLING UNITS league and purchased your first, second or 20th multi unit property but perhaps this is your first in a college town.

Our definition of a college town is a locale dominated by 1 or more post secondary institutions as such this universe is occupied by students from 1st year, to graduate school to PhD’s. Consequently the businesses that thrive are those that are flexible to student migration needs and school schedules.

During this developmental stage – Students are not the most informed on rental housing rules or regulations but desire stability, safe housing and a good sound board.

  1. A good sound board –  A relationship between landlord and student often goes bad when either party is not listening effectively, so avoid this crash and burn scenario by listening more( landlord) to what your student’s needs are without becoming a dictator or push over.
  2. Individual self contained units  –  The lifestyle of a student  is somewhat similar to that of an “only child” where “me” overrides “We”, so the less shared amenities the better, as you cannot expect full cooperation from these growing children. Their priorites at school is good grades, great friends and parties,  and not necessarily sharing household chores.
  3. Common Kitchen or  Ensuite Kitchen – The ensuite kitchen approach works much better as it ensures sole responsibility for the use and care of the appliances, when its shared there is often a lot of passing the buck.
  4. Ensuite 3 pc and 4 pc bathrooms – Bathroom duty is definitely not the favorite chore on anyone’s list of to do’s and remember if they wanted to share a bathroom they might as well live on campus residence or a dormitory.
  5. Furnished or unfurnished – If the most each room needs is a bed, a desk, and a lamp and you can provide this comfortably without hurting your cash flow then great.  Otherwise renting it unfurnished is best, less risky and more hygienic.
  6. Windows – Aim for having a window in each room. a little sunlight and some fresh air does more good for the human mind  and body, for anyone but especially students.
  7. Flooring – Laminate or engineered flooring would be best for the bedrooms and ceramic for areas such as hallways, kitchen, and bathrooms. These reduce the problems of allergens, carpet burns or stains, and the  repetitive routine carpet cleaning due to seasonal renting patterns.
  8. Location – Think accessibility by public transportation, think safety, think amenities. Students don’t need much but they do need food, a means to get to school (walking, biking or rollerblading) and entertainment (movies, gym, bowling alley, indoor golf, community recreation arena).
  9. Laundry Facilities – In a multi unit building, you should consider commercial grade washers and dryers with coin operation.  Because due to the number of users or frequency of use, a lower grade apartment grade washer will have a short life span. Alternatively for the units that have separate electricity meters, you could place en-suite washers and dryers as these individuals can enjoy the convenience and bear the additional responsibility.
  10. Landscaping and Snow Removal – Outsourcing this responsibility is the wisest and safest decision for any landlord or property management company. Even if the tenant’s offer, politely decline as often what occurs is “good intentions, but poor planning or execution”.
  11. Electricity –  For seasonal based rentals a preferable approach is central all inclusive billing, as there is no incentive for a student to transfer electricity bills into their name for 8 months of the year, only to cancel and reopen a new account each time they move. Again remember growing adults are more prone to excesses, so if you already have individual metered units leave as is.
  12. Water Usage- Review the historical water usage patterns and if it falls within a reasonable range, then  leave as central all inclusive of the rental rate charged.
  13. Parking Spots – If the legal age for obtaining a license is 16,  then you must have a few parking spots to spare, as students often inherit their parent’s beaters, or attimes receive vehicles as their coming of age gifts.
  14. Inspections –  Its highly recommended you have such properties on a pre-scheduled maintenance plan for items such as filter changes, smoke alarm checks, furnace checkups, central air conditioning tune ups, and air quality checks.
  15. Central Air Recycling – Investing in a good quality air recycling filter system is worthwhile as it will ensure a consistent air quality in the building regardless of the age of the home and/or if the residents open the windows frequently or not.
  16. Garbage disposal – Unlike Condos, Multiplex’s have no automatic garbage chutes available, but ensure there are sufficient bins for compost, garbage and recyclables. Storage of these bins should be outside, but visible enough for pick up by City Services.
  17. Central Air Conditioning /Fans – You are better off installing a central air-conditioning unit , than installing ceiling fans or individual air condition units in each unit. Though if you have separately metered units, charging for the electricity that runs the air conditioner may be tricky but achievable as the use of air conditioners is seasonal and does not exceed 3 to 4 months in any given year.
  18. Maintenance Trust Fund –  Put aside 20-30% of all your 1st and last month’s deposit towards the Maintenance trust fund.  So that if an emergency repair is required you have funds available to promptly remedy the situation without a dent to your cash flow.
  19. Hire a  trusted and committed property management company – So this is the last item but the most important, do not attempt to do it yourself, the time commitment, emotional investment and effort is far greater than you can imagine. Simply delegate this responsibility and buy yourself freedom to live your life fully. In deciding should I hire a local company or not, this will depend on your level of trust you have in the company you decide upon. Because regardless of location, the trust you have in the company and their level of commitment should not waver. As a general rule of thumb, never do business with someone just because they are in your city.


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