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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

College towns no longer just a lure for students

By Tom Kelly

National surveys attempting to determine the best places to live continue to include several college towns. The small-town environment is attractive for its slower pace and the athletic facilities and educational programs offered by the school.

College towns also remind many aging baby boomers of the places where they grew up or received their education and where they ultimately would like to return.

For example, two couples my wife and I have known for years recently purchased a home near a popular university. When I asked if the homes were going to be college rental investments, I was told that both couples plan to make the homes their primary residences.

One couple who wanted to be closer to two grown daughters had signed up to do volunteer work in the area. The other couple planned to use the home as a jumping off point for boating vacations.

While there’s no hard data on the subject, there is anecdotal evidence that many people would jump at the chance to sell their family home and “move down” to a smaller home in a different environment such as a college town.

Not everyone can sell their home and move right away. However, given the lower home prices throughout much of the country, why not investigate ways of getting the home you want tomorrow at today’s price? Homeowners over 62 could consider a reverse mortgage for purchase. If the market is slow in your area, you could consider offering your buyer a lease with an option to buy. The same strategy could work for you by offering the seller of the home you want to buy a lease option.

Here are a few key components to the lease option:

• The buyer and seller agree on a purchase price, usually a figure somewhere between today’s market value and the anticipated market value 12 months down the road.

• The seller gives up tomorrow’s presumably higher value for money in hand today. The buyer pays a bit more than today’s value in exchange for very little cash down. Let’s say buyer and seller agree the price will be $335,000.

• The seller charges the buyer a nonrefundable fee for agreeing to this option. The amount can vary depending on factors such as how eager the seller is to move and the size and quality of the house. Typically, the higher the fee, the better the buyer maintains the property.

Let’s use $3,000 for the fee in our hypothetical transaction. The fee is in addition to the monthly lease payments. And we’ll have the seller give the buyer the right to purchase the property for $335,000 at any time within the 12-month lease period. If the option is exercised, the fee could be considered part of the down payment.

The lessee has made no down payment, hence the monthly option fee is typically higher than rental market rates. The two parties agree on what portion of the rent will be applied to the down payment. Any amount can be credited. For example, if the monthly fee is $2,000, $800 could be credited to the down payment. (If the seller really is not eager to sell, he may not agree to a higher rent credit.)

Buyer and seller must be sure to specify both lease and sale terms in the agreement. For example, when the time comes for the buyer to exercise the option, if the interest rates are at 8 percent, the buyer may not be able to qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to set an interest-rate ceiling in the agreement, or ask the seller to finance the home when conventional rates hit a certain level.

There are plenty of potential renters (other than undergraduates) associated with a college or university that would be happy to rent a comfortable place close to campus. The number of visiting professors to college campuses always is underestimated, as are the number of staffers (secretaries, security, catering, librarians) who often are terrific rental-lease prospects.

Notes to human resource representatives have worked wonders in landing mature renters, as have inquiries posted in faculty lounges and on-campus faculty living areas. Graduate students (some married) also form a significant renter pool. Sometimes, professors seek alternative housing for highly coveted students.

If you want to move down the road, especially to a college town, see what’s possible today. Some owners need to sell and could be open to different types of financing. A purchase at today’s prices could save you money, return you to your roots and perhaps achieve your goal. It could also provide you with a huge pool of renters until you get there.

Tom Kelly is a former real estate editor for the Seattle Times. His book “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border” was written with Mitch Creekmore of Stewart International.
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