Investing in off campus property could save students money

As GW continues to top lists of the most expensive universities in the country, a recent article in the Washington Post said that students and their parents could potentially save money by buying property in D.C., rather than live in University housing.

Although this would not be an option for freshmen and sophomores due to zoning laws that mandate they live on campus, the Post found several benefits to buying off campus property.

According to the Post report, “[b]y buying a place and taking out a mortgage, non-deductible dorm rents can be converted into tax-deductible mortgage interest payments.”

Additionally, investing in real estate near colleges “with a never-ending source of new tenants,” could prove to be a lucrative long-term investment for those able to buy.

The writer, a real estate lawyer, notes that GW housing can cost about $840 per month for one-quarter to one-half of a dorm room, and added that University housing is not available without extra charges for a significant part of the year, including summer break. Parents stand to save traveling and storage expenses if their student’s belongings can stay put year-round in a property they own.

Students could potentially pay down a mortgage and other expenses by renting rooms to friends, the article said. It also noted that there are expenses associated with owning an apartment or townhouse that students and parents would not encounter if students stayed on campus.

“Of course, when making a decision, parents should factor in the cost of furnishings, vacancies, repairs, wear and tear, replacements and utilities. Transactional cost of buying and eventually selling . . . must also be counted in total cost of ownership,” the article said.

Senior Sarah Mersky lives off campus with another GW student, and said buying an apartment or condo unit would be a promising investment with so many potential student tenants each year.

“My mom wishes she had purchased when prices were down,” Mersky said. Mersky emphasized the ease of apartment shopping and of finding someone to sublet in the city, and said many of her younger friends have expressed interest in taking over the apartment once she graduates this spring.

University spokeswoman Emily Cain said it’s a personal choice whether a student decides to live on or off campus, but said there are benefits for students who live on campus, including resources and programs offered with residence halls.

“Whether students choose to live in GW housing or not, research has shown that students who live on campus are more involved in classes and activities and more likely to graduate,” Cain said.

Mersky said she thinks upperclassmen that choose to stay on campus often do so because their financial aid package includes housing costs.

“For seniors, there’s no reason not to live off campus, especially if you work here in the summer,” Mersky said. “Who still wants to use a GWorld?”

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