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College Financing and Career Guide 2007
Getting started in life
There will be a lot of firsts now. See how getting off to a sound start will pay dividends for a lifetime.
Getting started in life
Cut room and board costs by buying house
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Freshman restrictions: Some schools don't allow students to live off campus their first year, although housing shortages may spawn school-sanctioned exceptions. Parental ownership of property in town might also get the restriction waived. Call the university before making a housing decision. Also, consider that your freshman child may find it tougher to adjust to college life while dealing with housing issues.

Cost, equity equation: Weigh the annual cost of a dorm or apartment in the targeted town versus yearly mortgage and insurance payments and upkeep expenses on a home you might buy. For that home's investment potential, consider the quality of neighborhood and recent annual appraisal trend. And remember, there is no equity in apartment or dorm rentals.

Economies of scale: The profit potential is greater if your family has one or more other kids coming down the college pipeline who are separated in age by only a handful of years and could share the house, says Coldwell Banker spokesman Chris Clark.

To sublease or not to sublease: You can rent out spare bedrooms to other students, but make sure they provide references. "He's a really good guy" might seem an ample endorsement in your child's mind, but maybe not on your bottom line.

Home maintenance: "You would expect your own children would take care of your place," says John Moss, a broker with Keller Williams in Dallas. But will they? A lawnmower, edger and other equipment will be needed. Depending on climate and complexity of landscaping and your kid's school and work schedules, a lawn service might work better.

Will the kid cook? Cooking at home will cut costs, but if your student always eats out, there are still ways to economize. University meal plans, for example, are usually available to off-campus students.

Furnishings and appliances: If you don't have family furnishings to spare, arrive a few weeks before school starts and hit some summer garage or estate sales. You might time this visit to coincide with roommate interviews. As for appliances, the more built-ins, the better.

Transportation: Locate too far from campus and transportation costs begin to weigh negatively on the big picture. Ideally, homes not in walking distance to campus should be near a bus or rail line. If you have to throw a car into the expenses, its payments, parking and insurance can skew your cost basis.

Bill paying: If your child is an economics or business major, he or she can probably be relied upon to make a timely house payment and utility payment to maintain your fine credit record. But the pitfalls of "probably" may be worse than the old "assume."

-- Posted: July 02, 2007
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