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4 Things to Consider Before Buying a Boston Home Near a College

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The greater Boston area is home to more than 50 colleges and universities, including Boston College, Northeastern University, Boston University, Berklee College of Music and Harvard University, to name just a few. When looking to purchase a property near a college campus – whether you're a student, professor, parent or investor – there are certain things to keep in mind.

U.S. News spoke with some of Boston's top real estate agents, as identified by real estate technology company Agent Explore (a U.S. News partner), to get the lowdown on what buying nearing a Boston campus entails.

Living near a college has its benefits.

Frank Celeste, an agent with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, says there are many reasons buyers might want to live near an institution of higher education. "Most colleges have an array of public transportation options on, or within a few minutes of, their campus locations," he says. "Their neighborhoods offer a very diversified assortment of entertainment and dining establishments, so it's a very social, engaging environment as well."

Many people like the lively environment around a university, agrees Cheryll Getman, senior sales associate at Hammond Residential Real Estate. "These communities have a lot of restaurants, shops and public transportation," she says.

Buyers run the gamut.

Celeste says, "The marketplace runs from a new freshman student with parents buying a condo for their child to lock in overhead costs during their stay here, to highly noted and seasoned post-doctoral instructors coming to teach at some of the noteworthy graduate schools Boston has to offer."

Amy Bofman, associate broker at Engel & Voelkers Boston, agrees and says she sees a lot of families buying condos for their college-age kids. "It offsets costs and they see Boston as a good investment," she says. She adds that many international families want their kids near their college, but in buildings with concierges, for added security. She also says parents sometimes will simply buy a condo to have somewhere to stay when they come for school visits.

Smart investors will also scoop up properties in order to turn them into student rental units. Bofman says she's seen that in the Mission Hill area, where investors will purchase multifamily homes and turn them into four separate units with two bedrooms, perfect for students attending Northeastern University. She also says the Fenway area is quickly becoming popular, especially with all the recent development there – and it's convenient to Boston University.

You may face some unique challenges if you're not a student.

Celeste says, "Owner-occupant buyers want to be aware of the owner occupancy in any condominium buildings they are contemplating because banks like a 50 to 60 percent owner-occupancy rate or higher to lend on a conventional conforming basis. Anything less than that can limit financing options."

Bofman agrees banks can be "tough" when looking at a building that rents to a large number of students. "They want a certain owner occupancy," she says.

Getman says buyers should know what they are getting into, especially when moving into a neighborhood with a large student population or a condo building with a lot of students. "They should be mindful if they are for students," she says. "They can get rowdy."

Another thing to keep in mind is that it's likely more people will be moving in and out on a consistent basis, which might be disruptive. Finally, some owners are less-than-ideal landlords, taking advantage of a somewhat transient population, so the quality of the building's maintenance and care might be lacking.

The same is true if you're renting to students.

If you're buying a property to rent to students, Getman says, know that you may need to redo floors, repaint walls or otherwise refresh the place between tenants. "There is quite a bit of work after each lease is up. Students aren't that mindful of keeping it clean," she says.

Celeste notes investors should watch out for the condo rules. "Investor buyers have to be very aware of the newer amendments condo associations have started to implement, such as longer-term minimum rental periods to avoid short-term Airbnb rentals taking place in their buildings," he says.

Bofman adds Boston is one place where landlords can legally discriminate against students. "Some buildings don't allow undergraduates," she says. She explains that some owners just don't want to deal with the expense and overhead.

But while potential landlords should be aware that they'll have to do general maintenance each year, says Bofman, the benefits often outweigh any issues. Boston is an area many investors think of as "bulletproof," she says.

Looking for a real estate agent in Boston? U.S. News’ Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who’s most qualified for the job.