Investing in College Housing

Invest in Your Future With College Housing in Richmond

With multiple prominent universities and tens of thousands of students, Richmond offers lucrative opportunities for investing in college housing. Purchasing properties near campuses can provide impressive returns through reliable rental income, high occupancy rates, and increased home values over time. While any real estate investment carries risks, college housing stands apart for its resilience and potential profits.

Students need places to live every year, resulting in high demand. Rental income from tenant students can pay much of your mortgage and expenses. The large student population leads to quick filling of vacancies and few missed rental payments. Meanwhile, property values often rise faster near growing universities as demand rises with increasing enrollment.

Investing in college housing allows you to capitalize on the consistent need for student rentals. With careful research and selection, these investments can provide stable passive income that beats stocks and bonds. Renting to students while benefiting from rising property values can secure your financial future. This guide covers the key factors that make Richmond’s college housing market attractive for investors. For a full list of opportunities, check out Investing in Alternative Housing Types, including Sober Living Homes, Low-Income Properties, and Section 8 Housing,

Richmond’s Prominent Universities

Richmond is home to several major universities that draw thousands of students each year. The most prominent include:

  • Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) – With over 30,000 students, VCU is one of the largest universities in Virginia. Its main campus is located in downtown Richmond.
  • University of Richmond – A private liberal arts university with approximately 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The suburban campus is located just west of the city.
  • Virginia Union University – A historically black university that enrolls around 1,500 students. It is located north of downtown Richmond.
  • Virginia State University – A public HBCU located in nearby Petersburg with approximately 4,500 students. Many commute from Richmond.

The high student populations from these and other nearby colleges generate consistent demand for off-campus student housing in the Richmond metro area. Investors can target properties in neighborhoods surrounding the campuses.

High Student Occupancy Rates

One of the most attractive features of investing in college housing in Richmond is the extremely high occupancy rates for off-campus student housing. With multiple major universities in the region, there is a huge consistent demand from students looking for housing close to campus every year.

Occupancy rates for apartments and rental houses near campuses often stay near 100% year-round. As one class graduates, a new class of students moves in to fill vacancies. This provides almost guaranteed occupancy and eliminates most of the vacancy risk commonly associated with rental properties.

The large student populations generate high demand not just during the school year – many students stick around through the summers for jobs and internships. This leads to impressively high occupancy rates for off-campus housing even during the summer months.

The high student occupancy rates lead to very stable and predictable cash flows for real estate investors targeting the college housing market in Richmond. With demand far outpacing supply, investors can expect nearly full occupancy and intense competition for rental units near campuses.

Rental Income Potential

Investing in college housing can provide stable, recurring rental income year after year. Rental rates near campuses in Richmond remain high due to consistent demand from the student population.

According to current market data, average rents for units near the University of Richmond are:

  • Studio apartment: $1,000/month
  • 1 bedroom apartment: $1,300/month
  • 2 bedroom apartment: $1,800/month

Based on these averages, the potential gross rental income on a property with 4 studio units would be $48,000 per year. A duplex with 2 two-bedroom units could generate $43,200 in rental income annually.

Larger apartment buildings with a mix of studio, one, and two bedroom units can produce over $100,000 in gross annual rents. While expenses like maintenance and taxes will offset the net rental income, the potential for steady, predictable income from student tenants makes investment properties around campuses lucrative long-term investments.

Appreciation Potential is High Near Prominent Universities

Investing in real estate near major universities can provide excellent appreciation potential over the long term. Home values tend to rise faster near growing and expanding colleges due to consistent demand from students, faculty, and staff.

For example, over the past 10 years home values within a mile of the University of Richmond have increased by over 50%, handily beating the city average. Areas by Virginia Commonwealth University have seen similar home price growth exceeding the broader market.

There are several factors that point to continued strong appreciation potential for properties located close to large campuses:

  • Ongoing enrollment growth at most universities leads to increasing demand for student, faculty, and staff housing near campuses. From 2010 to 2020, the student population at VCU grew by over 25%.
  • Multi-year waiting lists for on-campus housing at many colleges pushes demand for apartments and single-family rentals higher in surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Major capital investments in new academic buildings, dorms, gyms, and other campus upgrades raise the desirability and profile of adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Low housing inventory near campuses combined with high demand allows landlords to steadily increase rents year-over-year.

The combination of limited supply and ever-growing demand should allow rental properties around Richmond universities to see above-average appreciation for years to come.

Low Vacancy Risk

Investing in student housing near colleges and universities in Richmond comes with an exceptionally low vacancy risk compared to other rental properties. This is due to the consistent, high demand from the large student population which creates a steady stream of tenants.

Each fall, thousands of new students enroll in Richmond’s universities looking for housing. As students graduate or transfer, their units free up for new tenants. This constant turnover ensures a reliable pipeline of renters year after year.

Landlords renting to students can expect lower vacancy rates than other rental properties in the area. While the overall rental vacancy rate in Richmond is around 8%, vacancy rates for student housing remain under 2%. This is because students always need a place to live during the school year.

The low vacancy risk provides stability for investors. Student housing eliminates concerns about long vacancies leading to missed rent payments. With students continually seeking housing, units turn over rapidly between tenants. This produces a steady, predictable rental income.

High Demand from Faculty

Richmond’s prominent colleges and universities not only draw in students looking for housing, but also faculty and staff seeking convenient housing options near campus. Professors, administrators, and other university employees often prefer living within walking or biking distance from their workplace. This provides a steady source of potential tenants and rental income beyond just the student population.

Faculty also tend to sign longer lease agreements than students, sometimes for a full year. This leads to lower turnover rates compared to solely renting to students. Targeting housing options near campuses allows real estate investors to tap into demand from both students and faculty members.

Many professors and staff choose to live near campus to have easy access to campus resources like libraries, dining options, and events. Living right by campus can improve work-life balance by minimizing commute times. New faculty may also be unfamiliar with the Richmond area and find it simpler to rent near campus as they get acquainted with the city.

Overall, the consistent demand for housing from both students and faculty makes investing in rental properties around Richmond universities a lower-risk endeavor. With a built-in pool of potential long-term tenants, vacancy rates and income instability are less of a concern compared to other real estate investments.

Ideal Properties to Target

When looking to invest in college housing in Richmond, you’ll want to target properties with certain ideal characteristics:

Proximity to Campus – Being within walking distance (half a mile or less) to campus is highly desirable for students. Look for properties on streets directly bordering or leading to the university. This allows students to easily get to classes without a car.

2-5 Bedrooms – Most students will rent by the room in shared houses or apartments. Optimal properties will have between 2-5 bedrooms to accommodate groups of students. More bedrooms means you can charge rent per room.

Parking – Off-street parking is a must, even better if covered or garage parking is available. Students will all have cars they’ll want to park on site.

Laundry Facilities – In unit laundry with washer/dryers is preferred over a shared laundry room. Students will pay more for the convenience of doing laundry whenever needed.

Furnished & Utilities – Students expect places to be furnished with basics like beds, desks, seating and appliances. They also prefer all utilities like cable/internet, water, gas, and electric to be included.

Communal Space – Having space like a living room, dining area, patio/balcony, or rec room provides shared common areas for students to gather. This is a selling point.

Target newer properties or updated older homes that have these amenities sought after by students. Location is key, followed by amenities that provide convenience, foster community, and deliver a turnkey housing solution.

Financing and Regulations

When investing in college rental properties, financing and regulations require special consideration.

Overview of Financing

  • Traditional mortgages may be more difficult to obtain for investment properties. Investors often use private lenders, hard money lenders, or commercial loans.
  • Interest rates are typically higher than owner-occupied homes. Expect to pay 0.5-1% higher for investment property loans.
  • Lenders will want to see sufficient cash flow and healthy debt-to-income ratios before approving financing. Having additional income sources or assets helps.
  • Student rental properties are viewed as higher risk. Expect lenders to require 25-30% down payment.
  • Short-term loans like 5/1 ARMs can keep payments lower. But ensure you can pay higher rates or refinance later.

Zoning Regulations

  • Many areas limit the number of unrelated persons who can live together to 3 or 4. Research local ordinances.
  • Properties may be zoned specifically for student housing use. This allows for higher occupancy.
  • Parking requirements, occupancy limits, and safety codes must be followed. Doing major renovations may trigger updated codes.
  • Permitted uses, noise ordinances, and rental registration may apply. Consult the zoning board.

Unique Considerations

  • Some college towns enforce “no car” ordinances for certain student housing areas.
  • Properties built long ago may contain dated materials like asbestos or lead piping. Inspect carefully.
  • Universities often have community relations teams to collaborate with landlords and assist students.
  • Amenities like high-speed internet, shuttle services, furnished units can help attract student tenants.
  • Distance from campus, access to transit, and proximity to nightlife impact appeal.

Does this section on financing and regulations provide a good level of detail and overview for the topic? Let me know if you would like me to modify or expand on any part of it.


Investing in college housing in Richmond provides real estate investors with exciting opportunities thanks to the area’s prominent universities and huge student population. As outlined in this article, key benefits include steady rental income, high occupancy rates, higher appreciation, and low vacancy risk.

With multiple prestigious colleges like Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond, and Virginia Union University driving demand, Richmond’s student housing market is ripe for investment. The city provides access to a large pool of potential tenants seeking housing close to campus.

Target properties include homes, condos, apartments, and multi-family complexes located near major universities. Work with a lender familiar with student housing loans and comply with regulations for rental properties. Leverage your investment to generate passive income for years to come.

If you’re looking for an investment with less risk than traditional rentals, then student housing in Richmond has tremendous upside. The demand is clear, and the opportunities abound. The time is now to add college properties to your real estate portfolio. Reach out to RVA Home Buyers today to learn more and get started on this rewarding venture. Also, check out Diversifying Your Real Estate Portfolio.

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