In college I once ate a whole pound of sharp cheddar cheese.
The dare, of course, was to eat two pounds, and I failed miserably. I just couldn't get past the first pound of cheddar, and to this day, I still have trouble enjoying a nice bowl of mac ‘n cheese.
I'm sure you have similar stories of doing stupid stuff to impress a girl (or guy), laugh with friends, or just because you were bored. College is all about those moments (with some learning time thrown in for good measure) and I don't think you should stop. Live it up!
However, college is also a prime time of your life to start thinking about your financial future.
You are reading a financial blog, so I don't need to go into all the motivational ins and outs of why it's important to start building wealth at a young age. You already know that the earlier you start, the earlier you'll finish. However, what you probably don't know is how to use real estate as a tool to shape financial future. In fact, you may think that you are too young to even think about investing in real estate while in your college years.
Investing in real estate during your college years is not only plausible — there are multiple ways to do it and many young people are doing it. Below, I've outlined four different ways that you can start investing in real estate during your college years so you can start crafting your financial future today.
Alright, I'm going to start with kind of a wimpy one — but perhaps the most important. You see, when most individuals decide they want to invest in real estate, there is a lot to learn. There are dozens of different niches a person could invest in (single-family properties, multifamily, apartments, commercial, notes, etc.) and dozens of different strategies you could use (like flipping, wholesaling, land-lording, etc.). So it takes some time to get a grasp on what kind of investing is out there, what piques your interest the most, and what is most beneficial for your future.
This is why I believe education is the first investment you should make in your real estate journey. No — I'm not talking about paying some guru with big cars and big hair $40,000 for a weekend boot camp. I'm talking about investing your time. Use your college years to find out what kind of avenues exist for investing, and see what stands out to you.
There are numerous ways to get educated on the cheap, including:
- Taking real investors out to coffee
Information has been democratized online, so take advantage of all the great free information there is out there. It may take some time to fully decide what you want to invest in, but that's why doing this during college is so important — so even if you wait to invest, you don't have to waste time once you get out. You can hit the ground running.
You might also want to continue your education outside of college by enrolling in a mortgage licensing program. These programs are available online and will teach you about important topics like the Truth in Lending Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and Regulation B.
Taking this program online provides flexibility, which allows you to continue on with your college education, while learning about a topic that will help you to make smart investments now and in the future. The more you know about mortgages and the lending industry, the better investment decisions you will make — especially when it comes to investing in real estate.
However, if you are looking for ways you can actually invest while in college, the remaining few tips should give some specific ways.
2. REITs and Syndication: Hands-Off Investing
If you are looking for the easiest way to invest in real estate without needing to actually get your hands dirty (literally or physically) you may consider investing your cash in either a REIT or a syndication. Let me explain the differences:
REIT: A REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust, is a real estate holding company that invests in real estate using funds from shareholders, similar to a mutual fund. They might buy shopping malls, skyscrapers, or any other kind of real estate and distribute most of their profits to their investors. You can invest in a REIT with minimal amounts of money, the same way you would invest in mutual funds, by speaking to a financial advisor.
Syndications: A real estate syndication is a group of individuals who get together to buy a real estate deal. As a college student, you may not have enough cash to buy an apartment complex, but you may have enough to be a 1/6 partner in a down payment on a small apartment. Syndications are typically built from relationships, so go back to step one and get educated and start reaching out to fellow investors!
However, if you are looking for a more hands-on approach, with the potential for greater risk/return, there are a few other options you might consider.
3. Wholesaling: Bringing Together Buyers and Sellers
Wholesaling might conjure up images of checking out of Costco with 4,000 rolls of toilet paper in preparation for the apocalypse — but it's nothing like that. Wholesaling real estate involves finding properties from homeowners who are eager to sell, signing a contract to buy that property, and then selling that contract to another investor, usually for between $2,000 and $5,000 or more.
Essentially, you are being paid to be the middleman, to connect a motivated seller with a “cash buyer” (usually a house flipper) and exiting the transaction, paycheck in hand, without ever owning the property.
Wholesaling is popular among new investors because of the illusion that it is “easy” — but it's anything but. Wholesaling takes education, hard work, heavy marketing, and good people skills to excel at, but there can be significant pay-off if done correctly. For more information on wholesaling, check out this post on how to get started.
College is a great time to be a wholesaler because you don't need a lot of money, but can do it by simply “driving for dollars” which means driving up and down every street and finding vacant houses and tracking down the owners. Will most deals pan out? No! But might 1 in a 100? Perhaps!
With the money you make from wholesaling, you can pay off student loans or parlay your income into some bigger investments, such as a single-family house or duplex. This is another awesome way for you, as a college student, to invest — so let's talk about that briefly.
4. A College Landlord
Another excellent way to start investing in real estate during your college years is by purchasing a home or small multifamily property (such as a duplex, triplex, or four-plex) and living in the property while renting out the extra space to other college students or individuals. Demand for rentals in college towns is often extremely high — though it's important to structure leases appropriately so you aren't left vacant all summer long!
Obviously, this strategy requires some more heavy lifting, as you'll likely need a down payment and closing costs — but using an FHA government-insured loan (which are readily available) you can get into a property for under 5% of the purchase price.
If you don't have the income or credit to qualify for your own mortgage, perhaps you have family or friends who would like to partner with you in your adventure?
For example, let's say you found a large six-bedroom house for $200,000 near your college, and your parents are willing to “partner” with you on this deal. They decide to put a down payment of 20% ($40,000) and you and your parents take out a loan for $160,000 at 4.5% interest for 30 years. Your total monthly payment would end up right around $800 per month, plus a couple hundred for taxes and insurance — so let's round your expenses to $1,000 per month. If you can rent out each of the remaining bedrooms for $400 each, you could bring in almost $2,000 per month.
Obviously there are expenses that will come up, like bedrooms sitting empty, repairs, and more. However, if you focus on finding an incredible deal, you can really make a killing as a college landlord.
Another great benefit of this strategy is the ability to learn how to be a landlord, a skill that could come in really handy in your real estate future. Dealing with tenant drama and minimizing hassles via appropriate systems is part of a landlord's life so the earlier you learn, the faster you'll grow.
Where to Go from Here
Obviously, real estate investing isn't for everyone at any time. Maybe you are too busy eating blocks of cheese.
However, I bought my first piece of property at 21 (six years ago) and one of my biggest regrets is not starting when I was 20, 19, or 18. It's truly never too early to start thinking about your future, and the methods I've outlined above can be some great options for getting started during your college years.
Don't stop college pranks, college dares, and college dates. Enjoy your college years!
However, next time you are sick to the stomach from the pound of cheese you tried to consume, take a minute and start planning how you can use your position to start investing in real estate while in college.
Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor and the Senior Editor at BiggerPockets.com. If you are interested in learning more about the basics of investing in real estate, check out the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing or his article How to Invest in Real Estate at a Young Age.