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The Washington Scene

There's a Term for It: "Kiddie Condo"

October 06, 1985|JOHN BETZ WILLMANN | Special to The Times

WASHINGTON — When President Reagan, Lee Iacocca, Dick Turpin and I attended different colleges in the era just before and after World War II, students lived in dormitories, fraternity/sorority houses or commuted from home as day students.

There are still college dorms, fraternity/sorority houses and commuter students. But there's also a new breed of students who live in an off-campus apartment or town house. He or she and friends share the space and rent. The trend in the current generation is to live off campus.

But in the 1980s, another term, "kiddie condo," crept into the part of the real estate and building industries that caters to college towns and city areas dominated by a big university, according to Washington realty maven Edwin L. Stoll.

Stoll, who financed two daughters through two different colleges in recent years, said more and more realtors in college communities are finding it increasingly common to sell condo apartments, town houses or even old single-family houses to parents whose sons and daughters are attending college.

Shelter, Tax Advantage

Veteran Washington realtor Joseph C. Murray agreed that parents are discovering that deals can be structured in several ways to get a student into a new unit--thereby obtaining shelter for the student and a tax advantage for the parents. Murray, whose specialty has been property management, said that it is becoming fairly common for parents to buy an apartment and then rent the unit to the student son or daughter at a fair-market price.

"That's a bit of a switch," Murray said, "because now some college kids are sending home the monthly rent rather than writing home for money." Of course, the kicker is that education-subsidizing parents have to set up a checking account for the son or daughter to be assured that the rent will be paid.

Stoll noted that in Berkeley, rent control created a low turnover rate in rentals so that housing 30,000 University of California students became a major problem for the university and the city. Because condo apartments are relatively few in Berkeley, some parents bought small houses and subdivided them into private rooms. Stoll added that "kiddie condo" purchases are reported active in Palo Alto, home of Stanford University.

Condo Sales Slow

Murray said that condo sales to parents of collegians account for relatively few sales in the nation's capital area which has five major universities. One reason is that condo sales are exceptionally slow here. But Nanette Fields, a broker in Chapel Hill, N.C., home of the University of North Carolina, noted that "kiddie condo" type sales and deals are happening in "all the many college towns around here."

Some of the student condos are apartment conversions but others are new units built as condominiums with college roommates in mind. In the new buildings, each bedroom usually has its own bath and sometimes a fireplace or a small "wet" bar.

At the University of Texas in Austin, a broker reported that there were relatively few condo apartment projects near the campus four years ago, but now such developments exceed 100. In Pittsburgh, realty professionals reported that students at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University are increasingly opting for condo living off campus.

Finally, a personal note. When our son was in a Virginia college where the son of a Washington area realtor was also in attendance, I learned the difference between being a real estate observer and a real estate activist-professional. My son set up a rental in a town house with three other young men.

Realtor George Shafran bought a town house for his son. The son collected the rents and kept the peace. When my son finished college, he had some rent receipts. When Shafran's son finished, he had a town house that had appreciated several thousand dollars, the tax benefits of owning a rental property and a good lesson on how to succeed in business while attending college.

P.S.: My son bought a small town house within eight months after leaving college.

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