Crazy idea to save or profit on college housing.

This post is a bunch of facts followed by a bunch of questions.  This is how my mind works.  I probably won’t make a move.  I may regret it.  I saw a house on Zillow and had a crazy idea to save or profit on college housing.


Saw this house on Zillow.  50 m from Roanoke College campus.  Drove 20 minutes to Salem, and walked past it this morning.  Totally run down, but I could make it nice.  The lot is big, has parking for several cars, and street parking is prohibited.  The houses on the street are run down, but the cars are nice.  There are beautiful historic homes on the next street.  Zillow price estimate at $99,000.  Foreclosure auction in 9 days at the Salem Courthouse.  Room and board at $13,000 at Roanoke College is very high. Local students can claim they are commuters, and rent a place near campus.  JumpStart Jr. is awaiting the results of a scholarship competition, and the outcome will decide if RC is a little pricey or affordable.


  • How many people will show up to bid?
  • Will the auction really be a bargain?
  • How could I get $80,000 in an account within the next 9 days?
  • How do you register for an auction?
  • Will my school get me a substitute next Monday?
  • What if the scholarship results are small, and JumpStart Jr. doesn’t pick RC?
  • Will my daughter (age 15) like Roanoke College?
  • Will my daughter get enough merit money to make RC feasible?
  • Will some of my brother’s 4 kids (younger than mine) want RC?
  • How hard would it be to find some local RC kids who want to rent a room?
  • Is the street full of rich RC students in run down houses?
  • What does it look like inside the house?
  • Could some small bed/bathrooms be added in basement?
  • Would a small addition on the back of the house, be easier than the basement that might get water?
  • Will my kid or tenants get into real trouble with the Salem Police, instead of less trouble with the nicer Roanoke College Campus Police?
  • Do I know anyone with cash/expertise that wants a partner?
  • Why would someone with cash/expertise need me?
  • Could this be a profitable rental property that creates cash flow until I’m 80?
Posted in Paying for college., Rental.


  1. Lets say your kids decide not to go to that college. Would it still be a good investment? What’s the rent in that area? Those houses on the map that are close by and near in price-are they in similar condition to this one?

  2. The truth is, I am not going to do it. It just got the gears turning. The $99k price tag is an estimate of value. I do not know if there is a reserve on the auction, and have no idea how many people would show up. Without looking inside, I have no idea if it is reasonable. It better be a lot nicer on the inside to warrant that price. I would be interested if I could get it in the $60$ to $75k range. If the inside is bad, I could get a lot of work done for $25k. More beds and baths would increase the potential a lot. There are a couple houses that sold up the street for $120k and $140k, but they have 3 bed rooms and are nicer condition. I can’t find any rental comparisons close by. It is a weird neighborhood. One street that looks like college rentals, surrounded by a very nice historic looking more expensive homes. It might need to look for rentals in the summer. They could be high demand and not need much advertising when they are so convenient to campus.

  3. We have contemplated rentals near college campus as well. I think the students can be pretty hard on the properties (especially boys) but maybe it makes sense while your studenti is also attending there. Nice to see others have as long a list of questions as we would before making the leap.

  4. Teaching gives me summer unemployment. Throughout high school and college, I worked for a small construction company mostly doing residential remodels. My brother still works for that same company. If I did not have the skills to fix houses, I would not consider this as an option. A large older house would scare me away. This particular small ranch would be easy for me to renovate. I would definitely try to use either cheap or indestructible materials for this property.

  5. We have been paying gobs of money for schooling for ten years now so we are right there with you. For our situation we have found that focus is what works best – even opportunities that look good sometimes have to be declared a distraction and laid aside.

    • That one only distracted me for about a day. The auction day has come and gone. I never even found out how much the house went for. Roanoke college did not end up offering enough money to compete, so JumpStart Jr. will not be going there anyway.

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