Renting an Apartment on Campus or Buying a House or Condo off Campus

Updated on March 28, 2010
L.E. asks from Buena Park, CA
10 answers

Hi, All,

I was recently admitted to a doctoral program in Southern California. The university is located in a city fifty miles from my current apartment. As a mother of two children (ages 3 and 2), I am eligible for family housing on campus. The on-campus apartments are attractive, fairly spacious, and much cheaper than apartments off campus. Subsidized, full-day, full-week daycare is provided on site. My "commute," or time to walk to class, is ten minutes. I'm not sure if the rental expense for an apartment on campus is less than mortgage on houses and condos in this city, which is considered a very expensive city by most. My husband is interested in buying a house or condo in the area as he has wanted to buy a home for a few years and most likely I will be at this university for several years. It sounds as though all the neighborhoods within several miles of the university are safe and contain schools (K-12) that are highly rated. My husband is a touring musician who is usually out of town sporadically about half the year. He wants to switch from musician to real estate agent, but considering the competitiveness of the real estate business, I don't know whether a complete switch will be possible. For many years, I will be extremely busy doing research and raising two kids. Probably I won't get much sleep. I don't think that it is likely that I will have time to do more than minimal housing maintenance and gardening. Any suggestions on how to decide?


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answers from Chicago on

I did a Ph.D program before kids and before house. You do not want to be a homeowner with a hubby that is gone half the year. Houses are a lot of work. Unless you can afford to pay someone to take care of the yard, fix repairs, etc. home ownership is a giant sucking void of time.

As to school housing, I skipped it, and found a much bigger apartment off campus, with a short drive, for just a little more money. On the plus side, the off campus living had me closer to stores and it had a pool.

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answers from Austin on

School housing, all the way! Houses are a LOT of work. Even condo's. Remember that you (not the university or landlord) will be responsible for any plumbing, electric, etc..
You will have extra time to spend with your kids, an academic environment and (mostly) subsidized daycare if you go the student housing route.
Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Congrats Lynne!
That is quite an accomplishment. I say, keep it simple. Let the landlord worry about leaky faucets and clogged toilets. A doctoral program, with two children, is going to be demanding!!! What a nice treat to be able to roll out of bed and walk to class and maybe have colleagues living nearby!
Good luck,

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answers from Miami on

While now is a good invest time period with house purchases. Do you really know how its going to go at the school and the are for your kids. I'd take the school housing until you are sure.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

When I was a single mom going to college st OSU I lived on campus in married student housing and I can say I was the happiest and most stress free in my life. I had so much money left over from my grants and scholorships I didn't need any loans whatsover.

Of course prices have changed but I'll give examples of my costs, as best I remember them.

I paid $242 a month for a 2 bedroom apt.with all bills, cable, and phone included, paid. I didn't need a car because my child rode the bus to and from her school and if I needed to go get her for some reason or another I could walk just about 2 blocks from campus and be there. My classes were a few minutes walk or bike ride away, I could get groceries a few times per month and that was the only reason I ever used my car. I loved having the tile floors that were waxed to a shine and were always easy to sweep and damp mop. I did rent furniture when I furst moved in and that was pretty cheap too. The maintenance department was awesome, they never had me wait for days for any reapirs, it usually was a matterof minutes before they came to the door.

I was healthier and happier because I didn't have to worry about any monthly bills, everything came out of my financial aid package before I got a cent. I only had to buy groceries each month and car expenses such as insurance and gasoline. I had a Phillips 66 gas card and paid $400.00 at the beginning of each sememster to pre-pay it so I could go where ever I wanted and never be out of gas.

The only thing that happened where I made a mistake was my first year there, I expected financial aid to pay my housing over Summer. Well, the way I had my package set up it only paid for my classes, tuition, and fees, not housing. So I nearly lost my apt. due to my not understanding how it worked. They olet me carry the balance over until August when more financial aid came in

When I did live off campus I paid the elec. co and natural gas co. both several hundred dollars in advance in September and then again in January. I also paid the phone the same way. My landlord gave me a discount for paying in advance too, the more months I poaid the mor eth discount.

So, I really preferred living on campus. It was a very happy time for me and my grades showed that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I would agree with everyone. I think until you settle into the program school housing would be the best. It very tempting to try and buy during this time....low prices BUT home ownership is a huge responsibility and the market is extremely unpredictable. And alot of work especially the first year. Take into consideration you will be beginning a doctoral program with a husband that travels alot with two children. School housing might provide you with the support system that you will need for studies and childcare especially when he is housing you will not need additional transportation and the cost associated. And what at the end of the program you are offered an opportunity that might require moving/leaving the immediate area and you are locked into a home.

Sit down list the pros and cons. At the least your first year take advantage of the housing than make a decision.

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answers from Atlanta on

Hi Lynne,

I know you said you'd be there for several years but it is still a temporoary stop. The housing market is quite volatile these days (I have a real estate investment company) and as it could quite possibly the best time to get a good deal, if the market collapses completely you might be locked into something you don't want or can't handle (my husband is a foreclosure inspector and has more work than he can handle). If he is a touring musician and you will be home more, I think your thoughts should be given priority. I know that's hard to say to him so if you want to show him my note, feel free :)

Does he really want to get settled into a real estate career where you may not be settling. Real Estate would not be my first choice right now.

Just my two cents!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Memphis on

I think it would be better to take campus housing the first year then decide. A year will give you a chance to get your feet under you and you will know better whether you are up to handling home ownership with all your other responsibilities. The nice part about renting is that you can decide from year to year. Once you buy a house, it's much harder to change your mind.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi Lynne,

Based on what you've said in your post, I would never even consider buying a house at this point in your life. With hubby being out of town so much, it's not going to be easy for you taking care of the kids and going to school, why make it even more difficult by adding the additional stress of maintaining a house, commuting, and the additional cost of home ownership.

Try the apartment for a year and save that additonal money for the downpayment on your house, if after a year you don't like the apartment arrangement, then consider buying the house/condo.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with everyone else - ease, convenience, subsidized and close by daycare, no commute, nearby families in the same boat as emotional support system, etc. The kids won't be so small in a couple years, hubby will be more present, and house prices won't be THAT much more - the recovery is expected to be slow in the housing market. Congratulations on your admittance!!

1 mom found this helpful
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