When investing in a college rental makes sense

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Our youngest son, fresh from two years of teaching abroad and now looking for a job in San Francisco, called last week with his latest housing outlook. After crashing on couches and spare bedrooms with family and friends, he'd found a basement unit for $1,200 a month near the University of San Francisco. "It's not really an apartment," Chris said. "More like a couple of large rooms of a big home. The former tenant moved upstairs, so the new guy gets the basement. I've looked for weeks and it's the cheapest thing I could find." That big number for rent near a university brought back memories of the research we had done more than a decade ago when his siblings began heading off to college. I kicked myself for not borrowing some cash to buy a college rental when the first child enrolled at an out-of-state school because the neighborhood around the university appreciated significantly. In addition, we discovered a huge lack of off-campus housing for facult...