Condos give students housing options

Ahnalese Rushmann

Even though Tony Zosel’s three young children won’t be heading to college for another 10 years, he already knows who he’ll be sending their rent checks to: himself.

With the increasing presence of condominiums and town homes for sale near campus, students and parents have another option to consider instead of renting temporary living space.

One nearby option is M Flats, a new condominium complex scheduled to open in late September.

Zosel is the managing director of Multiply, the company hired to market the complex located on 29th and University avenues in Prospect Park.

“If you’ve got 20 grand to lay down, you can buy a place,” said Zosel, who plans on buying a condo or house for his children when they’re in college. “You might as well pay yourself opposed to paying (the University or another developer).”

Matt Loskota, the downtown manager for Edina Realty, said even though the housing market has slowed and loans are harder to obtain, now is a good time to buy.

Edina Realty is the listing broker for the Metro Lofts in Prospect Park and the Emerald Gardens townhomes and condos on Franklin Avenue.

The most successful complexes hit the market at the key time, Loskota said. U Flats, M Flats’ sister complex, arrived at a solid time in fall 2006. Loskota said the housing boom between 2000 and 2005 had a role in sparking the condo trend.

The demographics for buyers and renters are different as mostly graduate students have been interested in M Flats condos, Zosel said. Nearly half of the 48 available units have been sold already.

According to the M Flats Web site, unit prices started at $175,000, with some over $300,000.

Cassie Chapley, a journalism and mass communications senior, lives at Emerald Gardens and said living in a condo was a logical choice.

“It is a much cheaper and nicer way of living than renting a place on campus,” Chapley said in an e-mail.

“My parents thought it was ridiculous to be paying $700 for an apartment on campus, so they are hoping this will benefit them in the long run,” she said.

Chapley, who has previously rented at Melrose Student Suites and 1301 University, said the location of her condo is convenient for her and her brother, who attends the University of St. Thomas.

“If other families are in a similar situation, it can really be a good investment for the family,” she said.

Mannix Clark, associate director of University Residential and Housing Life, said despite complexes like M Flats popping up near campus, University housing is consistently full.

“It hasn’t changed our market,” he said. “But we are two-thirds freshmen.”

Last year, there were 6,524 students living in University residence halls and apartments, Clark said. Approximately 64 percent of those students were first-year students and less than 1 percent were graduate students or professionals, he said.

Lorien Mueller, community manager for the University Village apartments, also said that condos haven’t taken any students away from her complex.

“If anything, U Flats has helped us out a lot because (some of its residents) do contract parking with us,” she said.

Of University Village’s 199 apartment units, 112 are leased by the University and have similar features to University residence halls, such as the assistance of community advisers. The rest are privately leased, Mueller said.

Even though student renters and buyers are often at different phases of their education, Mueller said renting tends to be more suitable for the transient college student lifestyle than buying a condo, townhome or house.

“If you own a home, you’re financially obligated to your mortgage,” she said. “You can’t just turn in your mortgage and walk away.”

Andy Stein, an architecture sophomore who lives at Bierman Place Apartments, said renting an apartment is less of a hassle.

“You don’t have to sell it. You don’t have to take care of it yourself,” he said. “You don’t know if you’re going to be here all four years.”

Clark also emphasized the living needs of students – especially undergraduates.

“I think students want to see if they like it here before they make that kind of investment.”

Loskota said that although the era of condos being built on every corner has passed, they are still a serious investment with profit potential. There will always be complexes being built he said, but at what rate is hard to tell.

“Good developers will continue to find the good parts of the land and build on them,” he said. “Nobody’s making any more dirt.”

In all of the housing market’s unpredictability, there is always the possibility of a peak in sales, Zosel said.