Jul 2, 2019

College housing costs are out of control

Illustration of a row of houses shaped like arrows charting upward

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The prices for U.S. student housing have never been higher, rising to an average of nearly $92,000 per bed, data shows.

How we got here: Previously a lightly invested subsection of the housing market, investment managers, REITs and cross-border investors jumped in with both feet and were behind 50% of all acquisitions in the sector by early 2018. That's up from just 30% a few years ago, new reporting from Real Capital Analytics finds.

  • Investors have saturated the space to the point that capitalization rates — the profitability potential on real estate investments over a one-year horizon — have fallen to a record low.
  • "Student housing was once a property sector ... not managed by professional investors," Jim Costello, senior vice president at Real Capital Analytics, writes. "Institutional investors have 'discovered' this sector in the current economic cycle and price performance has reached record highs as a result."

The big picture: Student housing prices are just the latest example of the ongoing doldrums in the U.S. housing market that has been driven largely by decreasing home affordability, even though price increases have slowed in 2019 and mortgage rates are near record lows.

Data: Real Capital Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The housing market is still out of reach for average Americans, according to the U.S. Home Affordability Report, released Wednesday by ATTOM Data Solutions. The report found that median selling prices were too high for average wage earners in three-fourths of U.S. real estate markets in Q2.

  • And while affordability is improving in four out of five markets compared with last year, the gap between home-price appreciation and wage growth has barely budged.

What to watch: "After robust gains over the past five years, the nationwide nominal house price index is now 40% above its 2012 low-point and 4% above the peak reached in 2006," analysts at JPMorgan concluded in a recent study.

Go deeper: The Fed says student loans are smothering the housing market

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