3/7/10: Using Real Estate to Fund College – Making Good Choices in Today’s Market

How to pay for college can be as important and difficult a decision as selecting which school to attend. With all the changes in the market, can real estate still help?

To school us on this important topic, plus provide a timely warning about an old law that has taken on new relevance in one of the largest real estate markets, we dialed up (for those old enough to remember a dial) one of the smartest attorneys we know!

In the classroom for College Funding with Real Estate 102:
•    The Professor of Profit and Your Host, Robert Helms
•    Teacher’s Aid and Co-Host, Russell Gray
•    Professor Emeritus and the Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
•    The Dean of Decision Making, Attorney Jeff Lerman

After a quick stop at the campus coffee shop for some pre-class caffeination, we slid into our school desks behind the golden microphones and Professor Robert Helms calls the class to order.

Like many topics in school, the first thing we discuss is why this topic is relevant.  Not everyone has children or wants to send them to college – or maybe all of that is in your rearview mirror.  But we soon discover that this type of real estate investing is just a niche like any other – and there’s money to be made!

College is expensive and getting more so every day.  And in a soft economy, finding creative ways to pay for some or all of it is more important than ever!  As entrepreneurs, we get excited when there’s a problem like this in the market that we can solve – and this one is no different.

Since Jeff Lerman is an “A” student, while the rest of us are…well, not as smart as Jeff…we have him lead our study group.  And like a typical “A” student, he starts talking about math and homework. Yes, there’s homework involved!  But asking the right questions and doing the math is one of the secrets to success.  Jeff takes us through his own real life analysis and the questions and answers he’s finding as he goes through this process himself.

Jeff explains how he uses the cost of on-campus housing as his baseline for doing the investment analysis.  How can he get more value for the same cash flow? Great question!

This leads to a discussion about which advisors he calls on to help him.  Yes, even advisors have advisors.  We discuss who you need and how to work with them.

The very important topic of single family homes versus condominiums comes up, which opens up the door for a lively classroom discussion.  Jeff reveals how his initial idea was contradicted when he got into the math.  See? It’s true!  Do the math and the math will tell you what to do!  Of course, you have to do the right math – which includes accounting for all the variables.  So we talk through all of this.  Good stuff!

As we wind up the discussion of funding college with real estate, Jeff throws in some extra credit work – and tells us what every investor must know about the California Home Equity Sales Contract Act.

Never heard of it?  Neither had we.  But it poses some real risks to active real estate investors looking to cash in on today’s distressed property bonanza.  And even if you’re not actively investing in California, you’d be wise to be aware of this legislation – because often times other states follow California’s lead on consumer protection.  This is especially true in the currently distressed property market.

Before we knew it class was over.  But as always, we learned a lot and had some fun.  Many thanks to Jeff for another enlightening appearance on the show!

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