BP Podcast 140: The Riches Are in the Niches (Like Student Housing) with Bill Syrios

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Real estate investing is a BIG field, and there are hundreds of ways to build wealth. However, according to our guest today, the riches are in the niches! On today’s show we sit down with Bill Syrios, an investor from Oregon who specializes in the incredibly lucrative field of student housing (as well as numerous other niches!). You’ll learn how he transformed an early real estate setback into a business that owns hundreds of properties in multiple states!

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In This Episode We Cover:

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  • Times when the Syrios family has been on the BP Podcast!
  • How Bill got started in investing
  • What the interest rates were like in 1980
  • What kept him going despite market crashes and failures
  • How to treat your real estate investing as a business
  • The importance of becoming an expert in a niche market
  • How he got started investing in student housing
  • The pros and cons of student housing
  • Tips for handling student turnover
  • What you should know about finding a property manager for these properties
  • What Loan Care Services is
  • How to deal with difficult rental situations
  • Important legal restrictions for campus properties
  • The details on a 48-unit fraternity house renovation
  • Bill’s current portfolio and the states he invests in
  • The concept of giving over ownership
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Even if you only own one property from day one, you treat it as a business.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Every business, every niche has an obstacle.” (Tweet This!)
  • “That’s where real estate investing starts—it starts with a great deal.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Bill

About Author

Thanks for checking out the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing & Wealth Building Podcast. Hosts Joshua Dorkin & Brandon Turner strive to bring top-notch educational content and interviews to our listeners -- without the non-stop pitch prevalent around the industry. With over 80,000 listeners per show, the BiggerPockets Podcast has become the biggest real estate podcast in the world. But don’t take our word for it. We’re the top-rated and reviewed real estate show on iTunes — check it out, read the reviews on iTunes, and get busy listening and learning!

24 Comments

  1. Bill Syrios

    JP,

    I go into greater depth about investing in student rentals in a 12-page article. You can get that on our website: http://stewardshipproperties.com/
    or here: http://stewardshipproperties.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Bigger-Pockets-Student-Rentals.pdf

    Also referenced above are a couple of books worth reading:
    Profit by Investing in Student Housing by Michael Zaransky
    Smart Essentials For College Rentals by Dan Gooder Richard

    Thanks,

    Bill

  2. Ginger Walker

    I have been hoping they would get you on since hearing Andrew and Phillip’s podcast. You definitely did not disappoint. Added Profit by Investing in Student Housing and Smart Essentials For College Rentals to my reading list. Can’t wait to dig more into learning about student housing!

  3. Brandon Hamilton

    Great podcast. …. very ironic to have this podcast … For the last few months I have concentrated on this “niche”.. we have been looking exclusively for college rental properties. We have a couple of large universities we have been looking at. Got one in particular that we are hoping to start with. Thanks …. ironically I have 2 favorite most inspiring podcast now. Yours of course, and the other one is with your sons. I have listened to it several times and have referenced the show notes. Really like your strategies and philosophy.

  4. Shane Rupe

    Bill,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge on this podcast. I really enjoyed listening to this podcast and its obvious you are doing some great things. You help inspire new investors like myself which is very important. Thank you again!

  5. alexander zeisberg

    EVerything you said Bill was money! Niche markets (targets) ARE the way to go and i love the idea of renovating for that particular use. School, Military, Sprawling families, ensuring beautiful Views, country folks with large storage sheds and an extra huge detached garage, or whatever. Im definitely relistening tomorrow and taking alot of notes and going to the library to chew and digest a few pieces of knowledge and inspiration. My favorite thing about the way you speak is that you keep it very simple. Keep it simple, stupid. I love it. Thanks guys for getting Bill to share. Yall kick butt!

  6. Jake Charles

    Bill,
    First let me say that this is one of the best BP podcasts! (And I have listened to them all) Very well spoken and tons of wisdom in this installment. I would love to hear your take on a question that I have.
    I am working on my first REI purchase right now (should be closing in the next week or two)
    I live in a small town with a collage. Our population is around 1,800 and the schools enrollment is around 1,200. We (my wife and I) are purchasing a duplex that is within walking distance from campus, and we plan on house hacking it. To boot this thing has value add written all over it, attached barn, unfinished 3rd floor, ect.. We plan on making this a: buy, add value, and long term hold
    So my question is: with this being a small town with a lot of our local economy relying on the success of the collage, how do you (as the pro in this niche) see the national down turn in collage enrollment affecting a long term buy and hold in a small collage town such as mine?

    Thanks again Bill.

    Jake

    • Bill Syrios

      Jake,

      I appreciate the kind words.

      There are some national demographics to consider, including the fact that the college-age population has flattened out or even slightly declined and will likely only slowly begin to increase again a few years from now. Beyond this, there is a college debt issue in our country to the tune of 1.3 trillion or $30,000 per student. Students and parents are looking at a college education with a much more critical eye then in previous generations.

      I address these issues in a 12-page article you can get on our website at: http://stewardshipproperties.com/. The article is here: http://stewardshipproperties.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Bigger-Pockets-Student-Rentals.pdf

      But, as you know, all real estate is local and this is certainly true when it comes to student rental properties: each campus must be considered a unique entity in and of itself. Private colleges can be much more challenging than public universities because they are generally a lot smaller and their administrations often require students to live in the dorms most or all of the years they attend their institution.

      So, an important question to answer is how much on-campus housing there is and how many students live on-campus versus in private housing off-campus. On top of this you have a very small community that supports a very small college. These are concerns to take into account because you would be virtually totally dependent on university students to rent your property(ies).

      This being said one of the great “value add” aspects of campus rentals houses (not so much apartments) is that you can add bedrooms relatively easily. This can increase your rental value dramatically. Your situation sounds like it could fit this scenario well, especially if you anticipate available students renters. An important factor is not only how many student tenants would be available to you, but how you can make your particular student rental very attractive to these potential residents. One more factor is what you will do to market to your very small clientele going forward, especially if you were to move away.

      Bottom-line: I don’t think the national trend is as much a concern to you as your particular local situation.

      All the best,

      Bill

      • Jake Charles

        Awesome, Bill! Loved that article.
        Thanks again for taking the time. This is why I love BP, and would never have even thought about pulling the trigger on a duplex without the enlightenment from BP and all it’s valuable members like yourself.

        Jake

      • Eric Waterman

        @bill syrios I just listened to the podcast. I found it inspiring. I appreciate your desire to keep the main thing (stewardship) the main thing. After the show I looked on MLS for properties in the general area that I define as my market. There is a multifamily property right across the street from a small private liberal arts college (~2,500 students). The building has 3, 1 bedroom apartments, 1 efficiency unit and an office space. To me this screamed student rental value add property…I checked the town ordinance you alluded and it only mentions 5 lodgers per dwelling unit. From what I can tell this building currently has 4 dwelling units. With that said, the college requires students to stay on campus for first two years. Based on that info and your comment above is that enough for you to look elsewhere. The office space is about 800 sqft. The town requires 150 floorspace for 1st occupant and 100 for each thereafter. Was thinking that could probably provide room for 2 or 3 bedrooms. However if the rental pool wouldn’t support it I’m not sure it would be worth it. Was curious to get your take.

  7. Debra Muth

    Thank you for this podcast, I am new to this market. My son who is 20 has been talking to me about real estate investing in the student housing market. I can say you nailed all the things we have been discussing and much more! Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge. I am waiting on a response from my first offer for a condo that is currently being rented for student housing.

  8. Tiffany Alexy

    Bill,

    Thanks so much for this informative podcast! I invest in the student housing market in Raleigh, NC and numerous people have directed me toward this podcast and I finally was able to give it a listen today. Great stuff! Like you, I sort of fell into investing in student properties (bought my first as a student myself, with Mom’s help) and then realized the veritable gold mine that I’d stumbled into. I’m up to 3 properties now (11 units/doors) and I’m kind of.. addicted, let’s say. Haha.

    Learning from my first rental definitely prepped me well and after 4 years I’m pretty familiar with the ins and outs. Plus, it helps that I attended the university so I have connections in the graduate school there (and my brother too). I’m also able to leverage the properties off each other… for instance, I put up an ad for a room that will be available Dec 1st – considering it’s a wonky time, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was able to get it leased in about 48 hours. I got a lot of interest (some student, some young professional) and was able to respond to other inquiries “This property is no longer available but I have X rooms that will be available on X date at another place within 1 mile of campus if you’re interested.”

    Anyway.. I always thought I’d move away from student housing but it’s been good to me. I think I’m ready to start trying a new niche in 2016 though, like flipping 🙂

    Also reading the document you attached now — thank you again!

  9. Denise C.

    Awesome pertinent and timely information. Oregon is an area of interest for me as is some parts of the mid-west. I will definitely listen to this podcast again as it was spot on for me in every way. Thank you for this informative presentation.

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