For some parents, sending kids off to college means equipping the budding academics with a laptop and carting their stuff to a closet-sized dorm room on the far side of campus.
For others, it involves making a different kind of investment: real estate.
According to Realtors in some of the nation's hottest rental markets, more parents are opting to purchase property for students to live in during their four-year college stint instead of forking over big bucks for on-campus housing or sky-high rents.
"I've had parents of students get frustrated with the huge price tag on some of the rentals here in the Boston area and they found that it made more sense to buy a condo for their child," Willie Mandrell of At Home Real Estate in Boston, told Realtor.com. "Most recently I worked with a Boston University student and her parents purchased a two-bedroom condo in South Boston for her to live in while attending school."
Parents help defray the cost of purchasing property by leasing out rooms to their child's friends and classmates, experts say.
But parents aren't the only ones looking to capitalize on housing demand in big university cities. Thanks to falling real estate values across the nation, snapping up discounted properties in prime locations has become a way of life for real estate investors. University towns, with their revolving door of students moving in and out, are often good investment choices.
For example, Pittsburgh, home to almost 10 colleges and universities, has increasingly been on investors' radar.
"There has always been a shortage of housing for students," Darla Jobkar of Northwood Realty Services told Realtor.com. "For this reason, college and university real estate investments in this area over the years have been a huge success to both long-term and short-term investors."
Here's a look at the best college towns for real estate investors:
Estimated mortgage payments calculated for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at current interest rates with a 20 percent down payment.
But with owning property comes responsibility. Hiring a management company to deal with the day-to-day needs of renters might be a smart move for relatively new investors, experts say. If tenants include both an owner's child and other roommates, laying out the terms of the lease, including when rent is due, can help avoid a falling out among friends and other issues that could jeopardize rental income.
Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter.