September 21, 2004

Sweet Home Ithaca: Parents Buy Houses for College Kids

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Imagine living in Collegetown and not having to pay a high rent each month. Now imagine living in Collegetown and not having to pay rent at all. For most students, this dream is just too good to be true; but for students whose parents own the houses they live in, it’s reality.

Chris Anderson ’06 is one of those individuals. He currently lives in a three bedroom house that his parents, who are living in the Czech Republic, bought for him in the spring of his freshman year. According to Anderson, his parents had three main reasons for buying a house in Ithaca.

“With the four year waiting lists on the hotels for graduation, they decided that it would be easier for them to have a place to stay here,” Anderson explained.

Also, Anderson mentioned that the fact that his parents live overseas makes it especially difficult for him to “cart all of [his] stuff to a storage facility or all the way back home at the end of each school year.”

Finally, since Anderson is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, there are some economic benefits for him in owning a house in New York State.

“I believe that after living in New York and owning property in New York for a year that I potentially qualify for the in-state tuition,” Anderson explained. For a continuing student, the difference in tuition rates between New York state residents and non-residents is currently $11,300 per year.

According to Pamela Zinder ’82, assistant director of housing and dining contracts, approximately 40 percent of students currently live off-campus. However, the Office of Off-Campus Life Services does not currently keep track of what type of housing students use.

“Occasionally, I hear about [parents buying their child a house], or occasionally I’ll have parents call saying they’re thinking of purchasing a house,” Zinder acknowledged. But added, “It’s rare.”

One of these “rare” people, Paige Cerand ’07, lives in a house that her parents bought for her sister (Class of ’01), who decided that she didn’t want to live in Collegetown. According to Cerand, her parents were originally going to rent a house for her sister, but decided that they “might as well just make a lot of money” by investing in Ithaca’s housing market.

However, Cerand says that having a house in the area didn’t have an impact on her decision about where to go to college.

“I wasn’t thinking about [the house] at the time,” she explained. “It was more like ‘Where would I be most happy?’ and I really like it here.”

She did run into a little trouble though when she joined her sorority.

“It’s mandatory you live-in for one year,” Cerand said. “But since my dad already had the house… it was kind of ridiculous to have to pay for [both.] I was luckily able to get past that because there were so many girls living in this year.”

According to Cerand, the biggest benefit of having your own house it that “you can do whatever you want. If you want to paint your room bright blue you can! If you make a mess, no one cares.”

Other students have also benefited from having siblings who attended Cornell before them. For example, Michael Hudson ’06 currently lives in a house that was originally purchased for his older brothers (classes of ’02 and ’03).

“[My parents] kind of guessed that I’d end up coming here too,” he joked. He expects that his parents will sell the house once he graduates, but says that “it’s not something we’ve talked about.”

For now though, Hudson sees many of the same positive aspects of home-ownership as Anderson and Cerand.

“It gets pretty hectic for a lot of people searching for a house,” he said. “[Already having one] worked out pretty nicely for me and my two roommates.”

However, all three acknowledge that owning a home can also be a lot of work. “It’s a lot of upkeep,” Cerand said. “Sometimes when you rent the landlord will take care of some repairs, but when you own it you have to do everything yourself.”

“You definitely can’t let it get away from you,” Anderson said. “It takes a certain amount of responsibility and time and effort. I think that in a lot of cases it would be a good investment for some families, but definitely not something for everyone.”

Zinder expressed a similar idea, saying that the responsibilities of maintaining a home might be too much for some students to handle.

“Students need to do their research on where they want to live and try to get themselves educated on their housing options,” she said.

Archived article by Courtney Potts
Sun Staff Writer