The whole nation has joined together in solidarity and compassion for the students, faculty, parents and loved ones who were affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Being involved in home sales and rentals in Lancaster County, PA, I have seen how violent incidents can change a market. Last year at Franklin & Marshall College, in the northwestern quadrant of Lancaster City, there was a violent attack on a male student living off campus.
Due largely to this incident, among other security and communications upgrades, F&M changed its policy of allowing students to live off campus. Approximately 900 students had lived off campus in the vicinity of F&M, making the surrounding area an outstanding neighborhood for increasing values and good rental investments. It had become second nature for both investors and owner-occupants to look at the northwest quadrant as a top choice for both a pleasant neighborhood and an appreciating area.
The resulting disappearance of the college off-campus rental market has changed the dynamic of available tenants for those properties that were previously kept as student rentals, which in turn has affected the rental values. While home values have yet to radically change, sales in that area have slowed.
As colleges in towns across America and Canada reassess their security policies, it is certainly possible that where students should live will be questioned, and in some cases changes will take place. I don't expect the changes to necessarily reflect Lancaster's experience. For instance, Virginia Tech's rampage occurred on campus rather than off campus.
Nonetheless, violent episodes can change how people view certain neighborhoods. After a drive-by shooting earlier this year, in a different neighborhood, a certain street got an undeservedly bad name because of the wide publicity generated due to its being the location at which certain lawless individuals happened to find each other. Homes on this particular street have become hard to sell despite the fact that the street is no worse than many other streets in its area.
It is said that time heals all wounds. Will the incident at Virginia Tech change college-town real estate markets? It remains to be seen, and it will not be uniform across the country. But it is something to think about.
Brian Schulman offers expert real estate representation for buyers and sellers of homes in Lancaster County, PA. To learn more, visit http://www.FindLancasterHomes.com/
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