For many seniors, their beach house living accommodations are a cherished Fairfield rite of passage – but they aren’t the only ones benefiting from this deal. The owners of these beach houses, who rent out the houses to students, have made what many consider to be quite a good investment.

Despite the perception of the present slump in the housing market, the property values in college towns are holding strong, according to a recent article in Business Week. Many agree the town of Fairfield is a paragon example of this.

Edel Kollar is one of many landlords who owns a house in the Fairfield beach area.

“I’ve owned the house for 17 years, and since I’ve started renting it, I’ve never had a problem,” said Kollar, whose house is located in Lantern Point. “I have kids calling me up a year or more in advance to rent it … There aren’t too many houses and the demand is always there.”

Research conducted by real estate specialist OnBoard found that 17 of 25 college towns outperformed their respective states in terms of home prices appreciation last year, with four towns performing as well, and only four towns under-performing, according the article.

“If I had money to invest right now, and there was a house for sale at Lantern Point, I’d try to buy it; I think it’s very valuable,” Kollar said. “It does depend on the price, and the bottom line is whether you have money to invest.”

Kollar originally bought her Lantern Point residence to live in herself, not as an investment. However, now that she has moved with her family to a different Fairfield residence, she has the ability to rent out the beach house during the school year, and then use it herself or rent it out in the summer has worked out very favorably.

Phil Miller, another Lantern Point property owner, agreed.

“From my point of view, I’ve always looked for a steady rental market,” said Miller. “With new students coming in and going out each year, it’s a safe and reliable market.”

Miller said it was a “hard call” as to whether real estate investments in the Fairfield area are necessarily any stronger elsewhere, bringing up the appreciation of houses as something to factor in.

Many beach houses owners enjoy this added benefit, which is rather unique to Fairfield. In other college town, a landlord may have trouble renting during the summer, but these owners can either use it as a beach house themselves or rent to vacationers. Also, beach house owners in other areas often cannot profit from their houses in the winter months as beach house owners in Fairfield beach are able to.

Margaret Rotini, Senior Sales Associate for William Raveis Real Estate, currently serves the real estate market in the Fairfield County area. She agreed that the market is strong in the University’s surrounding neighborhood; however, she said that the University is an amenity that attracts bidders.

“There is more to offer with college towns,” said Rotini, noting, among other things, that the University’s library, lectures and performances, class offerings and gym facilities are all attractive to buyers. “Downsizers are often especially encouraged to move to college towns because of these amenities.”

Rotini added that the train station in town, which provides the ability to commute to the city, is a factor that attracts buyers.

Rent-paying students are a bit more skeptical.

“Not only do these landlords get to stay in touch with their youth, they make out like bandits on rent,” said Brian Erickson ’08. “No matter what, students will always be ready and willing to pay sky-high prices for a beach house senior year – I did.”

“Since I graduate in one month and have absolutely no plans of working 9 to 5 anytime soon, I plan on looking into becoming a Fairfield beach landlord,” said Tim Birge ’08. “They do absolutely nothing except collect money and can charge whatever they want.”

Perhaps Birge is on to something; as Kollar said, “You get your money out of it.”

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