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Nostalgia, School Pride And Game Day Bring Homebuyers Back To College Towns

Nothing brings back the nostalgic rush of the good old days like a trip to your college town years after graduation. As reported last month in the Wall Street Journal, that desire to relive special memories and unleash school pride is pulling wave of homebuyers back to their college stomping grounds to put down roots or purchase second homes so they never have to miss game day.

It’s easy to see the attraction. Your typical college town might not have the luxuries or year-round sunny weather that would normally draw second-home buyers looking for a vacation spot, but a university brings energy and vibrancy to a city, and for alumni, the opportunity to see their football or basketball team play regularly, and remember times with great friends when all they had to worry about was that statistics test they should have studied for, is too good to pass up.

College reminds people of when they fell in love, said Gina Killough, a Keller Williams agent from Stillwater, Oklahoma, the town of Oklahoma State University (OSU).

“Quite a few [alumni] come back here because that’s where they met their sweetheart; they remember the good years,” Killough told Inman.

At OSU, alumni are returning to cheer on the Cowboys football team, said the agent who is an OSU graduate herself, as were generations in her family before her.
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As she puts it: “We bleed orange here.”

The pretty college town of State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State, has meanwhile been attracting its alumni back for decades.

According to local agent and associate broker Melissa Brower of Kissinger Bigatel & Brower, the town is now developing new complexes largely for this market. The luxury Fraser Center Condominiums development in central State College has been designed precisely to appeal to Penn State alumni who have excelled and want to be within easy distance of the Beaver Stadium for Nittany Lion games.

Other alumni are buying old historical homes close to town, said Brower.

Housing demand from alumni depends on how the Penn State Nittany Lions’ season has gone, she adds. “It seems like if the football team is doing well the second home inquiries come up, if they are not doing so well, not so much,” Bower told Inman.

Last season was a good one, and the influx of alumni buyers are not afraid to show their true colors. Brower says she has seen her share of finished basements in State College decked out in Penn State’s blue and white.

And while State College is largely seeing retired alumni purchasing residences, Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan, is seeing alumni coming back much sooner after graduation, according to Ann Arbor agent Alex Milshteyn of Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel.

“They are generally looking for a $300,000 to $800,000 home, which gets you a nice place in Ann Arbor, and in other markets that’s not the case,” he said.

The agent is currently helping a University of Michigan alumni couple returning from Washington, D.C.; they were priced out of the capital and were able to bring their jobs with them to Ann Arbor.

Milshteyn said he also has clients who went to Michigan and want another home in Ann Arbor so they can go to tailgate parties for Wolverines football and attend home games for Spartans basketball.

So how do you get a piece of this valuable business as an agent in one of these real estate meccas? That is the challenge. Alumni associations tend to be coy about sharing their databases. In Stillwater, the OSU alumni association guards its contacts but has events where former OSU grads can”mix and mingle,” Killough said.

Because she is a local and an alumnus herself, having attended the school in the 90s, Killough knows some of the people coming back to the university, so they will sometimes get in touch with her. It’s a good day when that happens — these potential buyers are wanting decent-sized homes that fit “all their stuff,” she said.

Ann Arbor’s Milshteyn, who says alumni associations don’t want to share their information unless you give them a big check, has found LinkedIn is where he can reach University of Michigan alumni, by targeting advertising to those who have University of Michigan mentioned in their bios.

State College’s Melissa Brower said among the brokerage’s 90 licensed agents, many have associations with Penn State as former students. A number interact with the college’s football program. They might sponsor sports teams at the university and meet alumni that way. Social media is another good route to connect with graduates, Bower advised.