A Long Shot, But…

Students, like the ones pictured in this article, are looking for good student housing.  In the right location, there is high demand for a place to live close to the campus.

For over a year now, we have been looking in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida for a motel that might be able to be converted to student housing or maybe workforce housing.    

We have found major obstacles in a few of our explorations.  But, what if there is such a property.  How would it work?

What follows is a hypothetical concept of a motel-to-apartment conversion we are seeking in three states.  The discussion and numbers here are not based on any specific property.  These are conceptual.

We are NOT making an offer.  NOT EVEN A SUGGESTION of an offer.

Perhaps you would be interested in an investment like this if something could actually be found.  Perhaps not.

We write this article as a way of better informing you of some of our thinking and analysis.  Who knows if we will ever find one.

Or, perhaps you know of a property like this and would like to work with us to make the conversion.

Take a look at this concept.


OVERVIEW:  Find a suitably-sized motel located very near a large student population.  Purchase it at the right price.  Have the way clear to convert the motel to efficiencies and studios.  Lease up and operate the property until stabilized.  Then sell it to a new long-term hold owner, harvesting the value added by the conversion to a higher and best use.

The studios might look something like this.  Who knows?

LOCATION.  We are looking for a college town, with a large enough university to support additional student housing.  Let’s say the student population needs to be above 14,000.  We have found over 30 colleges that meet these criteria.

Here is a list of colleges, student populations, and cities. Some are not appropriate. Some are promising.

University of Central Florida68475OrlandoFL
Florida International University57942MiamiFL
Miami Dade College54973MiamiFL
University of Florida52218GainesvilleFL
Valencia College46521OrlandoFL
University of South Florida43846TampaFL
Kennesaw State41181KennesawGA
Florida State University41005TallahasseeFL
Broward College40784Fort LauderdaleFL
Georgia Tech39771AtlantaGA
University of Georgia39147AthensGA
University of Alabama38390TuscaloosaAL
Palm Beach State College31816Lake WorthFL
Auburn University30440AuburnAL
Florida Atlantic University29772Boca RatonFL
St. Petersburg College29183LargoFL
Georgia Southern26949StatesboroGA
Florida State College at Jacksonville23413JacksonvilleFL
Hillsborough Community College23183TampaFL
University Alabama at Birmingham21923BirminghamAL
Columbia Southern University21104Orange BeachAL
Nova Southeastern University20435Fort LauderdaleFL
Full Sail University20170Winter ParkFL
University of North Georgia19783DahlonegaGA
Seminole State College18104SanfordFL
University of Miami17331Coral GablesFL
Troy University16981TroyAL
University of North Florida16776JacksonvilleFL
Indian River State College16686Fort PierceFL
Florida Southwestern State College16556Fort MyersFL
Eastern Florida State College15820CocoaFL
Florida Gulf Coast University15031Fort MyersFL
University of South Alabama14834MobileAL
Santa Fe College14324GainesvilleFL
Savannah College of Art and Design14265SavannahGA
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University14168Daytona BeachFL

MARKET MATTERS.  Next, we are looking for the college town to have a growing economy and growing population. 

We would also like to see a few more factors in the market – tax friendliness, government decision-makers willing to allow such a conversion without too much unnecessary expense, low crime in the sub-market, etc.

PROPERTY.  Now comes the hard part, finding a motel within “walking distance” of that college campus with at least 50 units.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.  And still harder, talk with the owner and negotiate workable terms for purchase. 

And put it under contract. And close on it.


Let’s suppose we could find a property that meets the above specifications. 

We know, it sounds like a very slim possibility.  And we have been looking for more than a year.  We have struck out in several communities.   This is a challenging idea.

But, how might the numbers play out?

Here are some ASSUMPTIONS for our hypothetical concept property:

Remember, this is a concept, not a real property.  We don’t know of a 90 unit property in one of these college towns.  If you do, please get in touch.

Our research says there is a market for this kind of student housing.  In some markets, this motel to efficiency conversion also works for workforce housing.

Some found going through Covid difficult.  We have talked with several property managers who did not have a negative year during the worst of it, though.

The market may not provide a property like this at a price like this with returns like this. 

Also, the future can have many surprises in it.  We don’t know what cap rates will be and at purchase.  And,  this is 0% occupied at purchase.  It will likely take months to convert and might have many municipal regulations and roadblocks.  Ask us how we know this.

Construction costs and timeframes during the conversion could be higher or lower than suggested here, as well.  Supply chain and skilled worker shortages may delay completion. 

There are plenty of variables in the rough cost/benefit analysis above.

Your quick analysis may suggest different results.  We would enjoy hearing what you came up with.

We are offering this partly as an intellectual exercise for you.  It is for us. 

It is also a way of testing the openness of investors, such as you, to a deal like this.  Please reply with your comments and questions.


If we found a motel to apartment conversion property at the right price in the right community and were able to convert it in the right amount of time with the right financing and it would provide perhaps agreed-upon high single or even double-digit returns to our private investors, does this sound like something you would be interested in pursuing?

What if the returns were lower or higher?  Where do they need to be for you?

Our exit strategy for such properties might be to increase the value through the conversion and sell to a new owner after the property stabilizes, up to 3 years.  Is this too long or too short for the kind of investment you are considering?

What if your investment was a secured loan with an agreed-upon return rather than an equity stake?  What are the pros and cons of such an approach for you?

What kind of questions do you have, other than “Are you guys crazy?”?


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