A recent study by commercial real estate firm CBRE shows a link between successful financing for student housing projects and colleges that field a successful football program. The data shows a lower cap rate for NCAA Division 1 schools that comprise the “Power Five” conferences. Division 1 schools typically have better facilities, larger budgets, and more athletic scholarships. The Power Five includes the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Perennial football powerhouses in the group includes Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Alabama, and Florida.
The cap rate for Power Five schools averaged 5.4% in the first half of 2019—43 basis points lower than cap rates for properties serving schools with non-Division 1 programs. Power Five universities also captured the majority of total student housing investment volume, with nearly half of all transactions in the first half of the year. Cap rates are computed by comparing a property’s net operating income with its value. Lower cap rates translate into lower risk and a higher selling price for property owners.
“Football works as a very effective marketing tool for universities and creates value for student housing properties,” said Jaclyn Fitts, CBRE’s director of national student housing. “The strong football programs in Division 1 schools, and particularly in the ‘Power Five’ conferences, create national branding and prestige. In turn, these ‘football schools’ recruit more students, as evidenced by the spike in applications following the NCAA National Championship game. These characteristics give investors confidence in the sustained superior performance of the student housing assets serving football schools.”
Cap rates for student housing assets at Division 1 non-Power Five universities are a bit higher, averaging 5.43% in the first half of 2019, also well below the 5.83% average for non-Division 1 universities. Schools in what used to be considered secondary markets are also benefiting from having watchable football teams. CBRE cites several schools in hot real estate markets as up-and-comers, including Boise State, San Diego State University, University of Central Florida, University of Cincinnati, University of Houston, University of Memphis, and the University of South Florida.