Looking for a Place to Live? Try School


While most people are anxious to get out of school and wouldn’t want to spend another minute in on, many people are now calling them home. One of the most recent developments in real estate is the conversion of old and abandoned schools into residential properties.

The Growing Problem

Around the country cities and towns are finding that they have a growing supply of school buildings that they no longer use. Cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta all have been forced to close schools to make up for budget shortfalls. In fact, Chicago just closed 50 public schools, which is the largest closure of its kind in history. 1/3 of Philadelphia lives with a mile of a closed school.

As large metropolises span out they are finding that older, outdated schools no longer fill the need they once did. Charter and private schools are taking students from the public schools, making the old school campuses not needed and an expendable line item on a budget sheet.

Left unused, schools become part of the problem. They decrease surrounding property values, increase blight and raise crime rates. The more this happens, the more people move away and the deeper the hole goes.

If cities don’t find a way to deal with these buildings, they end up becoming a huge drain on resources. Besides the problem listed above, experts estimate that it takes about $5,000 a month to maintain an abandoned school. And if left unmaintained, the ill effects on the community are even worse.

Start Selling

In many cases these schools offer developers a lot of opportunities and advantages:

  • They can be bought for cheap. Schools are going for $200,000 to $1,000,000 depending on the size and condition, which is a bargain for what you get.
  • Many are older buildings with amazing architecture and personality until the cows come home.
  • The large hallways and communal living spaces make them ideal for businesses like nursing homes to come in and convert the schools.
  • High ceilings, large windows and grand staircases are all available and draws for apartment/condominium buyers.

Developer’s Issues

While it all may seem like a great deal when it all works out, developers often have to fight uphill battles to make a buy like this work.

There may be issues with:

  • The property being considered historical. This limits what kind of changes you can make to it.
  • Some properties would be best served just to be torn down and replaced with something new and more functional, but often local codes do not permit it.
  • Updating the properties and bringing them to code. Many of these buildings were made before regulations about lead paint, disabled access and other modern codes were put in place. If a developer buys and converts one of these properties to residential living spaces, then they also have to bring it up to code.
  • Renovating the properties. Many of these properties have been neglected, abandoned, vandalized and stripped of vital infrastructure which must be replaced.