Realtors advise grad students on where to live in Waco

Houses in the South Austin neighborhood in Waco. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Ryan Griffith | Reporter

For many Baylor’s graduate students, finding a place to live is priority number one after receiving an acceptance letter in the mail.

When undergraduate students arrive at Baylor, they have a number of concerns, fitting in, going Greek, and choosing a major can all be major stressors. However, with a spot in the university dormitories guaranteed, housing is typically at the back of an incoming first-year’s mind.

Finding the perfect home in Waco isn’t as easy as it once was as the local real estate industry has changed drastically in recent years. Max Nolen, a realtor with local firm Bentwood Realty, said that Waco’s housing market was in the doldrums less than a decade ago but not anymore.

“In the last few years [Waco’s housing market] has been amazing,” Nolen said.

Nolen said that graduate students who are interested in buying a home in the Waco area need to start looking immediately after they decide on Baylor.

“The market is so crazy right now, and we have such little inventory to work with when we do get buyers, that it’s hard for us to get them what they want in a short amount of time,” Nolen said. “Anything that’s priced right is going to sell. It’s just incredible how hot the market is right now.”

Nolen said the golden rule of real estate is often quoted as “location, location, location.” However, many graduate students coming to Baylor are unfamiliar with Waco and unsure where to look when buying a house.

According to Nolen, the ideal neighborhood depends on the student’s individual circumstances.

For single or married graduate students with no children, Nolen recommends buying close to campus.

“The condominiums, the garden homes, and the townhomes around Baylor are perfect because they’re gated and they have security,” she said.

Living in this area significantly reduces a student’s commute, and it is conveniently located near the entertainment and dining options of downtown. Living near Baylor isn’t perfect, though – an undergraduate party culture and a higher-than-average level of street crime may turn off potential buyers.

Nolen advises students with children to look further from campus.

“With family, I’m thinking the outer areas, like Hewitt and Woodway,” Nolen said,

That’s because these areas have some of the lowest crime rates in the Waco metro area. They also boast strong public school systems while remaining affordable for first-time buyers.

Woodway is zoned for the competitive Midway Independent School District, which, according to its website, “provides a digital tablet for every student,” and participates in nationally-recognized programs like Project Lead the Way, which focuses on developing marketable STEM skills in students.

Ricky Snow, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty, suggests that students with children look at the suburbs southeast of town.

“I would say 76708, and that’s Robinson,” he said. “It’s really close to Baylor and it has a lot of different [housing options].”

No matter what a graduate student is looking for in a home, be it a trendy townhouse close to campus or a suburban single-family in a good school district, it’s certainly possible to find in Waco.