The explosive antics of "Animal House" have been accepted by many college-bound freshmen as a view of things to come.
But in Baltimore there was "Hollander House," a three-year, real-life saga of nine Johns Hopkins University undergraduates. It was a real-estate experiment that brought them fun and profit - without a single Animal House-like expulsion, suspension or confrontation with the law.
Johns Hopkins lets only freshmen live in campus dormitories and this means that as the end of the first year approaches students scurry to lease decadent apartments in rowhouses or luxury units in highrises. It also means breaking up dormitory cliques, since few units can accomodate large groups. For parents, it means a substantial boost in the cost of housing for their scholars.
Nine fellow residents of a dormitory, including our son, Ron, came up with a different idea. They decided to buy a house, live in it for the next three years and then sell it. They scouted Baltimore, looking for a house with nine sleeping rooms, several bathrooms, a good-sized kitchen and enough parking for a fleet. And it had to be at least a mile from campus (only vehicles housed beyond a mile are eligible for campus parking stickers.)
After diligent search they found a candidate in the Waverly section, on East 39th Street near Baltimore Memorial Stadium. It was an elderly, stuccoed, three-story house just barely a mile from the feet of the statue of Johns Hopkins. That was the good news.
The bad news was that it had been divided into a rooming house for seven families, and it was a toss-up which looked worse - the outside or the inside. But the Hollander nine were not dismayed, and worked out a computerized analysis of the costs, covering probable repairs, utility costs and some modest improvements. They submitted this impressive computer sheet to their parents, who agreed to explore the idea.
There was one hitch: the real estate agent warned that no self-respecting bank or savings and loan association would consider a mortgage to nine sets of parents scattered far beyond the Baltimore metropolitan area.
We looked at the house, but were somewhat shaken by its condition. And a lawyer friend said, with little hestitation, "It's nutty. These fellows won't stick together for three years. They're bound to break up and you'll be left holding the bag. But if you decide to do it I'll draft the partnership papers for the various parents."
Fortunately, the president of the S&L we approached was a Hopkins alumnus and the old school tie resulted in a prompt tender of a mortgage. Who knew then how much was loyalty and how much was business acumen? We bought it for $33,500.
After settlement the project entered a new and unexpected stage. Since the boys had scattered across the nation for summer recess, it was up to the nearest folks - Ron and parents - to take over and clean up. It was two days of back-breaking work. Some tenants had apprently left in mid-meal, and junk was all over. Almost every faucet washer had to be replaced, the French drain had to be drained and the grass cut.
When the boys moved in, they pitched in on various projects. In addition, one father spent a week building cabinets in his son's room and another sent a micro-wave oven, which became the central feature of the kitchen. One lad brought a barroom-sized television set for the "family room," which several viewers described as essential for higher education.
In the evenings house rules were hammered out. Each student would pay an equal share - $60 a month - covering the mortgage payments, utilities, and a contingency fund for repairs, and parties. If any one moved out, he would have to leave his down payment (about $1,500) until the house was sold, but he could rent out his room.
Only one student transferred and he found a replacement easily. Our son was elected dorm master and earned his room and board.
The contingency fund turned out to be hardly necessary. There were numerous small repairs but the threat of only one major one - a $450 overhaul of the heating system. The residents drew on their knowledge of science, researched a simpler solution, and made a modest repair yhemselves.
This spring it was time to sell. The boys fixed up the house, found a real estate agent, and contracted to sell it for $47,500 to a Johns Hopkins graduate student and his friend, who plan to rent rooms to university students.
Sam Zagoria is a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. CAPTION: Students lived in this Baltimore house and sold it for profit. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post