Iowa State graduates double as landlords, urge safety and comfort


Clark Colby is a co-owner of the three-story yellow house on Seventh Street and Douglas Avenue.

Willa Colville

A three-story, yellow house sits at Seventh Street and Douglas Avenue.

Built in 1904 by the former mayor of Ames, George Baker, the house is just a block away from a bus stop. It’s also next to a bank, post office and grocery store. Additionally, it is only a short walk from Main Street, which includes an abundance of local businesses.

Surrounded by a tall, wooden fence, the house boasts a backyard with a chicken coop and garden. The property is owned by Ames residents Clark Colby and Kristen Greteman.

In their late 20s and fresh out of grad school, the couple doubles as landlords. For nearly four years, Colby and Greteman have lived in this old-style home in the historic district in which they also rent to Iowa State students, faculty and citizens of Ames.

“Becoming a landlord at a young age is a slow process because it does require money, but in the end is worth it,” Colby said.

The house was being foreclosed on in 2014 when Colby and Greteman stumbled upon it. Just after graduate school, Colby had been living with his parents in order to save money for a property. Though this one needed a lot of work, Colby and Greteman decided to buy it.

“Clark [Colby] did most of the plumbing and some electrical work in the first year,” Greteman said, recalling one of their first memories in their house.

Once, while Colby was attempting to fix the radiators throughout the house, one on the second floor leaked through to the kitchen.

“We grabbed all our pots and anything we could to catch the leaking water,” Greteman said.

They have since fixed the radiators and installed new windows to meet city code regulations for rental houses.

Before they moved in, the backyard was just grass and a few plants. The couple’s first tenant, in 2014, helped them fill the backyard with different vegetable plants.

“Some people might see the garden as messy,” Colby said. “But we thought the house could use more character.”

The house is split into separate apartments, so Colby and Greteman are able to live in as well as rent the different suites. Currently they have three tenants. Since that first year, Colby and Greteman have rented to a total of six people. Similar to the couple, most of the tenants were students or staff at Iowa State.

Both Colby and Greteman graduated from Iowa State with bachelor’s degrees in architecture. Then they both continued school to receive master’s degrees in architecture. Kristen also earned her master’s degree in community and regional planning and hopes to eventually pursue a doctorate.

Presently, Colby teaches a photography class for the College of Design at Iowa State.

Though they are fairly new to renting themselves, Greteman and Colby are knowledgeable about living situations in Ames. From living in the dorms, to Frederiksen Court, to the Campustown apartments and to renting in the West Ames area, the couple has seen it all. This helps them understand the wants and needs of their tenants.

Because of this, they believe their current old-style home would be the ideal place for college students to live due to the tight-knit community and neighborhood atmosphere.

“We have gotten to know our neighbors across the street,” Greteman said, “They have lived in the same house for a long time and have seen residents come and go. They told us the history of our house and Clark [Colby] will shovel their driveway in the winter.”

“I believe community is important for students’ success and the community we live in is different from any other community in Ames,” Greteman said. “The apartment I lived in on campus did not feel like a home. I wish that I had decided to move here earlier.”

Colby reiterated Greteman’s thoughts.

“Students do not have the chance to learn about the community of Ames while living directly on campus. They also need a comfortable, safe place to live that can be their home for their time at ISU.”

Eventually, Greteman and Colby hope to buy more properties in Ames to rent.