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Best Cities to Invest in Rental Property

April 02, 2020

Best Cities to Invest in Rental Property 2020

It’s sad that during this Corona Virus shutdown period, we are seeing rental property demand and rent prices begin to fall.

In some Florida, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Alaska cities which are dependent on tourism or oil, 2020 will be a rough year. However, for real estate investors and landlords looking to enhance their wealth and portfolios, these same cities might hold the best long term future.

Occupancy rates might fall and foreclosures might go up.  The turmoil means rental properties will become available. This post takes a look at the best cities to buy property in the US. After the pandemic passes, the market will return to its previous state with the same outlook at last year had.  There will be more opportunities this time.

Tomorrow is far from our thoughts now with people suffering. Yet, it’s wise to take your mind off of the Corona Virus news and consider the best cities you might buy real estate. Whether you’re a property manager or rental property landlord, the economic/business landscape has changed.

Will rent prices drop in 2020? We don’t know how this will play out, but we do know sellers will panic and sell.  And rental property values will likely drop in some cities, while perhaps trend up in other cities.  Just as in the stock market there will be big money made from who buy into the US rental market.

All the lists of the best cities to buy rental property are out of date now, with the recent economic changes. And post Corona Virus, after the big stimulus spend, the landscape will change again.

These Months Will Pass Quickly

In August or September 2020, after these challenging times for landlords have eased, your opinion about buying and managing rental properties in other cities might change. You can do remote property management today.

Due to unemployment, we’ll see big changes in income, migration and home buying for at least for 2020. Migration from California to Texas for instance will slow considerably. The oil price changes alone will affect some Western states harshly. Ultra low gasoline prices will be net positive for Los Angeles, Bay Area, Chicago, Boston, New York, Tampa, Washington, etc.

But which cities might offer the best bargain prices for well occupied and high cash flow properties?  And what buying criteria should you be considering for the remainder of 2020?  Is the California housing market the right choice now?  The tech sector may come out of this period well.

Or with low oil and energy prices, will Florida, New York, Boston, Chicago, and the US midwest offer up chances to buy excellent rental properties?

Demand For Rental Property

With millennial buyers now putting the breaks on home buying, we may many stay put.  This bodes well for apartment leasing and continuous cash flow.

  • Unemployment was at record lows, wages rose 3.1%, and a huge portion of the renter market doesn’t have a hope of buying a home, particularly in California and Texas, and perhaps South Florida.
  • Banks are shying away from lending to builders and multifamily developers
  • Economies were strong and consumer still optimistic and will likely rebound
  • Rent controls in some cities/states are tainting the picture for investors and hopeful renters as it will discourage investment and construction. For investors, or those who want to rent out part of their home, it makes the investment outlook brighter.

Check the multifamily housing markets in Colorado, California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Florida and you’ll find certain high yield cities are best for investors. It’s matter of hunting down properties in the idea neighborhoods.  We have a big list of the best cities to buy in below.

Typically, cities such as Austin, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Charlotte, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Orlando, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, and even Los Angeles get the nod as best cities buy property in.

Yet the economy is in flux, and the demise of China is changing the economic outlook in the US heartland. To find the best towns and cities, we should be watching the economic and population migration trends, not just current price rent ratios.

The cities in this graphic are still relevant targets for the last half of 2020.

Screenshot courtesy of

The Search for Better Assets

The fact that so many people want or must rent a house, condo or apartment generates strong profit potential for rental income investors. For investors, it’s all about finding the best cities to invest in and perhaps avoiding the worst.

For newbies investigating rental income real estate, it’s an investment asset which actually pays you for owning it. Build profit, reduce taxes, and gain long term security through sustainable passive income using rental property.

Using new Proptech solutions such as Managecasa, you can elevate your property management process.  Discover how efficient modern remote property management can be. It makes all the difference.

Enjoy this epic report on the state of residential rental property investment for 2020 and the best cities to buy rental property in the US.  Australian investors, please see the reports on the Australia housing market and the Sydney rental housing market in particular. You have some particularly good long term prospects.


Can’t wait to see the Top Cities? See them Now


Find the Best Multifamily Markets to buy in the US


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Which Housing Data Reveals the Best Cities?

There is no oracle regarding which rental properties are best.  You’ll be assessing more than price to rent ratios. Take your time to sift through and assess regional economic conditions, demographic trends, tax conditions, residential bylaws, unit types and sizes, local business districts, employment rates and other important data to identify the best city and neighborhood for you.

There are city ratings related to lifestyle and livability that may weigh on your final decision. The economic outlook of each city will give you further support for buying.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown and detailed statistics from top data providers showing cities with the best potential. From there, you can break it down into specific high quality neighborhoods to weigh the profit odds in your favor.

Screenshot courtesy of


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Rental Market Remains Positive for Investors

The trend to higher rent will continue later this year.

Apartment Rent List History – Graphic courtesy of Statista

New Apartment Stock Arriving

The US needs millions of new apartments by 2030.  And new construction won’t meet the demand, however investors will have more new construction rental opportunities to choose from in high employment regions.

Chart Courtesy of

Developers planned to deliver more than 100,000 new units per quarter nationwide from mid-2017 to mid-2018, up from 80,000 over the past year – from yearly review

Renter Statistics:

  1. growth in rental demand was largest for people with incomes lower than $25,000.
  2. younger renters in the US account for 4 million new renters over the past decade.
  3. rental grew fastest for household incomes over $50,000 (3.3 million new renters).
  4. 1.6 million more renters now with incomes over $100,000 a year.
  5. the amount of rental stock also grew (including single-family houses which are now 40% of the total rental stock)
  6. rental vacancy rate was less than 5% in 75% of the United States largest cities
  7. 89% of the biggest cities saw rents grow in January
  8. smaller cities are seeing the biggest increases


Counter to the overall trend, renting is more affordable than buying a home in the nation’s 14 most populated counties and in 30 of 39 counties with a population of 1 million or more (76 percent) — including Los Angeles County, California; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; and San Diego County, California, including cities of Miami, New York City, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Jose, San Francisco and Boston. — from Attomdata report

Trending in 2020

Property investors are getting more technical in how they search for and buy rental properties.  Big city markets price to rent ratios are out of whack and capital appreciation is negative. Now they’re looking into smaller secondary markets.

Secondary markets are heating up fast:

  • their rate of population growth was twice as fast as major markets
  • their job growth was more than double
  • population is younger and Millennials and GenZ are the new market
  • millennials desperate for accommodation, particularly house and townhouses
  • property has been appreciating much faster
  • offer more affordable living for young renters
  • southern US cities are where the growth is in 2020

What Factors Rank Highest in Rental Investment Property Potential?

6 key factors to examine:

  1. Local economy
  2. Employment growth
  3. Wage growth
  4. Population growth
  5. Increase in home values
  6. Rental yield

Atomdata cited 874 cities with rental property net positive cash flow of above $5000 and 48 cities with net cash flows above $10000. Their net cash flow projection methodology subtracted mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and 20% for property management from the gross rent.

That means that with good property management practices you can earn considerably more.

At the top of that $10,000 annual cash flow list based on highest percent cash-on-cash return were area codes 74126 in Tulsa, Oklahoma ($10,064 potential annual net cash flow); 63115 in St. Louis ($10,012); 19103 in Chester, Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia metro area ($10,237); 48234 in Detroit, Michigan ($10,292); and 08104 in Camden, New Jersey, also in the Philadelphia metro area ($11,388). — AtomData report.

How have you been doing your own cash flow analysis? You can download a cash flow analysis spreadsheet online, or you might use online property management software to help. Try out ManageCasa. It’s FREE!



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Which Size of Rental Unit Should you Be Investing In?

The standard 2 bedroom apartment appears to have the best ROI going forward to 2020. (chart data courtesy of Rentcafe).

Rental Unit TypeAverage RentChange in Rent M-o-MChange in Rent Y-o-Y
1 Bedroom$1,2250.1%3.4%
2 Bedroom$1,4080.1%3.5%
3 Bedroom$1,6440.2%3.2%

Buy Low Rise or High Rise Structures?

Although most cities are seeing a race to the sky, stats show that low rise apartments, townouses and condos rose 3% to 6% over the last two years (2015 to 2017). High rise price growth during the same period has shrunk from 3% to 1%.

What About the Economic Forecast?

The US economy was forecast by some experts to crash, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, the 2019 GDP numbers, unemployment rate, job creation, and retail sales numbers are good.

Although you might be focusing solely on Texas, Florida and California, you may want to look at formerly depressed states and cities. Michigan for instance has dirt cheap properties available, perhaps perfect for investors with limited budgets. As long as you’re using a good cloud based property management software, you can manage your apartments, condos, and houses from anywhere.

Rumors: If President Trump and the Republicans are serious about bringing the auto industry back to the US, as he’s stated publicly, Michigan is the place he mentioned would benefit. Grand Rapids for instance is number one in the nation for job growth and the auto sector may be the reason why.

Contrast Grand Rapid’s job growth at 4.4% to Oklahoma city’s 1% drop and you can see how important variations are. Other cities that shone last year: Orlando (4.2%). Nashville (4%), Charlotte (3.7%) and Salt Lake City (3.7%).

Job Rates Across the States


America’s smaller cities are continuing to see the greatest increases, with Gilbert, AZ (8.5%), Roseville, CA (8.5%), and Fort Collins, CO (7.9%) breaking the top 10. — from RentCafe report.

A Breakdown of the Best Cities to Buy Rental Property

Although not perfectly scientific here’s a quick look at price/rent ratios from US cities   drawn from data from RentCafe, RentMonkey, Zillow, and other sources. Will rent prices fall in these cities? Some of them could see strong downward trends (oil prices) while some cities will enjoy strong growth due to economic shifts.

Best Cities to Buy Rental Property in 2020

Zillow reported its average home selling prices and average rent prices for cities. Of course, most investors are finding the big markets priced too high.  The real investment opportunities are in smaller cities with higher economics and population growth rates.

CityHome PriceAvg Rent PricePrice to Rent Ratio
Corpus Christi$154,450$1,4398.9
Panama City$162,738$1,3919.7
St Louis$124,919$1,0679.8
El Paso$133,856$1,10210.1
Oklahoma City$137,998$1,09410.5
Fort Worth$206,558$1,58210.9
Columbus, OH$168,277$1,27411.0
Little Rock$151,528$1,14011.1
San Antonio$184,384$1,38211.1
Kansas City$157,002$1,17111.2
Fort Myers$219,176$1,61911.3
Myrtle Beach$166,392$1,18011.8
New Orleans$228,780$1,54612.3
Fort Lauderdale$338,457$2,07313.6
Aurora, CO$351,257$2,04914.3
Colorado Springs$311,380$1,65415.7
Las Vegas$283,539$1,50415.7
Santa Ana$571,514$2,73717.4
Portland, OR$452,473$2,07018.2
Los Angeles$713,600$3,12219.0
San Diego$645,489$2,82219.1
Salt Lake City$402,581$1,60920.9
Arlington VA$726,080$2,76121.9
San Jose$995,714$3,55023.4
San Francisco$1,373,630$4,31226.5

Above data courtesy of Home Values

The Big Picture Investor

As you’ve seen, there is a lot of data to filter through. While you’re examining it, keep in mind the macroeconomic factors such oil prices, trade deals, interest rates, key industry growth, new construction levels, and what the top business needs of each city are. What drives the local economies? Who are the major employers?

What to buy? According to the stats, you may like to buy a low rise, 2 bedroom condo or apartment in Orlando, Austin, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Memphis, or Riverside. Are you a high stakes gambler? Then perhaps San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, New York, Brooklyn, Manhattan, San Jose, San Mateo, or San Diego might be more to your liking.

Enjoy your research and please do check out ManageCasa Property Management software designed specifically for small portfolio property investors. Landlords, contractors, property managers and tenants all love using it. It’s more than a landlord app with easy to learn yet simple tools for helping you with your property management workload, manage tenants better and improve cash flow.


See also: Will Rent Prices Drop?  Property Management Software |  Housing Market Forecast 2020 |  Denver Housing Market 2020 | Hawaii Housing Market | Berlin Property Market Outlook 2020 | Australia Housing MarketUK Rental Market |  California Housing MarketHow to Reduce Tenant Turnover | Should I Buy or Rent in 2020? | Property Accounting SoftwareProperty Management Solution | Landlord App | Property Management AppHow to Use Property Software | ManageCasa Property Software

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