It’s March, and all the fans of college sports know what that means…basketball, basketball, and more basketball. While there's always excitement in the air for some big tournament drama, real estate investors also have their spring buzz catching momentum with rent madness and…new rental properties hitting the market. Spring real estate markets often bring great opportunities to buy new rentals and whip them into shape for new tenants.
But before you start to write those purchase contracts, let's take a look at different rental markets. Our “Rent Madness 2021” bracket assembles the going rates in 8 different markets. We will explore what an average purchase” looks like in each one and determine potential cash flow based on those purchase prices to develop the Rent Madness” winner.
Our 8 bracket contestants are:
#1 Boise, Idaho
#2 Dallas, Texas
#3 Atlanta, Georgia
#4 Las Vegas, Nevada
#5 Orlando, Florida
#6 Spokane, Washington
#7 Tampa, Florida
#8 Austin, Texas
*Each rental market has its pros and cons and, of course –a wide range of purchase prices and rental rates. Our rankings were compiled by Norada Real Estate Investments and pitted the high-ranked markets against the lowest in true collegiate bracket style.
We considered three key metrics to see which market comes out on top:
- average purchase price
- the average rent for a 2-bedroom, one 1/2-bath
- cash flow potential
To figure out cash flow, we looked at the property details on the average rent report from Rentometer.
The property detail reports show the assessed tax value and the investor's last purchase price and mortgage. Well, assume a standard 20% downpayment for the loan terms and an interest rate of 5% on a 20-year loan – similar to terms an investor would get at a local bank. Assumptions for standard operating costs include a 5% vacancy allowance, 8% management fee, 5% maintenance allowance, 10% for insurance, and 5% to fund capital reserves. Then well factor in the debt service for the loan.
Let the games begin!
The first Match-Up: #1 Boise vs. #8 Austin.
Starting with the underdog, Austin, Rentometers report shows that for the 2020-21 period, this market experienced property price growth of 4.6%, with sales that grew 8.4%. Austin ranks 37th among the nation's top housing markets.
However, Austins' median home price of $370,000 leaves residents still looking to rent. niche.com ranks Austin as a desirable place for families, with highly ranked schools, moderate crime, and welcome diversity in its urban and suburban lifestyle.
The average rent in Austin is $1,803. For a property with an assessed value of $363,500, taxes and operating expenses lead to a negative monthly cash flow of $1,353 until the loan is paid down.
So this underdog is likely to stay an underdog against the #1 seed Boise.
In Boise, we have seen overall price growth of 9.1%, while property sales have grown 9.8%, putting it at #4 among the top housing markets in 2021. The median home price in Boise is $434,900. niche.com ranks Boise as a good place to live with above-average schools, moderate crime, and good diversity and nightlife with a suburban lifestyle.
The average rent in Boise is $1,369. A sample rental property assessed $265,800 rents for $1,475; in this case, cash flow is negative $561 a month until the property is paid down.
Based on this pricing data, you’d lose less on your investment in Boise, so it retains its ranking for the top seed.
#1 Boise Moves on to Final 4!
Match-Up #2: Can #2 Dallas and #7 Tampa generate better potential cash flow?
In Tampa, we see housing price growth of 7.5% and sales growth of 8.7%, so inventory is moving. Tampa currently ranks 20th overall among the top housing market in 2021. The median home price in Tampa is $251,287. niche.com ranks Tampa as a good place to live with above-average schools and family life, moderate crime, and above-average nightlife and diversity. It offers a mix of urban and suburban living.
The average rent for a house in Tampa is $1,489. A house with an assessed value of $148,149 rents for $1,500 to generate a negative cash flow of $24 per month. Not ideal yet, but close – without any significant maintenance expenses, cash flow would be positive.
So how does the Tampa rent madness compare to #2 seed Dallas?
Dallas has seen price growth of 4.4% in the last year and sales growth of 11.3%. Dallas currently ranks 22nd among the 2021 top housing markets. niche.com says Dallas is overall a good place to live, with above-average schools and family life. Housing prices are moderate overall, and the crime rate is moderate too. With above-average diversity, vibrant nightlife, and a balanced ur-ban-suburban mix, buyers, and tenants have plenty of choices when looking for a place to live.
The average rent in Dallas is $1,890. A house assessed at $252,450 last listed rent at $1900, so negative cash flow would be $651 per month. Dallas property taxes are almost double compared to rates in Tampa. So while Dallas is a top tournament seed, it will lose its rental game against Tampa.
The play in our first two brackets has been interesting. Let’s look at the remaining four rental markets to determine how underdogs with better average rent will fare or if a top seed will win out.
#7 Tampa Moves on to Final 4!
Next up: #4 Las Vegas vs. #5 Orlando. Which vacation spot delivers better average rent and cash flow?
In lower-ranked Orlando, we see price growth of 5.8% over the past year and sales growth increasing by 10.1%. Housing sales are strong here. Niche.com ranks Orlando with above-average schools and family life. It has both moderate housing prices and a moderate crime rate. Orlando has good diversity and nightlife with a suburban-urban mix. The median home value is $260,000.
The average rent in Orlando comes in at $1,327. We start to see positive cash flow for a house with an assessed value of $97,000 and rent last listed at $1,300. This property could earn $281 a month.
So how will earning potential in Las Vegas compete against strong cash flow Orlando?
Las Vegas has seen 5.2% price growth over the past year and sales growth of 12.0%, to earn it 15th among the top real estate markets for 2021. Sales are strong, and prices are increasing. niche.com ranks Las Ve-gas as an above-average place to live with above-average schools and family life. Housing prices and crime are both moderate, but this suburban area scores well for nightlife and diversity. The median housing price is $200,000.
The average rent for a house in Las Vegas is $1,431. For a house with an assessed value of $140,000 and rent recently listed at $1,450, we see a positive cash flow of $134 a month.
While Las Vegas lost this contest, it gave Orlando good competition for positive cash flow. Both markets are worth investigating if your goal is immediate positive cash flow.
#5 Orlando Moves on to Final 4!
The final match-up: #3 Atlanta vs. #6 Spokane. Let’s see what plays out in this round.
Spokane is a smaller market than the other seven markets, but it has shown solid growth both in housing prices and sales over the past year. Prices have increased by 5.6% and sales by 3.8%, ranking it 68th among top markets in 2021. niche.com ranks Spokane above-average across the board for schools, family life, housing, and diversity. The crime rate is moderate, but nightlife rates as above-average in this city with its dense suburban lifestyle. The median housing price is $277,500.
Spokanes' average rent is $1,299. For a house assessed at $204,500 with rent last listed at $1,200, we see a negative cash flow of $485. A deficit like this makes this otherwise promising area a little lackluster. At higher rent, however, this property could deliver.
So how does Spokane compare to Atlanta?
Atlanta is experiencing growth on all fronts: with a steady population increase, housing prices have risen by 6.2%, and sales have grown by 3.6%. While the city currently sits in 62nd place among top markets in 2021, niche.com loves Atlanta because of its good schools and family life. It earns a moderate ranking for housing and crime but rates well for nightlife and diversity in a mainly urban area.
The average rent in Atlanta is $1,698. A house assessed at $198,500 recently listed rent of $1,575; the numbers play out to a slight negative of $96 each month, making Atlanta rentals a better bet than those in Spokane.
#3 Atlanta Moves on to Final 4!
While these are hypothetical contests based on current data and from several sources, keep in mind that these areas all demonstrated positive growth and sales over the past year. Even as the overall economy has taken severe hits, these areas continue to attract new residents, and the local economies are growing.
When you do your due diligence on any area, use an average rent for properties comparable to your subject property. Do your best to work with actual, in-market numbers for operating expenses. With the right properties, you could cash flow in all of our top 8 Rent Madness areas.
The first round of play is over for "Rent Madness 2021," our rental tournament where the country's top 8 rental markets faced off. Moving into the final four rental market comparisons, we'll compare stats as #1 Boise goes up against #5 Orlando and #7 Tampa takes #3 Atlanta. In case you missed the first match-ups, here's how we assessed and compared the top rental areas head-to-head:
- average purchase price
- the average rent for a 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath
- cash flow potential
For cash flow estimates, we looked at the property details included in Rentometer's average rent report.
The Rentometer property detail reports show the assessed tax value and the investor's purchase price; we assumed a standard 20% downpayment and an interest rate of 5% on a 20-year loan to arrive at debt service costs – similar to terms an investor would get at a local bank. We applied industry averages to estimate typical operating costs, including an 8% management fee, a 5% vacancy allowance, 10% for insurance, a 5% maintenance allowance, and allocated 5% to fund capital reserves.
What happens in the final four match-ups? Let's play!
Up first:: #1 Boise vs. #5 Orlando.
These areas could not be more different from each other. One is a popular vacation destination, and the other is a growing hub of business in the Mountain West region. Let's see who comes out on top in these rental market comparisons.
For #5 seed Orlando, we see housing price growth of 5.8% and sales that grew by 10.1% in 2020. Orlando's real estate year ended with solid housing sales that haven't backed down for 2021, placing it firmly in the 21st spot for the top housing markets. According to niche.com, Orlando has above-average schools and family life but moderate housing costs. These factors combine for a strong seller's market markets, and prices are rising. One drawback is the city's moderate crime rate. Otherwise, this active vacation hub ranks well for nightlife and cultural diversity. The median home value in Orlando is $260,000.
At $1,327, the average monthly rent in Orlando is just above the area's median rent. An expensive unit goes for as much as $1,554, and on the low end, rent is $1,100. For our sample property, assessed at $97,000 and with rent recently listed at $1,300, the potential cash flow is $281 a month.
Orlando is off to an excellent start in this second round. So how does the #1 seed Boise stack up?
Boise's housing market has seen price growth of 9.1%, with property sales increasing by 9.8% – a hot market indeed. Boise ranks 4th among the top housing markets in 2021, according to Realtor.com®. With a median home price of $434,900, Boise has above-average schools and a suburban lifestyle, so niche.com ranks it as a good place to live. Its moderate crime rate is similar to what's going on in Orlando, and Boise also enjoys a high ranking for good nightlife and diversity.
As general real estate markets, Orlando and Boise have a lot in common. But how does the cash flow picture look?
The average rent for a 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home in Boise is $1,369. On the higher end, the same-size house brings in $1,808 in rent; on the low end, it would bring in $1,130. Our sample property is assessed at $265,800 and rents out for $1,475. Unfortunately, this puts cash flow in the red to the tune of $561 a month until the property is paid down.
With all the other factors being roughly comparable, that hefty purchase price in Boise is the tiebreaker. For the first match-up, a reasonably priced rental in Orlando will be the winner.
Orlando moves on to the Championship Round!
How will the second match-up of our rental market comparisons, #7 Tampa vs. #3 Atlanta, shake out? Will we see an upset in this bracket as well?
In 2020 Tampa saw a sales growth of 8.7%, even as prices rose by 7.5%. Tampa's busy housing market gives it a ranking of 20th among the top housing markets in 2021. Houses in Tampa sell for a median home price of $251,287. Offering a mix of urban and suburban lifestyles, Tampa is considered a good place to live, according to niche.com. The schools are above-average, and family life ranks high in this area. While Tampa does have a moderate crime rate, it's still considered above-average for cultural diversity and nightlife. Overall, you can expect people to choose this sunny, fun location, making it a robust rental market.
A 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath house in Tampa rents for an average of $1,489. For a higher-end property, rent could be as much as $1,860. Property on the low end could rent for $1,117. Our subject property has an assessed value of $148,149 and average rent of $1,500. Unfortunately, even with average rent that seems acceptable at that purchase price, the house would still generate a negative cash flow of $24 per month. Negative cash flow is not ideal, but barring any significant maintenance expenses, an investor's cash flow could be positive.
So in this match-up, Tampa comes out to play from a negative position. Let's see if Atlanta can keep its standing and move into final rental market comparisons.
In 2020, Atlanta experienced steady growth on all fronts:
- The population has increased.
- Housing prices have risen by 6.2%.
- Home sales have increased by 3.6%.
At the referee's whistle to start the game, there's nothing to stop "Hotlanta," which ranked at #62 among top markets to watch in 2021. Along with solid growth, Atlanta boasts good family life and good schools, according to niche.com. With its population grown and increased sales, Atlanta has a moderate ranking for housing prices and crime. As an urban area, Atlanta ranks well for cultural diversity and nightlife.
So how do these fundamentals playout for rentals in the Atlanta market?
A 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath house in Atlanta rents for an average of $1,698. Our sample house assessed at $198,500 and showed an average rent of $1,575, putting its cash flow on the negative side by $96 monthly. Thus #7 seed Tampa wins this rental market match-up by nudging closer to breakeven than Atlanta.
Tampa moves on to the Championship Round!
Wow, upsets in both brackets! Our #1 and #3 seeds fall in rental comparisons to the #5 and #7 seeds.
Every real estate investor knows that any market can have ups and downs. All four of our final rental markets offer solid fundamentals and a good outlook. If you can find a deal at an under-market purchase price, any of these four rental markets could earn you good money. Average rents in all four markets are strong; expect rent price adjustments to keep up with housing prices.
To keep your rentals priced appropriately for your local market, run a Rentometer report to review the current average rental rates. For fun, you can run your own rental market comparisons in a nearby town.
The Rent Madness tournament wraps up as we anticipate this championship match-up for the best area for rental investments in 2021. The contests have been tough, but there will be one clear winner worth investigating for new rental property. Let’s dive into the game between Tampa and Orlando.
It’s all about Florida.
Orlando started as a favorite in the Rent Madness bracket, seeded at #5. This real estate market is also a favorite for property managers and investors for many reasons. Orlando is home to a robust tourism and entertainment industry. Even amidst the pandemic-induced economic slowdown, theme parks have found a way to keep their doors open and welcome visitors. The beach continues to draw those looking for fun, rest, and relaxation.
Many northerners are weary of being cooped up indoors while it’s cold and snowy outside; with remote work ever more viable, some have decided to migrate south. While “snowbirds” have always flocked to southern destinations during the winter months, higher numbers have made this move permanent.
Orlando is the 4th largest city in Florida. With a population of 2.5 million people, it’s a solid secondary market for rental investments and shows strong growth. Orlando is definitely in a seller’s market now, and all indications suggest it will remain one for this next year. With just slightly more than a month of housing inventory available to buyers, houses sell fast and often for more than the list price.
What does this mean for an investor? Let’s review the numbers.
In Orlando, the median home value is $260,000.
Realtor.com® ranks Orlando as #21 in the top housing markets for 2021. We looked at a sample 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath rental property currently assessed at $97,000 and a listed rent of $1,300. Rentometer reports show the average rent for Orlando is $1,327. Depending on this property’s amenities and condition, a rent of $1,300 could have some upward wiggle room. One way or the other, at the current prices and rates, our sample property could cash flow for $281 a month.
This comfortable cash flow makes Orlando a clear favorite to come out on top as the Rent Madness 2021 tournament champion.
How does Tampa, a similar yet different Florida city, rank as an area for rental investments?
Tampa came into our Rent Madness tournament with good prospects as the #7 seed. Tampa may not have large theme parks like Orlando, but it is a hub for four Fortune 500 companies. These companies bring in permanent residents who all need housing. An attractive waterfront city, Tampa is also a year-round tourist magnet. Tampa hosted the 2020 Super Bowl and, more recently, the annual convention for the
U.S. Travel Association. Unlike some other tourist hotspots, Florida has been primarily open this past year, and discussions continue about how to safely increase capacity for travel and tourism players in the state.
Tampa has more than 4 million full-time residents, just shy of the primary market ranking of 5 million people. Thanks to aggressive, business-friendly policies, it is a leader among rental markets. Tampa ranks 20th in the top real estate markets in 2021.
Like Orlando, Tampa is also experiencing a strong seller’s market. The median house price is $251,287, with only two months of inventory available.
Rentometer reports show that a 2 bedroom, 1 1/2-bath house in Tampa rents for an average of $1,489. The sample rental property we’re considering assesses for $148,149 and lists an average rent of $1,500, right in line with Rentometer’s average rent. Unfortunately, even at a purchase price well under the current median home price and an average rental rate, this property is negative $24 in monthly cash flow.
These rental markets have seen steady growth so far in 2021 and could be attractive areas for rental investments. But cash is always king.
Orlando brings home the trophy for the Rent Madness 2021 tournament with Tampa’s negative cash flow, while Orlando’s is positive.
How to use real-world research for rental investments.
While these comparisons are a fun and interesting way to view rental markets, investors know each area has its strengths. Investors don’t typically buy at retail housing prices, so a median housing price may not always be a good indicator for property acquisition costs. However, substantial population and economic growth trends could signal that an area may be rewarding for rental investing.
Using the average rental rates from Rentometer reports, an investor now has a baseline for researching potential rental property. This data, along with on-the-ground knowledge of the area or insight gathered from other local property managers, investors, and real estate agents, provide a real estate investor a better idea of whether or not they want to pursue a rental property.
Due diligence is a crucial component in any property purchase. Rentometer reports can serve as a guide that can help you decide if the area is even worth the time to research. To run your rental rate reports today, visit www.rentometer.com
You’ll find out if rents for prospective properties rate low, reasonable, or high for the area. With that information, you can make a purchase decision that anticipates if affordable property improvements will allow you to raise your rates and cash flow sooner.
This article was written by the Rentometer Content Team. The Rentometer Blog features fresh takes and insights on rental housing topics, services, and technology. If you liked this article, subscribe to Rentometer's email newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in rental housing