A lot of clients ask me how to figure out what market rents are in a neighborhood. This is a critical input into the calculations an investor needs to make in order to determine what their return on investment will be on a rental property. So you don't want to screw this up! Unfortunately, this is one of the many figures new investors get wrong.
One place people go to get rents is Rent-o-Meter. Rent-o-Meter is billed as an online resource to get accurate market rents. In my experience it is anything but! However, I have a fairly simple solution. Multiply what you see on Rent-o-Meter by 80% and you'll probably be close. I can't explain why but I find rents on Rent-o-Meter to be about 25% high, so multiplying their rents by 80% will get you close (do the math, it works out).
So then, how do you get market rents? Simple: start at the subject property and drive concentric circles around the neighborhood. Call every For Rent sign you see (if you don't see any this is a good sign!). Interview the landlords. A subtle but telling sign is how polite the landlords are on the phone. If they act overly solicitous and desperate it's a sign that vacancies are high and they're desperate to get tenants - not a good sign for you. If they are breezy, abrupt, and even rude, that's GREAT! It means they have too many phone calls for their vacancy and it's a strong landlord market. This is what you want to hear!
In many neighborhoods around town today this is exactly what you'll find. I know. When the vacancy rate was 13% a few years ago I was very nice over the phone. Now that it's 4%...well, a little less nice. Nothing like good -ol' market research.
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