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These are the top ZIP codes for rental returns

  • HomeUnion is one of several companies helping landlords narrow down the best rental areas for their investments.
  • The list considers a range of variables, including nearby school rankings and area job growth.

More Americans are renting homes today than at any time in more than half a century.

As a result, more investors are looking to cash in on that trend as landlords of single family rental homes. If you're one of them, you want to know where you'll get the most bang for your buck. Try this ZIP code: 33434.

That is the finding of HomeUnion, one of several companies that help investors find, purchase, renovate, manage and sell single-family rental homes. With so much real estate data available now, most of these companies are compiling lists of best bets.

HomeUnion is offering a list of projections for investors looking to hold and rent properties over the next five years. Its analysts are considering factors beyond just vacancies and rent appreciation, examining permitting activities for both apartments and single-family homes, as well as area job growth and school rankings. HomeUnion updates its data each quarter.

"We're looking at the supply-and-demand factors in each market and all of the neighborhoods within those markets," said Steve Hovland, director of research. "As we get new information, we apply that to our methodology."

Historically, most mom-and-pop landlords choose homes in their backyards. It's a practical choice, as they often manage the properties themselves and need to be nearby should a pipe break or a basement flood. With the recent growth of rental management companies to do the dirty work, investors are increasingly looking nationally and don't necessarily want to have to travel to see the properties they buy. That means statistics are key, and potential investors are hungrier than ever for data.

"They know real estate is a good investment, and they want to invest, but to do all the due diligence takes a lot of work, and most of our investors are already busy with other jobs," said Hovland.

So, will every house in each of those Top 20 markets yield top dollar? Not necessarily. There will always be renters who fail to pay and extenuating circumstances that can suddenly cause a local market to turn. As with the other multitude of lists and rankings, this is just a guide.

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