California's 9 Best Places to Buy a Rental Property

California's 9 Best Places to Buy a Rental Property

January 13, 2021

As one of the most desirable states to live and vacation in, California housing is always in demand—no matter how costly it is. Even though the Golden State is the most rewarding in both short-term and long-term property investments, breaking into its housing market isn’t a piece of cake. Nevertheless, don’t be discouraged by the median home prices or the cost of living.

There are plenty of areas where you can invest in rental properties and set yourself up for financial success. The key is to look beyond the major cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Whether you’re looking to invest in a vacation home or host an Airbnb, here are the best places to buy a rental property in California

The Best Places To Buy An Investment Property In Northern California

Invest in a charming abode tucked away in Douglas City, where there's no shortage of natural wonders. Photo courtesy of Airbnb.

1. Douglas City

Median home price: $324,167

Median rental price: $2,723

Located in Trinity County, about 45 minutes outside of Redding, Douglas City usually flies under the radar. But it has quickly become one of the best places to buy an investment property in California. The cost-of-living index here is 89.3, which is lower than the U.S. and statewide averages. Douglas City has seen positive job growth, too, with a 1.8 percent surge over the past year—future job growth is expected to exceed 23 percent. The cash-on-cash return of investing in an Airbnb is 7.16 percent, with an occupancy rate of 57 percent.

Douglas City is within close proximity to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, where you can hike to rushing waterfalls and gaze upon jagged peaks. Drive a little farther north and you’ll arrive at Shasta Lake—one of the most beautiful lakes in Northern California—and Shasta-Trinity National Forest

2. Yuba City

Median home price: $355,716

Median rental price: $1,741

Yuba City is the 21st largest metropolitan area in the Golden State and is the county seat of Sutter County. The city is close to Sacramento, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, and Lake Berryessa—one of the weirdest places to visit in California—making it one of the best places to buy a rental property.

The cost-of-living index in Yuba City is 112.5, which is slightly over the U.S. average. But the cash-on-cash return of an Airbnb is 3.97 percent and the occupancy rate is 81 percent, so investing in a rental property here isn’t exactly a bad idea. Make your homestay a little more inviting, and you’ll certainly see a surge in Airbnb bookings. 

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The Best Areas to Buy a Rental Property In Sacramento County

With plenty of charm and ample outdoor activities, Elk Grove is one of the best places to buy rental property near Sacramento.

3. Elk Grove

Median home price: $497,829

Median rental price: $1,848

If you’re still asking yourself where to buy an investment property in Sacramento, Elk Grove is your answer. As the second-largest city in Sacramento County, Elk Grove quickly became the fastest-growing city in the country in the mid-2000s. Here, you’ll find the largest school district in Northern California, the Elk Grove Unified School District—which is also the city’s second-largest employer. 

Elk Grove has a cost-of-living index of 134.9. The average Airbnb price in Elk Grove differs greatly from the typical rental prices; renting a one-room Airbnb costs $2,146. With a cash-on-cash return of 3.04 percent and an 82 percent occupancy rate, Elk Grove is undoubtedly one of the best places to buy vacation rental property in the Golden State.

4. Rancho Cordova

Median home price: $417,083

Median rental price: $1,364

Rancho Cordova is the best place to buy an investment property in the Sacramento region. As the state capital’s largest employment sub-center, the city attracts over 50,000 commuters. Whether you’re looking to host an Airbnb or rent out your property long-term, Rancho Cordova is the perfect place to invest in a second home. Airbnb prices differ greatly from traditional rent costs—the monthly Airbnb rental income is  $4,222 and the cash-on-cash return is 4.88 percent. 

As for the job market, there has been a positive increase; future job growth is likely to reach about 36 percent. Most residents here work in management, business, technology, and architecture. 

The Best Places To Buy A Rental Property In Southern California

When it comes to buying rental property in Southern California, look no further than these under-the-radar cities.

5. Winchester

Median home price: $494,314

Median rental price: $1,733

If investing in rental property in Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and San Diego is too expensive for your taste, Winchester is the ideal middle ground. Situated in Riverside County, Winchester is one of the best places to buy a rental property in Southern California. Renting out your Airbnb here means a 17.58 percent cash-on-cash return and an 87 percent occupancy rate. A four-room Airbnb can rent for up to $12,045 in Winchester. 

The job market in Winchester has increased by 2.2 percent over the past year as well, with most people working in the computer industry, management, engineering, and business. 

6. Blythe

Median home price: $164,936

Median rental price: $795

Blythe is among the most affordable places to live in Southern California. With a 94.1 cost-of-living index and inexpensive home prices, the city is one of the best places to buy a vacation home in California. Investing in an Airbnb here is quite rewarding—the occupancy rate is 58 percent with a cash-on-cash return of 8.84 percent.  

Since Blythe is located in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, vacationing here means you get to enjoy summer all year long. You’re also within close proximity to Havasu Lake, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the desolate and mysterious Salton Sea

The Best Places to Buy a Rental Property In Los Angeles County

Thanks to its easy accessibility to Southern California's top beaches, Hawthorne is a prime place to buy an investment property.

7. Hawthorne

Median home price: $734,096

Median rental price: $1,753

The hometown of rapper Tyler, the Creator and the iconic Beach Boys, Hawthorne is one of the best places to buy a rental property in California. The city has one of the highest renter-occupied household rates in the Golden State—73.5 percent of residents are renters. 

The cash-on-cash return is 1.79 percent for traditional long-term rentals and 1.52 percent for Airbnbs. Although the median home price is relatively costly, it’s guaranteed that you’ll make your money’s worth, especially when you consider the fact that rent prices are constantly rising. 

8. Lake Los Angeles

Median home price: $254,623

Median rental price: $1,220

Investing in long-term rentals in Lake Los Angeles is quite profitable. Countless movies, TV shows, and commercials have been filmed here, so you know there’s always someone looking for somewhere to stay. The capitalization rate of traditional rental properties is 5.1 percent with a cash-on-cash return of 6.63 percent, making it one of the best places to buy a rental property in Los Angeles County

Staying in Lake Los Angeles means you’ll get to enjoy many activities in the area without having to break the bank. You can reach Angeles National Forest in only 20 minutes away and San Bernardino National Forest in 30 minutes from Lake Los Angeles. 

The Best Place to Buy a Rental Property in Orange County

Stanton offers affordable housing and lies within close proximity to many area attractions, making it a great place to invest in a second home.

9. Stanton

Median home price: $569,319

Median rental price: $1,851

Offering a small-town feel to residents, Stanton was incorporated in 1956 and has greatly flourished and developed since then. The city is now home to over 39,000 people—with most residents renting their homes—and is the best place to buy a rental property in Orange County.

Stanton’s Airbnb occupancy rate is 77 percent with a cash-on-cash return of 6.03 percent. A four-room Airbnb can cost anywhere between $1,900 and $6,789. Traditional rent prices can reach up to $2,841. You’ll also find no shortage of adventures here—the town is less than 15 minutes from Anaheim and is roughly 30 minutes away from Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach.


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