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California’s Best City to Invest in Rental Housing? It’s Madera



Madera is California's best city for investing in rental housing. (Shutterstock)
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California rental housing investment returns may lag behind the rest of the country, but Central Valley cities have the biggest gains in the state.

Zillow data show rent in Madera will pay back a 20% down payment — the typical amount needed for a rental property — faster than anywhere else in the state. Real estate website Agent Advice compiled the data.

Three Years to Get a Down Payment Back in Madera

At an average rent of $2,195 a month, .57% of the average home value, it only takes 36 months to pay off the down payment, four months shorter than the national average of 40 months. The state average to pay back a down payment is 50 months, due in large part to very high average property values, the report stated.

Hanford, Visalia, Fresno, and Bakersfield round out the top five, in that order.

Madera’s year-over-year rental rate increases far outpace the other four cities. Zillow’s rent index — which includes apartments — shows rents growing 17.4% to $1,997 a month in May. Rent hikes in the other four cities hovered around 5%.

  • Hanford 5.8% to $1,774
  • Visalia 5.1% to $1,720
  • Fresno 5.1% to $2,005
  • Bakersfield 4.7% to $1,754

This chart from the real estate brokerage website Agent Advice shows the top 10 cities in California for the best returns on rental properties. (Screengrab)

Madera Population Growth Modest, Bakersfield Trends Fastest

Population growth in Madera falls behind other cities in the ranking. Of the top five, Bakersfield has undergone the biggest population boom over the past five years, growing 6.15% to 408,373 as of Jan. 1, according to the California Department of Finance. Madera only grew 1.7% to 65,540 people. Visalia has grown 5.37%, with a population of 143,031 people.

For landlords competing with housing affordability, Madera County has one of the highest housing affordability ratings in the Central Valley. Approximately 54% of households can afford an entry-level home in the county, according to the California Association of Realtors. Tulare and Kings counties have slightly higher shares with 55% of households able to afford an entry-level home.

The state affordability average is 36%.

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at

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