We’ve always been told that appearances can be deceiving. And that’s true in real estate investing as n most other areas of life. That’s where tools like Jason Hartman’s Rent to Value Ratio come in, with a way to sort the good from the bad and the ugly in income property investing.

The Rent to Value Ratio is one of the Three Dimensions of Real Estate Investing – Jason’s trademark system for evaluating the investment potential of any property. That ratio – the amount of rent charged in relation to the property’s actual value – is a key benchmark of determining term returns on the investment.

An ideal RV ratio is 0.7 percent or higher, with 0.5 percent the bottom acceptable point. For example, a $200,000 property renting for, say, $600, the RV ratio comes in at a dismal 0.3 percent. Increase the rent to $1000 and the ratio improves to the minimal 0.5 percent. But a rent of $1400 yields an RV return of 0.7 percent – that sweet spot for a good return.

ZillowAdThat’s why ads such as this one that showed up on a recent listing by Zillow are misleading. The ad shows a property with an estimated value of nearly $600,000. But the rent estimate is $2,408 – hardly the best numbers for building wealth. According to our RV ratio formula, that estimated rent in the listing is not ideal – yet the property looks like a good deal.

That kind of listing also demonstrates why properties in some of the country’s top markets have hit the ceiling in terms of getting a good return from rentals. Higher-priced properties that have to command equally high rents leave no room for making a profit from rentt that hit the ideal RV range. Less expensive, solid purchases in less flashy markets can.

The solution? Investing in properties capable of generating RV ratios that work – mid range homes in markets able to sustain rents in that zone of 0.5 percent or better. And for investors willing to diversify by tapping into the less glamorous – but more profitable – markets around the country and do the math, that RV “sweet spot” may not be hard to find.  (Top image:Flickr/artest)

Read more from Jason Hartman:

Revisiting Asset Deflation/Monetary Inflation

Gold vs. Real Estate

The Jason Hartman Team

Creating Wealth Show logo 2015