Fifth-best city: Atlanta
Difference between rent and mortgage:
DuBois says "Hotlanta" offers investors the potential of good rental income and solid capital appreciation.
That's because the 5.3 million-population metro area's real estate market -- which tumbled during the housing bust -- appears to be rebounding. Median Atlanta-area list prices on Realtor.com rose 9.8% over the past year to hit $174,900.
"Atlanta was hit hard by foreclosures, but prices are starting to appreciate there and I think we're seeing some stability," DuBois says.
Georgia's capital city also offers investors high rents relative to monthly mortgage payments.
Rents there average $1,187 a month, or 182.6% more than the $650 monthly mortgage bill you'll face on a typical property.
Atlanta also offers a large base of student and nonstudent tenants.
The city not only hosts giant Georgia State University (32,000 students), Emory University (13,900 pupils) and other schools, but is home to such top corporations as
Delta Air Lines
. "There are multiple tenants you can appeal to -- not just students," DuBois says.