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We lucked out and rental prices in our area run about 30% higher than mortgage costs,...

At this time, anyway. Are you prepared for that to reverse? We sold our rental when it became cheaper to buy than rent. No money down vs first last and deposit. Tough to get that no money down mtg now, but what was may very well be again.

Why is there so much distaste for renting out property here? It seems like it could be lucrative.

Many variables, nothing is a given. Be particularly concerned about tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities, which will vary from state to state. Some states are not at all landlord friendly. In FL watch out for flood insurance as well. The industry is in flux, and flood insurance is getting very crazy.

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