We live in Northern VA, and have a rental property in MD. We would like to buy another VA property for a rental in the next few months. The goal is to have it in my area which is a very good job area with a lot of high traffic of people coming in from outside areas for work. The issue is the cost of homes here is extremely expensive. For example a $400K townhome will rent for about $2200 which is just over 1/2% The idea of the 1% rule in this area just seems impossible. I can justify things by telling myself the tenant is paying down the mortgage and in the long run, it will pay off. but cash flow will be low. After maintenance and repairs, its most likely close to a break even.
The idea of buying homes 1-2 hours away for the sake of being cheaper doesn't sit well with me. I hate the idea of dealing with them, and also the fact that 5-10-15 years from now, it may or may not be a good area... Any home I buy in my area I feel will have great long term returns.

Does anyone on here deal with expensive area rental properties? Is there any set rules you like to follow to make sure the deals work for you. Even if its a low cash flow setup? This area is expensive for a reason, and IMO long term, it will be a very good investment. It just isn't an ideal quick ROI.

If anyone here buys rentals in expensive areas, I'd love to hear what you look for in a rental property.   Or is it simply, you gotta pay to play and it is what it is to own rentals in this area.