Buy and Hold Properties in Small Western Wisconsin Towns

11 Replies

I was wondering if anyone had thoughts or experiences with buying and holding rental properties in small towns in western Wisconsin. Properties are relatively inexpensive in some of these rural towns but I worry about what type of rent could be collected in these locations.

Does anyone have any suggestions about this, or what they would recommend? Just trying to get some ideas rolling on what to do next. 


What do you mean by small town? I personally invest in a town with a population of 70k at the moment and I'm killing it cash flow wise. Just make sure the city has a solid infrastructure and don't invest in small villages where nobody wants to live. 

I recommend talking to an agent in the city in which you are looking to buy. Agents will know what rents and vacancies are like in the area. In the La Crosse area, typical rents are about $300-$400 per bedroom, with some obvious fluctuation by property quality.

Im not playing in SW WI, but i do in Northern WI, you really need to know your market and numbers, compas are tougher to understand, but I do well im my markets, the majority of my portfolio is either rural, or in towns below 15K people. if you have a good team and a PM that operates at a high level, those markets can be gold, but its not for everyone, its not easy, but generally there is little competition and high demand

@Michael B. population of 70K is quite big in most of WI other than Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison and Appleton, there are not many cities north of 50K populations. 

Hi Jeff - I run a dummy ad for a rental on Craigslist in some of the smaller towns in Dane, Columbia and Green counties, just to see what sort of response I get prior to offering on a property. Point is to gauge how much interest there is by the number of calls or emails you get.

One of our properties is a triplex in a town <2k but it's in a bedroom community 15 minutes from a city >60k. We fixed it up to be pretty nice and get 650-750 per unit on it right now. In other smaller towns we've looked at in our area we really look at who the employers are. Some of the small towns only have one main employer and so the concern is if something ever happened to it then there's no reason for people to stick around. I think you can do pretty well in small towns bc often there's not a lot of rentals available, but you definitely want to do your research. You may not be able to hit the rents of the bigger cities but I found the cost to purchase was lower so in the end you get the same cash flow.

Jeff Milas I just saw where you're posting from - just north of me a bit. We haven't researched it much yet but I've thought about a short term rental (like air bnb) on either Lake Holcombe or Lake Wissota and those are right in your area. There's a good draw to that area both summer and winter so it's another idea to think about.

@Jeff Milas I am in Reedsburg, near Wisconsin Dells. We have 25 units between Reedsburg. Baraboo (each population about 10-12K, with about 20-25K per school district) and a couple of smaller towns. About 60K for our whole county. I am not familiar with your area, but here we have EXCELLENT industrial base, and each town employess at least 500 at medical facilities. 

We have next to no vacancy. We try to have mid to nicer level units and take good care of them. We also use 60 days notice to move, and usually have them re-rented 30 days out, with high quality renters. We are able to get 1% to 1.25% per month for rents. I know a few friends who have dumpy rentals 30 minutes from town that they rent cheap and do very little maintainence but have a LOT of turn over. Not my cup of tea.

Feel free to PM me if I can help  you out at all. 

Dan Dietz

I have two "Small Western Wisconsin" investments in towns with populations less than 2000.  Ping me direct if you want a little more privacy or reply here.  They are doing well enough for me to be happy.

I am new to this forum but have owned a duplex in Jefferson County since 2010. It has cash flowed pretty well. I am looking to add to my investment portfolio and just wanted to drop in to a local post on BP to see what people in my state are talking about. I hope to contribute and learn as much as possible on this board. 

Hi Jeff, you'll need to dig in and do some research locally, in regards to small towns.  When I started out, I picked apart information on the City-data site.  They provide general figures on a town or community, including average home price sales and average rents, along with anything else you might want to know.  This is very much a general start, but you can develop a metric to compare your city to those around you.  

I'm located in Monroe County, and do well within our 9k person town with single family rentals.  


Thank you so much for the replies! I see that we have some different ideas in mind when I mentioned "small" towns. I am thinking along the lines of under 6k.  

I too have ran a dummy ad on craigslist, and I did not know if that had any weight with anyone until know. 

In small towns like this do you prefer single family homes of duplexes?