First, great question. Second, I specialize in working with "credit challenged" buyers. I was credit challenged, myself, and found a way. I agree heartily with your comment of "Sick of throwing away $1,000 per month renting".
This website makes a case for buying vas renting and also has over 800 homes for sale at or below the rent you are already spending!
Honestly there is a lot of different ways to calculate expenses and repairs on a investment property. Some people are very conservative in their estimates while other are more aggressive. Before purchasing a property you will know the fixed expenses and then you will have to calculate the variable expenses however you see fit. Vacancies and repairs are a wild card. I choose to calculate it more conservatively figuring high on expenses and low on revenue so that at the end of the year I have planned for the worst and can be happily surprised if the numbers come in better than expected vs the other way around.
Some people use what is called the 50% rule also. This is where you take the yearly rent collected and divide it by 50% for all expenses, repairs, and vacancies. Now that prices in Vegas have gone up considerably over the past few years this estimated 50% is less conservative but still a good rule of thumb. I would dig deeper into the fixed expenses once you have an actual subject property.
Right now in Vegas after calculating all of these costs you can typically plan on getting around 4- 5% CAP rate on your money. We work with a lot of investors here in Vegas. If you would like to discuss the market or your investment plan further please feel free to contact me directly. Either way best of luck with your investments!
Licensed Real Estate Broker in NV, MA, & RI
NV Broker/Salesman at The Adams Team at Rothwell Gornt Companies
MA & RI Real Estate Broker at Sankey Real Estate