Should I Invest in a REIT?

by Kathryn Williams 01/12/2020

Photo by Nattanan Kanchanaprat via Pixabay

Would you like to invest in real estate? To buy thousands of income-producing properties, from apartments to office buildings to industrial parks, all over the country or the world? It you’re wealthy, you might dispatch someone to travel far and wide and do just that, but even if you’re not rich you can participate. The tool that enables this is a Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT.

What is a REIT?

A REIT uses its investors’ money to buy or finance real estate that produces income. It’s an investment in property rather than stocks or bonds. The profit it earns from leases and rents is distributed to investors. By law REITs must pay out 90 percent of this income to the shareholders, but 100 percent is more common.

Most REITS are Equity REITs, which directly own property. Mortgage REITs are indirect, investing in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Most REITs are publicly traded and listed on national exchanges. Some are private; these generally require a larger minimum investment.

REIT holdings include residential buildings, office space, industrial facilities, shopping centers, hotels, storage facilities and even data centers. A REIT may invest in one of these asset types or a mix of many.

There are also mutual funds that invest in REITs. Some are actively managed and others are Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that buy all REITs, or all REITs in specific categories, without trying to pick winners.

Are REITs a good investment?

REITs offer the benefits of owning rental property without the headaches, homework and personal risk. If you want to buy, say, an apartment building, you must evaluate the property, arrange financing, find renters, deal with tenants and building maintenance on a day-to-day basis and handle the accounting and taxes. If your investment turns sour you’re in for a big loss. With REITs, professionals do that work, and if one property loses money it’s offset by those that do well. Also, you can put as much or as little at risk as you want in a REIT. You can buy a small number of shares for a few thousand or even a few hundred dollars.

Historically, REITs have outperformed most other investments long-term. Average returns for the last 10, 20, 30 and 40 years have been comfortably over 10%. However, REITs are subject to the ups and downs of real estate and can be a loser in the short run. Generally the best time to buy a REIT is when the real estate market is at the bottom as opposed to when it’s nearing a crest. Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly when that is, so dollar cost averaging, i.e., buying regularly over time, is a good strategy.

REITs tend not to move up and down in lockstep with stocks and bonds, so they can have a balancing effect in a portfolio. Few would recommend making REITs the major part of your holdings, but they can be an important component of your investment strategy.

About the Author
Author

Kathryn Williams

As a respected and accomplished Realtor, Katy offers her clients an outstanding level of service. With three generations of her family living in Fairfield County, Katy has an exceptional knowledge of the surrounding communities and her years of experience allow her to excel at every level of the transaction. Prior to earning her Real Estate license, Katy graduated from Wilton High School, earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Science from the Bank Street School of Education. Katy received her Real Estate license in 2009 and chose to work in a local agency that values and supports the communities she loves. Known by colleagues and clients alike for her honesty, clarity, perseverance and fairness, Katy has a reputation for her timely responsiveness to her clients’ needs and concerns. In addition to her real estate business, Katy is deeply committed to volunteerism. She is involved on the board of the Wilton Historical Society and with the biannual Minks to Sinks Fundraiser for the Family and Children's Agency. She enjoys playing tennis and golf, cooking, reading and spending time with her family. For the past 22 years, Katy and her husband have been raising their four children in Wilton. Katy loves sharing her passion for the community with her clients and helping them find their perfect home. Member: National Association of Realtors Connecticut Association of Realtors Consolidated Multiple Listing Service Mid Fairfield County Association of Realtors Leading Real Estate Companies of the World Wilton Chamber of Commerce Kiwanis Club