Nareit’s Total REIT Industry Tracker Series – the Nareit T-Tracker– is the first quarterly performance measure of the heartbeat of the U.S. listed REIT industry. The series includes three key REIT industry measures: the Nareit FFO Tracker, which monitors equity REIT Funds From Operations; the Nareit NOI Tracker, which reports the equity REIT industry’s Net Operating Income; and the Nareit Dividend Tracker, which monitors the dividends U.S. listed equity and mortgage REITs pay to their shareholders.
Key Takeaways for Q1 2021
- Funds from operations (FFO) rose 2.0% over the prior quarter, to $14.0 billion. The recovery in FFO slowed at the beginning of this year from the 10.3% and 10.8% growth in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, of last year.
- First quarter performance varied widely by sector, with sectors that support the digital economy (data centers, infrastructure, industrial REITs) all posting record or near-record FFO, while other sectors (office and diversified REITs) saw continued declines, and lodging/resorts again reported negative FFO.
- FFO in the fourth quarter was 4.7% lower than one year earlier.
- Net operating income (NOI) totaled $23.9 billion, 5.4% higher than the prior quarter and 0.3% above one year earlier.
- Dividends paid by equity REITs totaled $11.2 billion, and dividends paid by mREITs totaled $1.6 billion. The $12.9 billion overall dividends paid was 18.0% lower than in the first quarter of 2020.
- Occupancy rates were 90.6%, 20 basis points lower than the prior quarter. Occupancy rates in the office REIT sector declined 85 bps, to 90.4%. Occupancy rates in the office sector declined 85 bps, while most other sectors saw small declines in occupancy rates. Apartment REITs, in contrast, saw a 60 bp increase in occupancy rates, to 95.0%.
- The ratio of debt to total book assets was 50.3%, compared to 51.4% in the prior quarter. Leverage ratios are far below the 57.0% during the financial crisis of 2008, as REITs raised hundreds of billions of dollars of equity capital over the past decade.
- The weighted average interest coverage ratio increased from 4.1x in 2020:Q4 to 4.5x in 2021:Q1. Coverage ratios remain well above the 2.6x average during the financial crisis in 2008.
- The weighted average term to maturity of REIT debt was 87.4 months (more than 7 years). This is up from 84.0 months in the third quarter, and is the longest average maturity of REIT debt on record.
- REITs retained ample sources of liquidity in the first quarter. Total cash and securities and undrawn lines of credit equaled 8.1x annual interest expense, up from 7.7x in 2020:Q4.
“Different parts of the economy are reopening at different speeds, and REIT performance by property sector reflects this variation,” said Calvin Schnure, Nareit senior economist. “The recovery is broadening with the vaccine rollout, however, and prospects for improvement have gone from ‘if’ to ‘when’."