How to Invest in REITs

Individuals can invest in REITs in a variety of different ways, including purchasing shares of publicly traded REIT stocks, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. REITs also play a growing role in defined benefit and defined contribution investment plans.

How do I Invest in a REIT?

An individual may buy shares in a REIT, which is listed on major stock exchanges, just like any other public stock. Investors may also purchase shares in a REIT mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF). In fact, more than 70 million Americans are invested in REITs through their retirement savings and other financial funds.

A broker, investment advisor or financial planner can help analyze an investor’s financial objectives and recommend appropriate REIT investments.

Investors also have the ability to invest in public non-listed REITs and private REITs. 

How is the value of REIT shares typically assessed? 

Like all companies whose stocks are publicly traded, REIT shares are priced by the market throughout the trading day. To assess the investment value of REIT shares, analysts typically consider:

  • Anticipated growth in earnings per share;
  • Anticipated total return from the stock, estimated from the expected price change and the prevailing dividend yield;
  • Current dividend yields relative to other yield-oriented investments (e.g., bonds, utility stocks and other high-income investments);
  • Dividend payout ratios as a percent of REIT FFO (see below for discussion of FFO and AFFO);
  • Management quality and corporate structure; and
  • Underlying asset values of the real estate and/or mortgages and other assets.

How do REITs measure earnings and ability to pay dividends?

REITs use net income as defined under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) as their primary operating performance measure. Additionally, REITs use funds from operations (FFO), a measure of cash generated, as a supplemental indicator of their operating performance.

Nareit defines FFO as net income excluding gains or losses from sales of most property and depreciation of property, since real estate typically appreciates rather than depreciates. Securities analysts also use a measure called Adjusted FFO (AFFO), which adjusts FFO for rent increases and certain capital expenditures. 

What factors typically drive REIT earnings growth?

Growth in REIT earnings are typically generated by higher revenues, lower costs and new business opportunities. The most immediate sources of revenue growth are higher rates of building occupancy and increased rents. Additional property acquisition and development programs also create growth opportunities, provided the economic returns from these investments exceed the cost of financing.

Do I need a Schedule K-1 Tax Document to invest in REITs?

No, a Schedule K-1 is not needed to invest in REITs.