This insight attempts to answer the following questions: -
There are many different types of REITs some of which invest exclusively in healthcare, office, industrial, residential properties, etc.
They are part of Alternatives asset class which are different from the traditional asset classes like Equities, Fixed Income, etc. Investors get diversified and indirect exposure to income producing properties. Alternative asset class provides good diversification potential to investors as they have less corelated with traditional asset classes.
RETIs are required to distribute at least 90% of their income back to investors and they can claim exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and corporation tax liabilities. Consequentially, investors pay tax on dividends and any capital growth at their marginal tax rates.
Comparing physical property and publicly traded REITs.
|Publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust||Physical Property|
|Highly liquid as shares are traded on the stock exchange.||Highly illiquid as it typically takes a long time to close a purchase and sell existing property.|
|Entry Costs and Overheads|
|Annual management fee typically between 0.5% to 3%.||
|Capital gains tax. If invested through a tax wrapper, no capital gains taxes apply as per current tax rules.||
|Investment is typically distributed across range of properties owned by the company.||Investment is usually concentrated in a single or handful number of properties|
|Professionally and actively managed. Charges are part of annual management fee.||Involves close and direct supervision which may not be possible for some investors. Alternatively, some agencies offer management services for an additional fee.|
Unlike physical property ownership, REITs cannot pass on tax losses to investors as this cannot be deducted from their taxable income. An investor can realise such losses only by selling shares of REITs at a loss.
Publicly traded REITs do not offer the ability to oversee the day to day running of properties unlike physical properties where investors also have greater control of being involved in investment related decisions.
Publicly traded REIT prices are determined by stock price movements on the stock exchange and are therefore more volatile than physical property prices whose prices are appraised by an independent evaluator.
REITs typically borrow to finance their operations and to also refinance their maturing debt. This makes them highly leveraged and riskier than physical properties.