Private vs. Public REITs: Finding the Best Financial Fit
The reasons why an individual chooses to invest vary; however, most cite earning a high return on investment as one of their financial objectives. Whether it is immediate income or capital appreciation, wealth accumulation is a primary consideration for investors.
One investment that meets this financial objective, while providing additional benefits, is a real estate investment trust (REIT). A REIT is “a corporation that owns and/or manages income-producing commercial real estate. When individuals buy a real estate investment trust … share, they are purchasing a share of the company that owns and manages the rental property.”
Historically, REITs – both private and public – have outperformed the stock market, providing investors with higher returns than equity investments. This article reviews the types of REITs that exist, historical returns for private vs. public REITs, and ways to identify suitable investments for a portfolio.
Types of REITs: Public vs. Private
REITs can be classified as either private or public.
Public REITs are regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They must meet certain qualifications and register and file regular reports with the SEC.
Public REITs can be further divided into publicly traded and public non-traded. Anyone can invest in either type; however, the form of investment differs. Publicly traded REITs are traded on an exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ. Well-known publicly traded REITs include Camden Property Trust (CPT), Realty Income Corp (O), and The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC). Meanwhile, public non-traded REITs are purchased by working with an individual broker or financial advisor. Public non-traded REITs offer similar benefits and disadvantages as private REITs.
Private REITs are real estate funds or companies that are exempt from SEC registration and are available only to institutional or accredited investors. An accredited investor is defined as either 1) an individual whose net worth is more than $1 million, excluding their primary residence (individually or with a spouse or partner) or 2) an individual whose income is more than $200,000 (individually) or $300,000 (with a spouse or partner) in each of the prior two years and reasonably expects the same for the current year. Investments are available through private placement and, unlike public REITs, require a higher minimum investment, ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 (sometimes more).
REITs in Terms of the Numbers
Introduced in 1960, REITs have become a vital part of our economy. According to data released by Nareit:
- In the United States, 145 million people live in households with a REIT investment through a 401(k) or another investment funds.
- REITs own approximately 535,000 properties across the United States.
- REITs help finance one million homes in the United States.
- REITs contributed the equivalent of an estimated 2.9 million full-time jobs to the U.S. economy in 2020, generating $197 billion in labor income.
- REITs invested $85.2 billion in new construction and routine capital expenditures to maintain existing property in 2020.
- REITs of all types collectively own more than $4.5 trillion in gross assets across the United States, with public REITs owning $3 million in assets.
- U.S.-listed REITs have an equity market capitalization of more than $1.4 million.
While REITs are a major contributor to the economy, what returns are investors potentially going to achieve when adding REITs to their portfolio? To better answer this question, it’s important to look at the historical performance of public and private REITs and outline the risks associated with each. Accredited investors should consider both factors when determining which REIT to invest in.
REITs vs. Stocks
Before reviewing the difference in returns for private versus public REITs, let’s first look at how REITs perform compared to stocks. The Motley Fool explains that “REITs have outpaced the S&P 500's total return since NAREIT began tracking their performance in 1972. Thus, one could definitively state that REITs have outperformed stocks over the long term.” While “that has certainly been the case in more recent years as stocks outperformed REITs in 2019 and the prior 5- and 10-year periods … REITs have come out ahead over much longer timeframes as they've outpaced stocks during the last 20- and 25- year periods.”
Data reveals that “over a 25-year period, the index returned 9.05% compared to 7.97% for the S&P 500 and 7.41% for the Russell 2000.”
Private vs. Public REITs
Return on public REITs – more specifically, publicly traded REITs – can easily be determined. Since shares are publicly traded, these REITs are required to report their earnings and dividends. Looking at the past 10 years, “ as of June 2022, the index's 10-year average annual return was 8.34%. Over a 25 year period, the index returned 9.05% …”
Private REIT data, however, is not so simple to determine. Lack of transparency makes it more difficult for investors to understand what to expect. To help differentiate between the two, we turn to the expert opinion of Brad Thomas, an experienced real estate professional. Thomas recently shared an article outlining the difference between private and public REITs, pointing out that returns on private
REITs have the potential to be higher than those on public REITs. He recalls one of his experiences, which supports this possibility.
“When I harnessed institutional capital in 2003 and 2011 to co-found two net-lease REITs … the founding institutional investments flowed into STORE Capital (STOR) in 2011 and concluded prior to our 2014 IPO. By the time of their exit in the first quarter of 2016, our founding institutional shareholders had generated returns that exceeded their initial expectations and mine; they made an approximate 26% annual rate of return.”
He shares another example of what investors recently experienced in the private REIT sector. “In 2017, Blackstone (BX) introduced the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT), an open-ended privat REIT designed to deliver private real estate asset management to retail investors. … At the end of June 2022, BREIT's NAV per share had risen roughly 50%, versus just a 10% rise in VNQ's [Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund ETF, a publicly traded REIT] per share valuation. Much of the performance divergence rests in BREIT's investment mix.”
Historically, Thomas said, “had you been a buy-and-hold REIT investor between 1990 and 2022, you could have likely been happy socking away your 10.5% annual rates of return.”
Not all data reveals the same returns; however, most reports share the same concept: private REITs offer higher return potential than public REITs. To provide an alternative opinion, let’s look at an article released by The Motley Fool. According to certified financial planner Matthew Frankel, While Mr. Frankel discusses risks associated with private REITs and why they are not a great investment for everyone, he states that, “Generally speaking, private REITs pay higher dividends than comparable public REITs. Public REITs have historically paid dividend yields in the 5–6% range, on average, while private REIT dividend yields have historically been in the 7–8% ballpark, according to National Real Estate Investor.”
Where to Invest
As mentioned, all REITs – private, publicly traded, and public non-traded – all have unique pros and cons.
Public REITs “are a popular way of investing in commercial real estate, especially for those who have limited funds to invest. REITs have a low barrier to entry; someone can buy a single share for less than $100 … [and] these shares are generally highly liquid … [shares] can often be bought and sold with the click of a button just as you would trade other stocks or bonds. The liquidity of [public] REITs … makes them particularly attractive for those who want to diversify their portfolios by investing in commercial real estate, but who cannot or do not want to have their capital tied up for extended periods of time.”
By contrast, those looking for higher return potential should consider private REITs. However, investors must consider the associated risks. Private REITs are
- not regulated by the SEC, and therefore lack transparency;
- incur higher fees, including commission fees;
- lack liquidity (there is no secondary market); and
- are only available to accredited investors.
The key to any portfolio is diversification. Incorporating a REIT option, including a private REIT, may protect investors against economic volatility. Those interested in learning more can speak with a qualified professional at Perch Wealth.
Not an offer to buy, nor a solicitation to sell securities. Information herein is provided for information purposes only, and should not be relied upon to make an investment decision. All investing involves risk of loss of some or all principal invested. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Speak to your finance and/or tax professional prior to investing.
Securities offered through Emerson Equity LLC Member: FINRA/SIPC. Only available in states where Emerson Equity LLC is registered. Emerson Equity LLC is not affiliated with any other entities identified in this communication.
Real Estate Risk Disclosure:
- There is no guarantee that any strategy will be successful or achieve investment objectives including, among other things, profits, distributions, tax benefits, exit strategy, etc.;
- Potential for property value loss – All real estate investments have the potential to lose value during the life of the investments;
- Change of tax status – The income stream and depreciation schedule for any investment property may affect the property owner’s income bracket and/or tax status. An unfavorable tax ruling may cancel deferral of capital gains and result in immediate tax liabilities;
- Potential for foreclosure – All financed real estate investments have potential for foreclosure;
- Illiquidity – These assets are commonly offered through private placement offerings and are illiquid securities. There is no secondary market for these investments.
- Reduction or Elimination of Monthly Cash Flow Distributions – Like any investment in real estate, if a property unexpectedly loses tenants or sustains substantial damage, there is potential for suspension of cash flow distributions;
- Impact of fees/expenses – Costs associated with the transaction may impact investors’ returns and may outweigh the tax benefits
- Stated tax benefits – Any stated tax benefits are not guaranteed and are subject to changes in the tax code. Speak to your tax professional prior to investing.