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Leveraged Breakdowns

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) For Beginners, Part One

You’ve probably heard the term REIT, but perhaps you aren’t sure what it is. Or maybe you know what “REIT” stands for (real estate investment trust), but that’s about as far as you can take it. At Leveraged Breakdowns, we aim to set you up for your career in real estate private equity. Understanding REITs is a core strength you need to develop before your first interview. So here’s Part 1 of our breakdown on REITs.

What, Exactly, Is A REIT?

In its simplest form, a REIT is a company that owns real estate and pays dividends back to the owners. The idea is that if a large pool of equity is assembled, a large pool of real estate could be acquired and managed. With a large pool of income-producing assets, ups and downs in cash flow resulting from vacancy or large expenses can be smoothed out, and a steady dividend can be paid to investors. In some ways, a REIT resembles a mutual fund. Rather than own a single stock, a mutual fund owns the stocks or bonds of many other companies, and uses professional management to buy, sell, and hold those stocks. With a REIT, a professional management team buys, holds, or sells properties that generate income for the stockholders (sounds like a real estate private equity career, doesn’t it?).

Why Would An Investor Want To Buy A REIT?

For the average investor, buying a multi-million dollar property is out of the question. A publicly traded (or listed) REIT, on the other hand, has a share price that is much more affordable. Some REITs trade for $10 per share, others trade up to hundreds of dollars per share (just like stocks!). The beauty of buying shares in a REIT is that each of your shares represents a slice of multiple real estate assets. For many retail investors (as opposed to accredited or institutional investors), there would be no opportunity to hold real estate in their personal portfolio, other than their personal residence.

Are There Different Types of REITS?

Yes, there are two primary types of REITS: equity REITs and mortgage REITs. An equity REIT is by far the most common, which involves direct equity ownership of the physical assets. A mortgage REIT, or mREIT, pools funds and makes real estate loans to other owners secured by mortgages. An mREIT is really just another source of real estate debt capital, like a traditional bank.

The Three Primary REIT Structures

There are also three different structures of REITs: Listed, Public Non-Listed, and Private. A “Listed” REIT means that it is registered with the SEC and trades on public exchanges like NYSE and NASDAQ. Shares in these REITs can be purchased by any investor.

A Public, non-listed REIT is registered with the SEC, but does not trade on public exchanges. Instead, shares are traded directly through Broker-Dealer networks (Fidelity, Schwab, etc.) and are generally available to any investor.

A Private REIT is exempt from registration with the SEC, generally because they restrict ownership of their shares to accredited investors. An accredited investor is someone who is “sophisticated” enough to understand the risks and rewards of the investment, and therefore does not need the review, scrutiny, and oversight of the SEC.

As you seek to start a career in real estate private equity, you may have opportunities with firms that have their own REITs. You may also come across job opportunities with firms whose exit strategy is to sell their portfolio to a REIT. In any event, if you desire a real estate private equity career, you will be interacting with REITs.

Stay tuned for part two, which will look at terms like dividends, liquidity, and capital retention.

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