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The Power of REITs

Generating Income Through Real Estate Without Property Ownership

By: W. P. Carey Editorial Team

Inflation, interest rate volatility and market dynamics have shaken the foundations of standard investment models. As a result, investors are looking for avenues that promise long-term growth and security.


Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) has gained considerable attention, particularly because REITs have a unique blend of income generation, diversification and stability. So, what exactly are REITs, and why should investors consider them?

Photo of building blocks that spell REIT
What is a REIT?

A REIT is a specialized company that owns, operates or finances income-producing real estate assets, including commercial and residential properties, hotels, healthcare facilities, industrial spaces and more.

REITs were created by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to allow individual investors to access the benefits of real estate investment once reserved for institutions and wealthy individuals. One of the key distinguishing features of a REIT is its tax structure. A REIT must meet the following IRS requirements:

  • Income Distribution: Distribute at least 90% of taxable income to shareholders as dividends.
  • Asset Composition: At least 75% of assets must be invested in real estate, cash or U.S. Treasuries.
  • Shareholder Requirements: Must have a minimum of 100 shareholders and no more than 50% of its shares can be held by five or fewer individuals during the last half of the taxable year.
Types of REITs

There are three main REIT types, each with different specializations:

  • Equity REITs: Own, manage and develop income-generating properties (e.g., industrial, retail or warehouse facilities).
  • Mortgage REITs: Invest in or originate mortgage loans and mortgage-backed securities, often borrowing money at lower short-term rates and investing in higher-yielding mortgage assets.
  • Hybrid REITs: Combine features of both equity and mortgage REITs.
Benefits of Investing in a REIT

REITs have gained significant popularity among investors in recent years, and for good reason. They offer a range of potential advantages, including:

  • AccessibilityOffer access to the real estate market with a lower initial investment.

  • Diversification: Enable investors to diversify investments across different properties in various real estate sectors and geographic locations.

  • Steady Income Stream: Can provide reliable income due to requirement to distribute 90% of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends.

  • Liquidity: Publicly traded REITs offer more flexibility as investors can quickly buy or sell shares on the stock exchange.

  • Professional Management: Typically have a management team of experienced real estate professionals who leverage their expertise in portfolio management to optimize property performance.

  • Portfolio Growth Potential: Offer portfolio growth potential from property appreciation and higher rental income.

  • Tax Advantages: Provide a tax-efficient investment option, with dividends often taxed at lower rates than ordinary income, allowing investors to grow their wealth more efficiently.

Why Should Individuals Invest Now?

REITs offer investors a unique opportunity to gain exposure to the real estate market without the burden of property ownership and can provide steady income streams and the potential for long-term capital appreciation. Their comparatively low correlation with other assets also makes them an excellent portfolio diversifier, which can help reduce overall portfolio risk. As a result, REITs may be a valuable addition to an investment portfolio for individuals seeking steady income, diversification or a combination of both.  



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