Real Estate Investment Trust – How to Invest in REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have gained popularity as an investment option, providing individuals with the opportunity to invest in real estate without direct property ownership. In this article, we will explore the concept of REITs, the different types available, the factors that affect their performance, and how they operate as an investment vehicle.

Real Estate Investment Trust
Real Estate Investment Trust

What Are REITs?

REITs are investment vehicles that own, operate, or finance income-generating real estate properties. They allow investors to pool their capital to invest in a diversified portfolio of properties, which may include commercial buildings, residential complexes, hotels, or industrial facilities. REITs must meet certain requirements and distribute a significant portion of their income to shareholders.

Types of REITs

The types of REITs are:

Equity REITs

These REITs invest in and own income-generating properties, generating revenue through rental income and property appreciation.

Mortgage REITs

Mortgage REITs provide financing for real estate by investing in mortgage-backed securities or directly lending money to property owners.

Hybrid REITs

These REITs combine elements of both equity and mortgage REITs, investing in properties while also holding mortgages or mortgage-backed securities.

Factors Affecting REIT Performance

Some of the major factors affecting REIT performance are:

Economic Conditions and Interest Rates

Economic factors such as GDP growth, inflation, and interest rates can impact REIT performance. Rising interest rates may increase borrowing costs for REITs and affect their profitability.

Real Estate Market Trends and Demand-Supply Dynamics

Property market conditions, including supply and demand dynamics, rental rates, and occupancy levels, can influence REIT performance.

Lease Terms and Tenant Base

The quality and stability of tenant leases, lease terms, and tenant diversification impact a REIT’s cash flow and income stability.

Management and Operational Efficiency

Effective property management, cost control measures, and proactive asset management strategies contribute to a REIT’s success. V. Regulatory Changes and Tax Reforms: Changes in tax laws, real estate regulations, or zoning restrictions can have implications for REITs and their operations.

How REITs Work

In 1960, Congress created REITs as an amendment to the Cigar Excise Tax Extension, allowing investors to purchase shares in commercial real estate portfolios. Previously, this opportunity was only available to wealthy individuals and large financial intermediaries.

REIT portfolios comprise various types of properties, including apartment complexes, data centers, healthcare facilities, hotels, infrastructure (such as fiber cables, cell towers, and energy pipelines), office buildings, retail centers, self-storage, timberland, and warehouses.

Typically, REITs specialize in specific real estate sectors, although some diversified and specialty REITs may hold different property types in their portfolios. For example, a REIT might include both office and retail properties.

Many REITs are publicly traded on major securities exchanges, allowing investors to buy and sell them like stocks throughout the trading session. These publicly traded REITs generally have high trading volume and are considered highly liquid investment instruments.

What Qualifies as a REIT?

REITs typically follow a simple business model: They lease out properties, collect rental income, and distribute it as dividends to shareholders. Mortgage REITs, on the other hand, focus on financing real estate rather than owning it. They generate income through the interest earned on their investments.

To be considered a REIT, a company must adhere to specific provisions outlined in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). These provisions include the company’s primary ownership of income-generating real estate for a considerable duration and the distribution of income to its shareholders. More precisely, the company must satisfy the following criteria in order to qualify as a REIT:
In order to meet the requirements of being a REIT, a company must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Invest a minimum of 75% of its total assets in real estate, cash, or U.S. Treasuries.
  • Generate at least 75% of its gross income from rents, and interest on mortgages that finance real property, or real estate sales.
  • Distribute at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends each year.
  • Be structured as a taxable entity such as a corporation.
  • Be governed by a board of directors or trustees.
  • Have a minimum of 100 shareholders by the end of its first year.
  • Ensure that no more than 50% of its shares are owned by five or fewer individuals.

How to Invest in REITs

You have the opportunity to invest in publicly traded REITs, along with REIT mutual funds and REIT exchange-traded funds (ETFs), by buying shares through a broker. Likewise, if you’re interested in a non-traded REIT, you can obtain shares through a broker or financial advisor who participates in the offering.

REITs are increasingly being included in defined-benefit and defined-contribution investment plans. According to Nareit, a REIT research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., an estimated 145 million U.S. investors hold REITs either directly or indirectly through their retirement savings and other investment funds.

Pros of Investing in REITs


The ease of buying and selling REIT shares provides investors with liquidity, allowing them to convert their investment into cash relatively quickly.


REITs offer the advantage of diversification by investing in a portfolio of different properties, sectors, and geographic locations, reducing the risk associated with investing in a single property.


REITs are subject to regulatory requirements, including financial reporting and disclosure, which provide investors with transparency and access to relevant information for making informed investment decisions.

Stable Cash Flow Through Dividends

REITs are required to distribute a significant portion of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends, offering investors a stable income stream.

Attractive Risk Adjusted Returns

REITs have historically provided attractive risk-adjusted returns, with the potential for capital appreciation and regular dividend payments.


Low Growth

Compared to other investment options, such as stocks or venture capital, REITs may have lower growth potential due to their focus on income generation rather than high-risk/high-reward strategies.

Dividends Taxed as Regular Income

Dividends received from REITs are typically subject to taxation as regular income, which can impact the after-tax returns for investors.

Subject to Market Risk

REITs are influenced by broader market conditions and real estate market dynamics, and as a result, their performance can be subject to market fluctuations and economic uncertainties.

Potential for High Management and Transaction Fees

Some REITs may charge management and transaction fees, which can reduce overall returns for investors. It is important to carefully review the fee structure before investing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)?

A Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-generating real estate properties. It allows individual investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of real estate assets without directly owning the properties.

How Do REITs Generate Income?

REITs generate income through rental payments from tenants occupying their properties. They may also earn income from interest on mortgages, real estate sales, or other sources related to their real estate holdings.

Are REITs Publicly Traded?

Many REITs are publicly traded on major stock exchanges, allowing investors to buy and sell shares through brokerage accounts, similar to stocks. Publicly traded REITs offer liquidity and are subject to market fluctuations.

What Are the Different Types of REITs?

There are several types of REITs, including:

Equity REITs: These REITs own and operate income-generating properties.

Mortgage REITs: These REITs provide financing for real estate through mortgages or mortgage-backed securities.

Hybrid REITs: These REITs combine elements of both equity and mortgage REITs, owning properties while also holding mortgages or mortgage-backed securities.

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