With the real estate market showing signs of stabilising, many investors desirous of investing in real estate are now considering real estate investment trusts (REITs) as their next investment destination, in order to diversify their portfolio.
Incidentally, the structure of REITs is similar to that of a mutual fund.
That said, while in mutual funds, the underlying asset is bonds, stocks and gold, REITs invest in physical real estate.
“The money collected is deployed in income-generating real estate and this income gets distributed among the unit holders. Besides, regular income from rents and leases, and gains from capital appreciation of real estate is also a form of income for the unitholders,” says Shobhit Agarwal, managing director and chief executive officer, Anarock Capital, a real estate services company.
How REITs Can Diversify Your Portfolio?
To begin with, REITs can help retail investors diversify into an alternative asset class.
Says Rishad Manekia, founder and managing director, Kairos Capital, a Mumbai-based financial planning firm registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi): “After the slump in the real estate market over the last decade, capital values in major markets seem to be stabilising. REITs could thus provide effective diversification to the aggressive investor who is already invested in equites and is looking for alternative options. Of course, this should all be done in line with one’s asset allocation and risk profile, and should be thought of as part of the satellite investments in an investor’s portfolio.”
That said, there are a few important things to keep in mind before one begins investing in REITs.
Things To Keep In Mind Before Investing In REITs
As REITs are listed entities, they are a lot like equity shares. Hence, you would need a demat account to be able to invest in REITs in India.
At present, there are three listed REITs in the Indian market—Mindspace REIT, Brookfield REIT, and Embassy REIT.
Consider the ticket size and other costs before investing. Says Colonel Sanjeev Govila (Retd.), a Sebi registered investment advisor and CEO of Hum Fauji Initiatives, a financial planning firm: “Things like transaction costs, returns, ease of investing, taxation, and other factors make these products different, although real estate still remains the underlying asset. So, one should decide investing in them depending upon his/her own objective of investment, assets allocation, availability of funds and other factors.”
In India, 80 per cent of investments made by a REIT need to be in commercial properties that can be rented out to generate income. Thus, investors of REITs earn returns in the form of dividend (rental income from leased properties) and capital appreciation of unit value at the time of exit, as all REITs have to be compulsorily listed on the stock market.
There is vacancy risk in case of REITs, and development risk in case of real estate funds. “When comparing the two—REIT and real estate funds— for investments, I would prefer REITs, if my main aim is to invest in real estate. That said, REITs should be looked more as an income generating avenue, while real estate mutual funds should be considered as growth avenues,” says Col. Govila (Retd.)
REITs can provide regular income in the form of dividends, but it is not a certainty – there could be bad periods when the dividend could be low or nil. So, depending on the amount of regular income required, one would be better off with investing in fixed income products.
Thus, one could consider investing a portion of his/her total corpus in REITs to diversify the portfolio, if their own financial circumstances permit doing so. Broadly speaking, one should not have more than 5-10 per cent in real estate or real estate-oriented investment avenues.