How Wall Street’s REIT giants are reshaping U.S. real estate

U.S real estate investment trusts today manage $4.5 trillion in real estate worldwide. Many groups on Wall Street offer these tax-friendly funds to retail investors. 

KKR’s real estate business is one of the big players in the REIT game. The private equity firm manages multiple REIT funds. The KKR Real Estate Select Trust, which currently manages $1.5 billion in assets, paid a dividend of 5.4% to its investors in July 2023.

But the benefits extend beyond returns.

“When you look at the after tax equivalent of that yield, it is very compelling.” said Billy Butcher, CEO of KKR’s global real estate business. “The depreciation from our properties has covered 100% of the income generated by our properties, and there’s no tax on that dividend,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Larger funds sometimes contain a diversified pool of assets. Categories may include office, student housing, casino, timberlands, radio and cell towers, server farms, self-storage properties, billboards, and much more.

“Back in the 1960s, there were three or four different types [of REITs], said Sher Hafeez, a managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate services firm. “Now, I can count at least 20 different types.”

Top performing REIT sub-sectors in recent years include data centers, self-storage properties, residential housing and tower REITs. Residential housing delivered a return of 16% from 2010 to 2020, according to a S&P Global Investments report.

The investor-friendly tax rules can also increase the pace of large-scale development. 

“Having REITs there as a potential exit helps the market, and helps the availability of financing,” said Michael Pestronk, CEO and co-founder of Post Brothers, a Philadelphia-based housing developer. 

Some funds like Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent were founded in the yearslong slowdown in U.S. home construction. At the time, REITs bought and managed commercial-scale properties, which could include products like master-planned communities or traditional apartment complexes.

In recent years, publicly traded trusts have targeted single-family rental market, and today, these REITs have grown tremendously — enough to build new neighborhoods in their entirety. 

Watch the video above to learn the fundamentals of real estate investment trusts.

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