Real Estate

Rani Molla is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist using data visualizations to cover corporations and markets. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.

Janet Yellen and the specter of rising interest rates have loomed over Real Estate Investment Trusts, making it a tough year for companies playing the property game.

All REITs behave somewhat differently, of course, depending on the real estate sector they inhabit. Properties housed inside of healthcare REITs, for example, generally have decades-long leases so REITs that control them have less flexibility to respond to rising rates. REITs that own apartment blocks tethered to shorter leases, on the other hand, can react more quickly to rising rates and re-price leases.

Indeed, apartment REITs have been more successful than other REITs overall. Decreased homeownership has boosted demand for rentals, especially in areas with strong labor markets. 

REIT or Wrong
North American REITS ranked by peer valuation group
Source: Bloomberg Intelligence indices

On the other end of the rent-REIT spectrum are single-family rental REITs. As Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jeffrey Langbaum notes in his latest research, investors have shown less enthusiasm for single-family rental REITs.  Investors are worried that single-family rentals have struggled to keep their expenses low, due to a relatively smaller portfolio of properties spread across larger geographic areas (it’s tougher to maintain individual, regionally dispersed houses than, say, an apartment complex). 

The sector is consolidating as single-family rental companies try to scale their operations and raise their margins to levels nearer to margins of 60 percent and above that apartment REITs enjoy.

Just yesterday, American Homes 4 Rent announced that it would acquire American Residential Properties. Both companies are major single-family rental REITs and they occupy a market in which rising real estate values make it much harder for REITs to snap up foreclosed and other low-cost homes.

HistoREIT
North American REIT Index performance
Source: Bloomberg

The share prices of most other categories of REITs have also dropped this year while the value of their underlying assets has risen. That may make many of the REITs attractive targets for nimble buyers who want to acquire property portfolios on the cheap and have the patience to wait out interest-rate concerns.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Rani Molla in New York at rmolla2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net