Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): A Beginner’s Guide

Real Estate Investment Trusts, commonly known as REITs, are a popular way to invest in real estate without directly owning properties. REITs are companies that own, operate, or finance income-generating real estate, and they offer investors a chance to earn a share of the income produced through real estate ownership.

For beginner investors looking to enter the world of real estate investing, REITs can be a great option to consider. REITs provide investors with several benefits, such as regular dividend payments, portfolio diversification, and liquidity.

However, like any investment, there are risks associated with REITs. Understanding these risks is crucial before investing in any real estate investment trust. Additionally, it’s important to know the different types of REITs available, how to invest in them, and how they compare to physical real estate investments.

Whether you’re a seasoned investor looking to add REITs to your portfolio or a beginner interested in learning about real estate investing, this beginner’s guide will provide you with all the information you need to know about investing in REITs. Keep reading to learn more!

What are REITs?

If you’re new to investing in real estate, you may not be familiar with the term Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Essentially, a REIT is a company that owns, operates, or finances real estate that generates income. Investors can buy shares of the REIT, allowing them to earn a portion of the income produced by the properties within the trust.

REITs provide a way for investors to add real estate to their portfolio without having to buy and manage physical property. Additionally, REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, making them an attractive option for investors seeking a steady stream of income.

There are two types of REITs: equity REITs and mortgage REITs. Equity REITs invest in and own physical properties, while mortgage REITs invest in mortgages and other real estate loans.

REITs are also required to meet certain criteria in order to maintain their tax status. For example, they must have at least 75% of their assets invested in real estate, derive at least 75% of their income from real estate, and distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders.

Definition of REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are companies that own or finance income-producing real estate properties. These properties can range from apartment buildings to shopping centers to industrial facilities. REITs allow investors to invest in real estate without actually owning physical property themselves. REITs generate income through rent and property appreciation, and must distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders annually in the form of dividends.

  1. Publicly traded: REITs are publicly traded on major stock exchanges, making them easy to buy and sell.
  2. Diversification: Investing in REITs provides diversification since the properties are managed by professionals who invest in various real estate assets.
  3. Liquidity: REITs are highly liquid investments that can be sold quickly and easily on major stock exchanges.
  4. Accessibility: Investors can start investing in REITs with a relatively small amount of capital, compared to buying physical properties.
  5. Transparency: REITs must adhere to strict reporting and transparency standards, making them a transparent investment option.

REITs can be a great option for those looking to invest in real estate but don’t want to deal with the hassle of owning and managing physical property. They are a popular investment vehicle for both novice and experienced investors alike.

History of REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have been around for almost 60 years, but their roots go back even further. The concept of pooling investments to purchase real estate dates back to the 1800s.

The first REITs were created by Congress in 1960 as an amendment to the Cigar Excise Tax Extension, with the goal of democratizing real estate investment. In 1986, Congress enacted legislation that made it easier to form and operate REITs, leading to an explosion in their popularity.

Today, there are over 200 REITs in the United States alone, with a market capitalization of over $1 trillion. They have become a popular way for individual investors to gain exposure to real estate, and their diverse offerings allow investors to choose from a range of property types and investment strategies.

Benefits of investing in REITs

Diversification: One of the primary benefits of investing in REITs is that it allows for diversification in the real estate sector. REITs offer exposure to a wide range of property types, including residential, commercial, and industrial real estate, and often in multiple geographic locations.

Steady Income: Another benefit of investing in REITs is the steady income they provide. REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends. This means that investors can receive a steady stream of income from their investment in a REIT.

Liquidity: REITs are publicly traded on stock exchanges, making them a relatively liquid investment. This means that investors can easily buy and sell shares in REITs as needed, providing flexibility in managing their investment portfolio.


Diversification is one of the primary benefits of investing in REITs. As a real estate investor, you can diversify your portfolio across different types of properties, such as residential, commercial, industrial, or retail. By investing in a variety of properties, you can mitigate the risk of investing in a single property that may not perform as expected.

Moreover, REITs can provide geographic diversification by investing in properties across different regions. This is particularly important in a volatile real estate market where certain areas may experience downturns while others are thriving.

Investing in REITs can also offer sector diversification as some REITs may specialize in specific sectors like healthcare, data centers, or logistics.

Steady Income Stream

One of the main benefits of investing in REITs is the potential for a steady income stream. REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. This means that investors can potentially receive regular, predictable dividend payments from their REIT investments.

Additionally, many REITs own properties with long-term leases, providing a stable source of rental income. This can be particularly attractive for investors looking for a reliable source of passive income.

Another advantage of investing in REITs is the ability to reinvest dividends through a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). With a DRIP, investors can automatically reinvest their dividends into additional shares of the REIT, potentially increasing their future income and returns.

Types of REITs available

Equity REITs: These are the most common type of REITs, which invest in and own properties, such as apartments, offices, and shopping centers. They earn revenue primarily through rent and property appreciation.

Mortgage REITs: These REITs invest in mortgages, rather than physical properties. They generate revenue from the interest earned on the mortgages and may also invest in mortgage-backed securities.

Hybrid REITs: These REITs invest in both physical properties and mortgages. They earn revenue from both rent and interest payments.

Public Non-listed REITs: These are not traded on stock exchanges, and their shares are sold through broker-dealers. They may offer lower fees than publicly-traded REITs but are less liquid.

Private REITs: These are not registered with the SEC and are not available to the general public. They are typically only available to accredited investors and have a higher minimum investment than other types of REITs.

Equity REITs

Definition: Equity REITs are the most common type of REIT, and they invest in and own properties such as apartment buildings, office buildings, hotels, and shopping centers.

Income Generation: Equity REITs generate income primarily through renting out these properties and collecting rental income.

Risk and Reward: Investing in Equity REITs can offer high potential returns, but they also carry a higher level of risk due to their dependence on the performance of the real estate market.

Diversification: Equity REITs can offer a diversified investment opportunity, allowing investors to spread their investment across multiple properties and locations.

Liquidity: Equity REITs are traded on major stock exchanges, making it easy for investors to buy and sell shares.

How to invest in REITs

Evaluate your investment goals: Before investing in REITs, you need to assess your investment goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon. This will help you determine the appropriate allocation of your portfolio to REITs.

Choose a brokerage: Select a brokerage that offers access to REITs. Look for a brokerage that has a good reputation, low fees, and a user-friendly interface.

Select the type of REIT: Choose the type of REIT you want to invest in based on your investment goals and risk tolerance. There are different types of REITs, including equity, mortgage, hybrid, and public non-listed REITs.

Research: Before investing in a REIT, you should research the company and its management team. Look at the performance history, dividend payout, and the quality of the underlying assets.

Invest: After researching and selecting the REIT, you can invest in it by purchasing shares through your chosen brokerage. You can invest in a REIT through a traditional brokerage account or an investment fund that specializes in REITs.

Investing in publicly-traded REITs

Publicly-traded REITs are listed on major stock exchanges and can be bought and sold like stocks through a brokerage account. This option provides investors with liquidity, meaning they can easily buy and sell their shares at any time.

When investing in publicly-traded REITs, investors should consider the stock’s performance, dividend yield, and management team to determine whether it’s a good investment.

Investors should also research the underlying properties and tenants in the REIT’s portfolio to assess the risk of the investment.

Investing in non-traded REITs

Non-traded REITs are not publicly traded, and as such, are not listed on stock exchanges. Instead, they are sold through private offerings, and therefore, typically require a larger minimum investment.

One advantage of non-traded REITs is that they may offer higher yields than publicly traded REITs. This is because they are not subject to the same level of volatility and short-term price fluctuations.

However, investing in non-traded REITs may also carry higher risks than investing in publicly traded REITs. This is because they are not subject to the same regulatory oversight and reporting requirements as publicly traded REITs.

Investing in non-traded REITs also typically involves a longer investment horizon than publicly traded REITs, as they often have limited liquidity and may have restrictions on when investors can sell their shares.

Before investing in non-traded REITs, it’s important to do your research and carefully consider the potential risks and rewards, as well as the investment’s suitability for your overall financial goals and risk tolerance. It’s also a good idea to consult with a financial advisor who has experience with real estate investments.

Risks associated with REIT investments

Market risk: REITs are subject to market volatility, which means that their value can fluctuate based on changes in the real estate market, interest rates, and economic conditions.

Liquidity risk: Unlike stocks, REITs may be less liquid, meaning that it may be more difficult to buy or sell shares at a fair price, especially during times of market volatility.

Interest rate risk: Since REITs are often highly leveraged, changes in interest rates can significantly impact their performance, as higher interest rates can increase borrowing costs and reduce cash flow.

Geographic risk: REITs may have exposure to a specific geographic area or market, which can be risky if that area experiences economic or real estate downturns.

Management risk: The success of a REIT is dependent on the quality of its management team. Poor management decisions or lack of experience can lead to underperformance and decreased shareholder value.

Interest rate risk

Interest rate risk is one of the major risks associated with REIT investments. If interest rates rise, it can negatively impact the value of a REIT’s portfolio and reduce its profitability. When interest rates rise, the cost of borrowing for a REIT increases, which can lower its net income and the amount of cash it has available for distributions to investors.

Investors can mitigate interest rate risk by diversifying their REIT investments across different property types and regions. They can also look for REITs that have lower leverage, which means they have less debt and are less vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations.

Another strategy to mitigate interest rate risk is to invest in REITs with shorter lease terms. This is because shorter lease terms allow REITs to raise their rents more quickly in response to rising interest rates.

Market risk

Market risk is a significant concern when investing in REITs. The prices of REIT shares can fluctuate with market conditions, and they may not perform well during economic downturns or periods of high interest rates.

REITs that invest in a specific sector or geographic location are more susceptible to market risk. For example, if the real estate market in a particular city or region experiences a downturn, REITs investing in that area may experience lower property values and rental income, leading to lower dividends and share prices.

Investors should carefully consider the market risk associated with specific types of REITs before investing. Some REITs may be more diversified, which can help mitigate this risk, while others may be more specialized, making them more vulnerable to market fluctuations.

It’s important to keep in mind that market risk is an inherent aspect of investing in any publicly traded security, and there are no guarantees of investment returns.

Investors can mitigate market risk by diversifying their REIT investments across different sectors, regions, and types of REITs. This can help spread risk and potentially minimize the impact of market fluctuations on an investor’s overall portfolio.

REIT vs. Physical Real Estate Investment: Which is better?

Capital Requirement: Investing in physical real estate typically requires a significant amount of capital upfront, while investing in REITs allows investors to gain exposure to the real estate market with a much lower investment amount.

Liquidity: One of the major advantages of investing in REITs is their high level of liquidity, as they can be bought and sold on stock exchanges. In contrast, selling physical real estate can be a time-consuming and complicated process.

Diversification: Investing in REITs offers diversification across a range of property types and locations, whereas investing in physical real estate often involves concentrating all of your investment in a single property or location. This can increase the level of risk for the investor.


Liquidity refers to the ease with which an asset can be bought or sold without affecting its market price. In terms of real estate, physical properties can be difficult to sell quickly due to their large size, location, or condition. On the other hand, REITs are traded on stock exchanges, which provide investors with the ability to buy and sell them easily and at any time the market is open. This means that investors can quickly and easily exit their position in a REIT if necessary, without the need to go through the complex and lengthy process of selling a physical property.

However, it is important to note that REITs can still experience price volatility, which may impact their liquidity. During periods of market uncertainty, investors may rush to sell their REIT holdings, which could result in a decrease in market value and liquidity.

Overall, while physical real estate investments may provide stability and long-term appreciation, they are typically less liquid than REITs, which offer investors the flexibility to easily buy and sell their shares on the stock market.


One advantage of investing in REITs over physical real estate is diversification. When investing in a REIT, you are buying a share of a portfolio of properties, which can consist of hundreds or thousands of properties across different geographic locations and sectors.

This diversification can reduce the risk of significant losses due to local market conditions affecting a single property. In contrast, owning a physical property may result in concentration risk, where the investment is tied to a single asset in a particular location, which may not perform well due to external factors such as economic downturns or natural disasters.

Furthermore, REITs also provide sector diversification, allowing investors to invest in various real estate sectors, such as residential, commercial, and industrial properties. By diversifying across different sectors, investors can spread their risks and capture returns from various segments of the real estate market.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)?

A REIT is a type of investment that allows individuals to invest in a portfolio of real estate properties, similar to a mutual fund. The REIT company owns and operates income-producing real estate properties, such as office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces.

What are the benefits of investing in REITs?

REITs offer investors several benefits, including regular dividend payments, exposure to real estate markets, diversification, and ease of investing without directly owning real estate. Additionally, publicly traded REITs provide liquidity to investors who can buy and sell their shares on the stock market.

What are the risks associated with investing in REITs?

REITs are subject to risks, such as interest rate risk, market risk, and tenant risk. These risks can affect the value of the underlying real estate properties and the income generated from them. Additionally, non-traded REITs can be illiquid and have high fees and commissions.

How can I invest in publicly traded REITs?

Investors can invest in publicly traded REITs through a brokerage account or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in REITs. It is important to research and select REITs based on factors such as the property type, location, and management team.

How can I invest in non-traded REITs?

Non-traded REITs are typically sold through financial advisors, and investors must meet certain income and net worth requirements to invest. It is important to research the fees and commissions associated with non-traded REITs and to understand the liquidity restrictions before investing.

What are some factors to consider before investing in REITs?

Before investing in REITs, investors should consider factors such as the property type, location, management team, performance history, fees, liquidity, and risks associated with the investment. It is also important to diversify your investments and consult with a financial advisor.

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