New investors are rarely risk-hungry. Knowing that investment is like educated gambling in that luck can turn bad in a blink, they prefer to take it slow, establish balanced portfolios, and cultivate investments that are easy to liquidate if they get spooked. As a result, few beginner investors put money into real estate properties; most consider REITs, instead.
REITs, or real estate investment trusts, are securities invested in real estate property or mortgages and traded on major exchanges. An extremely liquid way to invest in real estate, REITs offer high dividend yields without the commitments (or headaches) of owning property directly.
Still, not every REIT is right for every investor, and new investors particularly should look for diversified REITs which allow balance and slow, reliable growth. Because most REITs specialize in a single property type, REITs for beginner investors can be difficult to find. To make it easier for newbies to get into REIT investing, here are the best diversified REIT stocks on the market:
W.P. Carey Inc.
W.P. Carey Inc. (WPC on the NYSE) is a global REIT, operating more than 900 properties in 19 countries — though two-thirds of those properties are in the U.S. The company’s portfolio is diverse, including primarily office and industrial properties but also significant portions of retail and warehouse space. Impressively, W.P. Carey maintains a 99.1 percent occupancy rate, claiming well-known tenants such as U-Haul and Marriott.
A triple net-lease REIT, W.P. Carey’s tenants are responsible for variable expenses, such as maintenance, building insurance, and property taxes. As with other net-lease REITs, W.P. Carey maintains long-term leases — between 10 and 25 years — with built-in rent increases. This minimizes income volatility, making WPC an excellent beginner REIT.
Vornado Realty Trust
Perhaps the largest REIT — not just of its kind but of all REITs — Vornado Realty Trust (VNO on the NYSE) focuses entirely on office and retail space in the New York City area, investing primarily in buildings in Manhattan. By doing so, Vornado has become the top operator of NYC street retail, notably holding many properties in coveted areas like Fifth Avenue and Times Square. New York is easily the one of the strongest real estate markets in the country — not to mention the world. In every decade, the value of New York’s Class A office buildings has doubled, proving Vornado’s strategy to be not just viable but exceedingly profitable.
Empire State Realty Trust Inc.
Another REIT that operates primarily in New York City, Empire State Reality Trust (ESRT on the NYSE) invests almost exclusively in office buildings — including the Empire State Building, owned and named by the REIT. More than 93 percent of its holdings is office space, with the remaining 7 percent a smattering of retail properties.
Empire State is not nearly as diversified as other REITs on this list, but it remains an ideal option for beginners because it has promised (and proven) enhanced growth. By focusing on leasing vacant space (which amounts to more than 1 million square feet) and maximizing income in other ways, Empire State has increased its releasing spread to 22.4 percent, which is nearly double its peer group average.
EPR Properties (EPR on the NYSE) prides itself on being a specialty REIT that invests in unique, non-commodity market segments — such as entertainment, recreational, and educational properties. For example, within EPR’s portfolio, investors will find multiplex cinemas, waterparks, and golf facilities as well as public charter schools, private schools, and early childhood education institutions. Like W.P. Carey, EPR is a triple net-lease REIT, eliminating nearly all turnover risk and volatility.
EPR’s investment philosophy is focused on the millennial mindset, which prioritizes experiences over material goods. Furthermore, the demand for quality education facilities continues to grow. In all, EPR’s strategy might seem unconventional, but it is no less promising than other REITs.
VEREIT Inc. (VER on the NYSE) is a large, well-diversified REIT that owns more than 4,100 properties. Still, it is perhaps the riskiest REIT on this list because most of its portfolio consists of retail and restaurant properties, which have remained in notoriously bad shape thanks to the Great Recession and competition from e-commerce. Fortunately, VEREIT invests primarily in discount-oriented, non-discretionary, or service-based businesses, all of which promise to compete well in the current market. Plus, VEREIT claims more than 98 percent occupancy, with an average of 10 years left on leases, so new investors can buy in now and ride out the retail drama.