Although it may be too early to judge whether commercial real estate broadly has benefited from the turbulence caused by June’s unexpected outcome for the U.K. referendum on European Union membership, it’s clear that the U.S. real estate investment trust sector has been riding high in a post-Brexit environment. Susan Persin of Trepp, a real estate data provider, reports that a combination of strong market fundamentals, positive second-quarter earnings reports and post-Brexit assurances of ongoing low interest rates helped REITs achieve a 3.87% total return in July, outpacing the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.
At the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, Brad Case, senior vice president for research and industry information, said last week that although Brexit has damaged investors in the U.K., especially in U.K. real estate markets, and appears to have damaged investors in the rest of Europe as well in both stock and real estate markets, “it had no negative effect — and maybe even a positive effect — for investors in the US. Especially investors in U.S. REITs.”
In the latest edition of NAREIT’s Quick Study series, Case observed that economic conditions have improved generally for real estate investors in the U.S. “We’ve seen steady news about the macroeconomic situation,” he said. “Real estate investors don’t want the kind of roaring growth that causes people to pop champagne corks. What they want is steady, predictable growth that looks like it’s going to continue for a long time.”
Over the long term, REITs have proven to be just such a vehicle for steady growth. “Not only have REITs delivered a higher rate of profit growth than the S&P 500 over the last 20 years, cumulative profits have also been superior due to smaller declines during tough times,” according to a recent installment of Green Street Advisors’ series of Heard on the Beach commentaries. “This helps to explain consistent outperformance even over time periods when the going-in multiple on REITs was high.”
Director of research at New York City-based Trepp, Persin notes that hotel REITs posted the best total returns at 10.23% in July, boosted by Host Hotels & Resorts, whose stock pricing increased by 10.5% during the month. Although broadly speaking the lodging sector has gotten a rap recently for declining growth in fundamentals, Persin cites Smith Travel Research data showing an increase in revenue per available room gains for Q2 compared with Q1: 3.5% growth for the most recent quarter, compared with 2.8% in the previous one.
“Lower gas prices and airfares have caused many to anticipate strong summer lodging demand, and domestic travel has received an extra boost as global terrorism incidents and Zika virus concerns keep people within the United States,” Persin writes. On the other hand, she notes that new hotel supply has increased, “and while national construction is well below historical levels, it is a concern in markets like Houston, New York and San Francisco.”
The level of new supply is also a concern among self-storage REITs, a sector that struggled last month, writes Persin. Returns for REITs in the sector were negative 5.88% for July, although in the long term self-storage REITs have experienced years of strong growth.
Predictably, industrial REITs continue to be on the upswing. “Demand from e-commerce tenants has fueled the industrial sector while builders have stayed cautious, focusing new development largely towards pre-leased space,” writes Persin. Prologis in particular was boosted by its July announcement that earnings per share nearly doubled from 27 cents a year ago to 52 cents in Q2. “Its stock gained 11.1% during the month, and the industrial REIT sector was up 8.38% for the month.”
— Check out U.S. Home Prices Near Their 2006 Peak: Black Knight on ThinkAdvisor.