REITs with Traditionally Lower Leverage Exposure (who is safe from interest rate hikes?)

 The higher for longer narrative has taken a strong hold on the market. As of October 3, 2023, this is hammering the value of public REITs. Normally I don't do much content on things that are timely, but this is a pretty good illustration of leverage and risk so we'll try to get some long-term lesson out of it.

If you invest in properties or underwrite deals (especially joint ventures), you will love these real estate models.

It's important to note that specific REITs' leverage can vary based on their strategies, the type of properties they invest in, and their management philosophy. However, certain types of REITs, as well as specific REITs, have historically been known to utilize lower levels of leverage than others.

Here are some general observations:

Sector/Type of REITs:

  • Retail REITs: Given the challenges in the retail sector, especially with the rise of e-commerce, some retail REITs have made efforts to reduce their leverage to maintain financial flexibility.
  • Office REITs: Depending on the geographic market and tenant mix, some office REITs have also traditionally had lower leverage.

REITs Known for Conservative Management: 

There are certain REITs known for their conservative management philosophies. While the specifics may change over time, companies like Realty Income Corporation and Federal Realty Investment Trust have traditionally been seen as conservatively managed.

  • Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT): Despite the challenges in the retail sector, Tanger has maintained a conservative balance sheet and focused on outlet shopping centers, which have shown resilience.
  • Simon Property Group (SPG): As one of the largest mall operators, Simon has been known for its conservative financial management, focusing on high-quality assets and maintaining a strong balance sheet.
  • Essex Property Trust (ESS): This REIT focuses on West Coast multifamily properties and is known for its conservative approach to leverage and its focus on high-quality properties in supply-constrained markets.
  • AvalonBay Communities (AVB): Another prominent multifamily REIT, AvalonBay has been conservative in its development approach and focuses on markets with high barriers to entry.
  • Prologis (PLD): In the industrial REIT sector, Prologis is a giant and is known for its high-quality assets and conservative financial management.
  • Welltower (WELL) and Ventas (VTR): In the healthcare REIT sector, both of these REITs have been known for their conservative management styles, focusing on a mix of senior housing, medical offices, and other healthcare-related properties.

Look at Metrics: If you're evaluating the leverage of specific REITs, consider looking at:

  • Debt to Total Capitalization: This ratio shows how much of the company's capital structure is made up of debt.
  • Interest Coverage Ratio: A measure of how easily a company can pay interest on its debt.
  • Debt to EBITDA: This measures a company's leverage in relation to its earnings potential.

Regional Considerations: Some REITs operate in geographies where the use of leverage is more conservative due to either cultural or regulatory reasons.

Capital Recycling: Some REITs use a strategy of selling assets and using the proceeds to pay down debt or fund new acquisitions without taking on new debt.

Check Credit Ratings: Another way to gauge a REIT's use of leverage and overall creditworthiness is to look at its credit ratings from agencies like Moody's, S&P, and Fitch. Higher credit ratings can often (but not always) indicate lower leverage and a stronger balance sheet.

It's worth noting that while lower leverage can be a sign of financial stability, it can also mean that the REIT isn't maximizing its potential returns in a favorable market condition. Conversely, a highly leveraged REIT can produce high returns in good times but can face significant challenges in market downturns. As with any investment, it's important to understand the risks and rewards and to consider multiple factors beyond just leverage. Always consult with financial professionals when evaluating specific investment opportunities.