REITs – Alternative for Real Estate investment ?!

Looking to invest in commercial real estate (CRE) ? How about “Nariman Point” area of Mumbai?! To give a perspective, average cost of CRE in Nariman point varies between Rs.40,000 to Rs.60,000 per Sq. ft.  Hypothetically, a 1000 sq. ft. (carpet area ~ 650 Sq. ft.) office would dent pockets by over Rs.5 Crores! Obviously, a retail investor should overlook the idea of owning or co-owning this property, right? Well Not exactly.

“REITs” lets you “co-own” projects like above. A real estate investment trust “REIT” is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-producing real estate. REIT works like ETFs wherein they pool funds from individual investors and buy commercial and/or residential properties or mortgages.

Why REITs –

  • Regular Income & Capital Growth
  • Real Estate Investment without the hassle of managing the property.
  • Easy liquidity as these are publicly traded on exchanges
  • Portfolio Diversification
  • Inflation Hedge.

Embassy Office Parks is one such REIT which got listed in India in April 2019. Embassy Office Parks owns and operates about 33.3 million square feet of commercial property (including Grade A office space, hotels, and solar park) of which 26.2 million square feet is completed with 92.8% occupancy. Tenant base has over 160 blue chip tenants including several multinationals. The primary source of operational revenue for the REIT is the rental income followed by common area service charges. The office spaces are usually leased out for 9 to 15 years with rent escalation of 10% to 15% every 3 years. There are 11 Commercial office complexes with 78 buildings. These properties are primarily in Bengaluru (57% share), Mumbai (17%), Pune (15%) and Noida (11%). In terms of office type, commercial office takes the largest share at 92%.

In order to facilitate a comparison between owning a REIT unit vis-à-vis CRE , we have put some numbers in perspective (REITs data as on September 2020):

  • Against per unit cost of acquisition of Rs.10,719, current value of property stands at Rs.11,585 ~ Gain of 8%
  • Against the current NAV of 365, current market price of 355 (IPO price of 300) implies price movement is in line with NAV

Other aspects:

  • In the near term, around 7 million + square feet space is under construction and is going to be available starting FY 22-23.
  • As per REIT regulations, minimum 90% of distributable income (DI) must be paid to unitholders. Embassy REIT distributed 99.9% of DI since inception.
  • Currently, the distributions are under 3-line items.
  • Interest – received on loans made to SPVs, taxed as per Slab rate
  • Dividend – from the SPVs incomes, Tax free
  • Amortization of Debt to SPVs – Principal repayments from the SPV Loan, Tax free
  • Capital Gains tax applies on sale of units of REIT. A 15% Short Term capital gains tax is payable for units held for less than 3 years. Units held for more than 3 years attract a long- term capital gains tax of 10% for gains above Rs.1 lakh. Surcharge on tax is extra.
  • Since there are contractual Tenancy agreements, there is little scope for losses on account of nonpayment of rents. Also, since rentals are diversified across large tenants, the risk of not receiving rentals during COVID like stressed situations is much lower than that of a self-owned CRE.

Summary:

  • Current yields (Cash flow) of REIT are better than self- owned CRE
  • Time & Resources investment in self-owned CRE is a major burden
  • Non occupancy losses in Self owned CRE are high
  • Tenants vulnerability to unprecedented stressed situations
  • High liquidity of REITs compared to physical property

Above factors render REITs good alternative option against Self owned Commercial real estate.

Please note that the above should not be construed as an advice from us. Our company is in the business of distribution of suitable Financial Products to investors describing product specifications, material facts and the associated risk factors.

We are acting as a Distributor for these products and facilitating transactions.

One Reply to “REITs – Alternative for Real Estate investment ?!”

  1. Wonderfully explained. But, I need to know if one can invest in a lot of Rs.1 lac or not as it was originally indicated that minimum size is Rs.10 Lacs. Is there any relaxation ? Also, do we get better benefit if invest in shares of REIT cos or in their REIT scheme ?

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