Investors need to be careful, real estate looks likely to take a pounding in the coming months. While all the focus on the big jump in yields has been on how it has impacted bonds and stocks, one of the big risk areas is real estate. Unlike other parts of the economy and markets, real estate has been teetering for some time, with months of weak performance. REITs and real estate stocks have been selling off strongly over the last couple of days and the reason is clear—the last thing the already weak housing market needs is higher borrowing costs.
FINSUM: We think the move higher in rates and yields could spell a significant downturn for real estate. Prices are so high and demand is already starting to dry up, so higher yields may have a further dampening effect.
Anyone who has been even remotely watching the real estate market this year will note that the housing sector has been struggling. The well documented issues in the real estate market have caused housing stocks to have a very weak year, with multiple homebuilders recently hitting 52-week lows. This has made some worry that trouble in housing may be a leading indicator of an economic downturn to come. However, historically speaking, the opposite has been the case. Housing (combined with automotives) account for just 6.5% of GDP right now, the historical low end of their range, which is good news. Traditionally, it has been when housing gets to be a major part of the economy (e.g. 10% pre-Crisis) that trouble comes.
FINSUM: The trouble in housing has much less to do with the wider economy than it does with industry-specific factors like demographics, planning restrictions, and saturation. We do not expect housing to be necessarily representative of the direction of the US economy.
Goldman Sachs has a new kind of fund it is offering, and we thought advisors might like to hear about it. In what are being called “tax-eating” funds, Goldman is offering the opportunity to invest in “opportunity funds”. These special funds, which are provided for in the new tax code, are designed to promote investment in low-income communities. Interestingly, the funds are deferred from capital gains tax until 2026, so clients can move their capital gains into these funds and shield them from taxes. Doing so will ultimately result in a 15% reduction in capital gains taxes on the original gains, and 0% taxes for any gains on the opportunity funds themselves.
FINSUM: Goldman Sachs has been doing this kind of investing for years, and now the tax change has really put wind in its sails. Seems like it may be worth looking into.
Retail has been doing great lately and may be poised to continue its gains. However, the best way to play the sector might not be to buy retail stocks. Instead, consider buying real estate stocks that would gain from retail’s success. With that in mind, Barron’s has run a piece choosing seven real estate stocks that will benefit from retail’s growth: Simon Property Group, Link REIT, Brixmor Property Group, Public Storage, and Mid-America Apartment Communities.
FINSUM: Make no mistake, these are deeply contrarian bets given the challenges mall and other retail REITs are facing. That said, if the strategy works, it may do so in a big way.
One of the important elements of last year’s tax changes that has not been covered much by the mainstream financial press is the way in which the new tax code proves a big boon for REITs. That big gain is that the effective tax rate on REITs has been slashed from 37% to just 29.6%, a big move downward. One REIT industry expert summed up the changes this way, saying “Now, REITs have even more of an advantage over fixed-income products … Seventy percent of REIT returns have historically come from income, so any relative pickup in income is a big benefit for investors”.
FINSUM: This seems like a big help to REIT investors, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time given that rate rises will inevitable hurt REITs a bit.