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How REITs Differ From Real Estate Syndications, And What They Mean For Your Money

How REITs Differ From Real Estate Syndications, And What They Mean For Your Money

If real estate investing seems interesting to you, but your demanding professional life makes it impossible for you to be a reliable landlord, you aren’t alone. Fixing toilet emergencies at 3 am isn’t appealing to most people, myself included. And good for you for realizing this in advance!

While I’m passionate about making the world a better place for families by providing them a safer, economical, comfortable place to live, I couldn’t do that one residence at a time while balancing my own busy family life, high-responsibility profession, and long work hours. 

So, I began exploring the possibilities toward scaling my investments while simultaneously creating free time and freedom in my life. The next logical step that many investors take is toward a real estate investment trust (REIT), which is easy to access, just like stocks. 

What is a REIT, anyway?

When investing in a REIT, you’re buying stock in a company that invests in commercial real estate. So, most people naturally figure, if you invest in an apartment REIT, it’s the same as investing directly in an apartment building.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s unpack this a bit more. 

I present you, the 7 Biggest Differences Between REITs and Real Estate Syndications:

Difference #1: Number of Assets

A REIT is a company that holds a portfolio of properties across multiple markets in an asset class, which could mean great diversification for investors. Separate REITs are available for apartment buildings, shopping malls, office buildings, elderly care, etc.

On the flip side, with real estate syndications, you invest in a single property in a single market. You know the exact location, the number of units, the financials specific to that property, and the business plan for your investment. 

Difference #2: Ownership

When investing in a REIT, you purchase shares in the company that owns the real estate assets.

When you invest in a real estate syndication, you and others contribute directly to the purchase of a specific property through the entity (usually an LLC) that holds the asset. 

Difference #3: Access to Invest

Most REITs are listed on major stock exchanges, and you may invest in them directly, through mutual funds, or via exchange-traded funds, quickly and easily online.

Real estate syndications, on the other hand, are often under an SEC regulation that disallows public advertising, which makes them difficult to find without knowing the sponsor or other passive investors. 

However, at Viking Capital, because we focus largely on 506(c) deals for accredited investors only, we are able to advertise our offerings. To learn more about investing with us, join the Viking Investor Club.

Even once you have obtained a connection, become accredited, and found a deal, you should allow several weeks to review the investment opportunity, sign the legal documents, and send in your funds. 

Difference #4: Investment Minimums

When you invest in a REIT, you are purchasing shares on the public exchange, some of which can be just a few bucks. Thus, the monetary barrier to entry is low.

Alternatively, syndications have higher minimum investments, often $50,000 or more. Though they can range from $10,000 up to $100,000 or more, real estate syndication investments require significantly higher capital than REITs.

Difference #5: Liquidity

At any time, you can buy or sell shares of your REIT and your money is liquid.

Real estate syndications, however, are accompanied by a business plan that often defines holding the asset for a certain amount of time (often 3 years or more), during which your money is locked in.

Difference #6: Tax Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of investing in real estate syndications versus REITs is tax savings. When you invest directly in a property (real estate syndications included), you receive a variety of tax deductions, the main benefit being depreciation (i.e., cost segregation studies, writing off the value of an asset over time).

Oftentimes, the depreciation benefits surpass the cash flow. So, you may show a loss on paper but have positive cash flow. Those paper losses can offset your other income, like that from an employer.

When you invest in a REIT, because you’re investing in the company and not directly in the real estate, you do get depreciation benefits, but those are factored in prior to dividend payouts. There are no tax breaks on top of that, and you can’t use that depreciation to offset any of your other income.

Unfortunately, dividends are taxed as ordinary income, which can contribute to a larger, rather than smaller, tax bill.

Difference #7: Returns

While returns for any real estate investment can vary wildly, the historical data over the last forty years reflects an average of 12.87 percent per year total returns for exchange-traded U.S. equity REITs. By comparison, stocks averaged 11.64 percent per year over that same period.

This means, on average, if you invested $100,000 in a REIT, you could expect somewhere around $12,870 per year in dividends, which is great ROI.

Between the cash flow and the profits from the sale of the asset, real estate syndications can offer around 20% average annual returns.

As an example, a $100,000 syndication deal with a 5-year hold period and a 20% average annual return may make $20,000 per year for 5 years, or $100,000 (this takes into account both cash flow and profits from the sale), which means your money doubles over the course of those five years.

Conclusion

So, which one should you invest in?

All in all, there’s no one best investment for everyone (but you knew that, right?).

If you have $1,000 to invest and want to access that money freely, you may look into REITs. If you have a bit more available and want tangible asset ownership, a direct relationship with the sponsor team, and tax-efficient passive income, a real estate syndication may be a better fit.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You might begin with REITs and then migrate toward real estate syndications later. Or you might dabble in both to diversify. Either way, investing in real estate, whether directly or indirectly, is forward progress.

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