Close this search box.

Investment 101 – A Comprehensive Guide to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

A Building Block as a Comprehensive Guide to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Grasp how Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, operate, and learn what you should be aware of if you’re considering investing in them.

Essential Points to Note

• REITs pool funds to invest in income-generating real estate properties, with profits mainly from rental income periodically distributed to REIT holders.

• Professional REIT and property managers oversee REITs, and for their expertise, they charge a fee.

• The Singapore Exchange lists a wide range of REITs that can be purchased similarly to stocks.

What Exactly Are REITs?

Investing in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) means pooling your funds with other investors in a collective investment scheme. This scheme then invests in a diversified portfolio of revenue-generating real estate assets such as shopping centers, office buildings, hotels, or serviced apartments.

The assets in these REITs are professionally managed, and the revenue generated (mainly from rental income) is regularly distributed to REIT holders after fees are deducted. These fees may include REIT management fees and property management fees.

The goal of a REIT investment is to provide consistent income distribution while also offering the potential for long-term appreciation. Just like investing in stocks, you can invest in REITs through a broker.

How Do REITs Work?

Here’s the typical workflow of a REIT structure:

  1. The REIT gathers funds from unit holders during an initial public offering (IPO), which it uses to acquire a range of real estate properties.
  2. These properties are then rented out to tenants.
  3. The generated income is then funneled back to the unit holders (investors) as income distributions, akin to dividends.

Remember that REITs incur yearly costs such as REIT managers’ fees, property managers’ fees, trustees’ fees, and other expenses. These are deducted from the profits before any distributions are made. REITs with properties in foreign jurisdictions may also be subject to taxation by the respective jurisdictions. Detailed information about these fees can be found in the REITs’ prospectuses and financial statements.

Understanding the Roles in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

A typical Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) structure comprises several key roles:


The trustee’s responsibilities, outlined in the trust deed, involve holding the REIT’s assets on behalf of the unit holders. Their duties may also encompass ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and safeguarding the rights of unit holders. The trustee earns a fee for offering this service.

REIT Manager or Property Manager

The REIT manager designs and implements the strategic direction of the REIT according to its stated investment strategy. This role includes responsibilities such as the acquisition and divestment of the REIT’s properties.

In an externally-managed model, the REIT manager receives a management fee that comprises a base fee and a performance fee in return for their services. They might also charge additional fees, such as acquisition and divestment fees.

Usually, a REIT manager appoints a property manager to oversee the REIT’s real estate properties. The property manager’s tasks include renting out the property to achieve an optimal mix of tenants and rental income, conducting marketing events or programs to draw in shoppers/tenants, and maintaining the property. For these services, the property manager earns a property management fee, paid from the REIT’s assets.

REIT Sponsor

In some instances, a sponsor is involved, who sources the properties for the REIT’s initial portfolio and may continue to provide a stream of assets for the REIT in the future. The sponsor often holds stakes in both the REIT manager and the REIT itself.

Understanding Your Rights as a REIT Unit Holder and Pre-Investment Considerations

As a REIT unit holder, your rights are generally restricted to requiring the REIT manager or trustee to manage the REIT in accordance with the provisions set out in the trust deed. Moreover, you hold the right to remove a REIT manager. This removal process entails calling for a general meeting, which requires at least 50 unit holders or such number of unit holders that together possess at least 10% of the REIT’s issued units. The resolution to remove the REIT manager must then pass with a simple majority vote from the unit holders present at the general meeting.

However, before you invest in REITs, there are crucial factors to consider. It’s vital to not presume REITs to be low-risk investments or their dividend income to be recurring. Be sure to thoroughly examine the prospectus and research reports to understand the REIT’s investment objectives and strategies.

Key areas to focus on include:

  1. Information on the REIT manager – This includes their experience and track record, as well as details regarding the REIT’s sponsor and pipeline of assets, if applicable.
  2. Information on the properties in the REIT – Consider if you are familiar with the geographical and sector exposures of the REITs you intend to invest in.
  3. Other investment information such as the dividend policy, fees, and charges.

Remember, REITs vary in their structures, geographical or sector focus, and risk levels. It’s essential to read the “Investment Approach” and “Risks” sections of the prospectus for information on the potential risks of the specific REIT you intend to invest in. The risk elements can vary significantly between REITs depending on numerous factors such as investment objective and strategy, geographical and sector focus, quality of the underlying real estate properties, land tenure of properties (leasehold or freehold), experience of the REIT manager, and the income distribution policy.

Lastly, consider whether the REIT’s structure and risk profile align with your risk tolerance and investment time horizon. Do not invest in a REIT if you find its investment objective and strategy unclear or uncomfortable.

Investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): Unpacking the Benefits

Investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) can offer several advantages for investors. For starters, REITs provide diversification, reducing the risk associated with investing in a single property by instead enabling investment in a pool of properties. This diversification across different types of properties and locations can help mitigate risk and potentially improve returns.

REITs also offer affordability, making them an attractive option for individual investors who might not have the means to directly invest in large assets such as office buildings or shopping malls. By investing in a REIT, you can access these types of properties in smaller, more manageable portions.

In terms of liquidity, it’s often much easier to buy and sell units in a REIT than to buy and sell actual properties. REITs are traded on the stock exchange, which means you can buy or sell units throughout the trading day, much like stocks.

REITs also provide tax benefits. Those that distribute at least 90% of their taxable income each year can enjoy tax transparency treatment by IRAS, subject to certain conditions. Individual investors who receive these distributions also often benefit from tax exemptions.

Finally, the transparency and flexibility offered by REITs are notable advantages. You can easily access information on REIT prices, and the ability to trade REITs throughout the trading day provides a level of flexibility not always found in other types of investments.

To fully harness these benefits and navigate the complexities of REIT investments, consider engaging with our team of expert financial advisors. They can provide in-depth guidance tailored to your unique financial situation and investment goals. Contact us today to start shaping your financial future.

Comparing REITs with Property Stocks

While both involve property-based investments, REITs and property stocks have distinct differences.

While both REITs and property stocks represent investments in the property sector, they exhibit distinct differences. REITs usually encompass recurring expenses such as management fees, property management fees, and trustees’ fees. These costs are subtracted from their income before the distribution to investors is made.

REITs Property Stocks
Business Orientation Focused on income-generating properties Typically involved in property-related businesses but may also branch into other industries
Property Custody Properties are overseen by an independent trustee Properties are owned and managed directly by the company
Dividend Distribution Mandated to distribute at least 90% of taxable income annually for tax transparency benefits under IRAS Dividend distribution is at the discretion of the board
Regulatory Guidelines Adhere to the Code on Collective Investment Schemes, Appendix 6 No specific guidelines
Tax-exempt Dividends Yes No
Management Fees* Yes No

Investment in REITs comes with a variety of risks, which include:

Lease Expiration Risk

• For REITs with leasehold properties, as time progresses, the remaining term on the land leases decreases, ultimately leading to the return of the properties to the lessors upon lease expiry. The diminishing lease term or lease expiration can impact the REIT’s value, potentially resulting in a decline in unit prices.

Risk of Concentration

• If the majority of a REIT’s value is tied up in a small number of properties or tenants, it exposes the investor to a higher risk. If anything unfavorable happens to those properties or tenants, the losses could be significant.

Refinancing Risk

• As REITs often distribute a substantial part of their income to unit holders, their ability to accumulate cash reserves for loan repayment can be limited. In terms of refinancing, they may need to take on more debt (through bank loans or bond issuance) or engage in equity fundraising initiatives such as rights issues or private placements.

• The cost of refinancing might rise when loans mature.

• If the REIT fails to secure refinancing, it might need to sell some properties, especially if these properties are mortgaged under the loan. This risk can influence the unit price and income distribution of the REIT.

Market-Related Risk

• Being traded on the stock exchange, REITs’ prices are vulnerable to the forces of supply and demand.

• Prices typically reflect investor sentiment towards various factors, including the economy, the real estate market, its yields, the management of the REIT, interest rates, and other factors.

Risk of Leverage

• Leverage risk arises when a REIT uses debt to purchase its properties.

• In case of REIT liquidation, the assets will first be used to settle debts with creditors. Any remaining value is then distributed among the unit holders.

Income Risk

• There’s no guarantee for REIT distributions as they can fluctuate depending on the REIT’s income. For example, the rental income of a REIT could be influenced if leases are renewed at lower rates or if there’s a decrease in occupancy rates.

• It’s crucial to check if the REIT has obtained upfront payment or locked in rental rates contractually, as well as the existence of other clauses in the lease agreements. If the properties are financed by debt, a change in the cost of debt can present a refinancing risk and might also decrease distributions to unit holders.

Liquidity Risk

• A REIT might find it difficult to find buyers and sellers for its properties.

• Adjusting their investment portfolios or quickly selling assets under unfavorable economic conditions or in special circumstances can be a challenge for REITs.

Other Potential Risks

• While some REITs may provide diversification based on property type or geographical region, such diversification might introduce other risks such as those related to sector-specific and country-specific regulations.

  • Categories of REITs REITs listed on the SGX can be broadly divided into different categories based on the kind of properties they typically own. These categories include: • Office REITs – Majorly invest in office buildings • Shopping REITs – Predominantly own shopping malls • Warehouse REITs – Typically own warehouses, logistics facilities, and data centres • Accommodation REITs – Mainly invest in hotels and serviced residences • Medical REITs – Generally own hospitals and nursing homes
  • Investment Checklist Is a REIT the right investment for you? Here’s a checklist to help you make your decision:
  • Understanding the REIT’s Investments Review the prospectus and research reports to gain insights into: • The sector and geographic focus (especially the property cycle stage in the assets’ home countries, the economic outlook of these countries, potential political or regulatory risks, and any tax considerations) • The underlying assets (especially the asset quality, such as the reputation of a shopping mall, occupancy rates, and tenant diversity)
  • Understanding the REIT’s Structure Examine the “Investment Strategy” and “Risks” sections of the prospectus for information on the specific risks associated with the REIT you’re considering. Be aware that risk factors can vary significantly between REITs based on their structure.
  • Additionally, consider the following: • Who are the managers of the REIT’s assets? For instance, consider the management’s reputation, track record, and growth strategy. • If there’s a sponsor, who are they and what is their financial strength? • What are the projected fees (like management fees, property management fees, trustees’ fees, acquisition and divestment fees, etc.)? • What is the REIT’s gearing (leverage) and debt maturity profile? • Are there any unique features of the specific REIT that might present additional risk?

Understanding the Distribution Policy You should find out:

• The anticipated schedule and frequency of distributions from the REIT

• The adjustments to income when calculating the distribution amount

• The conditions when a REIT might not distribute funds, like lack of adequate cash flow

Comfort Level with the REIT’s Corporate Governance You should only invest in a REIT if its corporate governance aligns with your comfort level. You can refer to the Governance Index for Trusts for more information.

Assessing if the REIT Matches Your Requirements You should assess if the REIT’s structure and risk profile align with your risk tolerance and the timeline for your investment, compared to other investment choices.

Remember, it’s important not to invest in a REIT if you don’t understand its operations or are uncomfortable with its structure and risks.

Related Articles

subscribe now

Get email updates on the latest financial nuggets!

A Comprehensive Guide – Critical Illness VS Early CI Coverage: What It Is & How it Works

Get the latest insight on the Ultimate Guide on Critical Illness Coverage & How you should plan on it

Fill in the form and get the downloadable copy for free.