The Advertiser - Real Estate

Get rich without the bricks

- Anthony Keane National personal finance writer

Bricks and mortar have built wealth for millions of Australian­s over many decades, but it’s not the only way to grow real estate riches.

There is a range of property investment­s that don’t require you to own a single house or unit.

They’re called real estate investment trusts, and they add one of the most important ingredient­s to any investment portfolio: diversific­ation, which reduces risk and opens you up to greater potential rewards.

REITs, previously known as property trusts, can be bought and sold on the sharemarke­t and allow everyday Aussies to become part-owners of shopping centres, office blocks, hotels, warehouses, apartment blocks and more.

Investors who buy units in these trusts receive tenant income from the trust and also share in the properties’ capital growth – and losses.

Volatility is a worry for many investors, with the REIT rollercoas­ter too scary for some as these investment­s are traded daily on the ASX. REITs have had a tough 2020, with many losing more than half their value during the March COVID crash as CBDs across Australia became deserted.

Apartments and retail were among the hardest hit property sectors, but many REITs have already recovered at least half of their lost market value.

And some have done much better than others: BWP Trust, which owns 68 Bunnings Warehouse sites across Australia, has rebounded strongly and climbed back to fresh record highs in recent weeks.

Many Australian­s are REIT investors but don’t know it, with a typical super fund holding up to 10 per cent of a members’ money in property where REITs are a core part.

Now may be an good time to invest further in REITS, according to some experts, with their unit prices still much cheaper than earlier this year.

Westfield shopping centre owner Scentre Group’s unit price plunged from $4 to $1.50 between January and March and this week was trading near $2.80.

Quay Global Investors portfolio manager Chris Bedingfiel­d views the overall REIT sector as underprice­d.

“We’re not scared of retail at the moment – we think there’s certainly some interestin­g opportunit­ies at these depressed prices,” he says.

Millions of Aussies have worked from home this year, but the jury is still out on whether this will dent future office demand or be offset by the need for more office space per worker because of social distancing.

SG Hiscock and Company head of property Grant Berry says investors should think about the property sector recovery rather than extrapolat­ing the stay-at-home scenario into the future.

“There will be a bit more working from home going forward … our thinking is over the whole market there will be about one day a week impact,” he says.

Investment giant Credit Suisse says real estate should benefit from the economic recovery and low interest rate environmen­t, and it favours growth sectors such as industrial and logistics real estate.

Whatever you think about the outlook for property, it’s worth diversifyi­ng beyond simple bricks and mortar and into the wider world of real estate in Australia and overseas.

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