Property Markets are Global - Your REIT Portfolio Should Be, Too

The United States may be one of the richest nations in the world, but it is hardly the only worthwhile country in which to invest.

That's as true for companies as it is for real estate, which is why you should take a look at real estate investment trusts that think outside the U.S. box, like W.P. Carey and Health Care REIT .

A big, big world
A recent study by Sotheby's International Realty Canada noted that, "50% of Montreal's market for luxury single-family homes consists of foreign buyers, primarily from China, Syria, Russia, Mexico, and the USA." Toronto and Vancouver have a strong international component, as well.

In other words, people from all over the world are going to Canada, and particularly Montreal, to buy homes. It's a nice city, but why bother?

Source: Alexander.stohr, via Wikimedia Commons

The answer is globalization.

The world is getting smaller and smaller, figuratively speaking, and people are shifting around looking for vibrant places to live.

However, vibrant living also requires vibrant economies. And that's where REITs come in. You may or may not be able to afford a multi-million dollar home in Montreal, but you certainly can afford the price tag to own either Health Care REIT or W.P. Carey.

Keeping the world healthy
Health Care REIT owns exactly what you would expect: health care properties.

At the end of the first quarter, the company owned 1,200 facilities operating in the senior housing, skilled nursing, hospital, and medical office sub-sectors. The REIT is a Goliath in the health care property market.

However, one of the unique features of the Health Care REIT is its increasing exposure to foreign markets. To be sure, the United States accounted for the lion's share of the REIT's business at 88% of net operating income. However, Canada makes up 5.4% of the total and the United Kingdom 6.6%. It's portfolio in these two countries is predominantly senior housing, Health Care REIT's historical focus and strong suit.

That may not seem like a huge amount of foreign exposure, but Health Care REIT is just starting to branch out. 

Its core markets are expected to see an 88% increase in the number of people over the age of 75 in the next 20 years. The aging of the baby boomers isn't a U.S. only phenomena, and senior-property specialist Health Care REIT is positioning itself to benefit domestically and in key foreign markets.

(Source: Marg, via Wikimedia Commons)

Business as usual
The medical facilities that Health Care REIT owns are obviously a direct play on an aging world. W.P. Carey's portfolio, on the other hand, is more diversified but is basically a play on economic progress.

Carey owns triple net lease properties, where the tenants take care of most of a property's expenses. That's a win/win, because Carey gets to collect a rent check with regular price escalators and doesn't have to do much work. The company leasing the property, meanwhile, gets to lock in control of the asset without having to put the cost on its balance sheet—freeing up capital for growth.

Diversification is the name of the game at Carey. Office properties account for 27% of its portfolio, industrial 26%, warehouse/distribution 19%, retail 14%, and self-storage 4% (10% is "other.")

What's more interesting, however, is that the United States accounts for only about 70% of Carey's portfolio. The rest is broken up among countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, and Finland. Even within the U.S. market, the rent roll is fairly evenly distributed across the east, west, south, and mid-west.

Dividend domination
Just having globally diversified portfolios isn't enough. What really sets this pair apart is dividend growth. Carey has increased its dividend for 52 consecutive quarters. Health Care REIT has upped its annual disbursement in 38 of the last 40 years. Carey yields around 5.7% and Health Care about 4.9%. With an increasingly interconnected world, you need to change how you think about real estate. Carey and Health Care REIT are both well-positioned dividend payers that have already gotten aboard the globalization bandwagon.

Is this a better dividend option than REITs?
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The article Property Markets are Global - Your REIT Portfolio Should Be, Too originally appeared on

Reuben Brewer has a position in Health Care REIT. The Motley Fool recommends Health Care REIT. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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