Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) offer investors an opportunity to gain exposure to the real estate market without owning physical properties. As with any investment, it’s crucial to understand how to evaluate and value REITs effectively. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key methods and considerations for valuing a REIT.
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Before diving into valuation, let’s briefly recap what a REIT is. A REIT is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-producing real estate assets, such as residential and commercial properties, hotels, shopping centers, and more. REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. Investors are attracted to REITs for their potential for steady income, portfolio diversification, and long-term growth.
For a better understanding of the methods described below, we will take the example of the Realty Income stock (O) and walk it through the steps. Everything that is particularly related to Realty Income will be written in Italics.
4 Methods for Valuing a REIT
Valuing a REIT involves assessing its financial performance, the quality of its real estate portfolio, and its growth potential. Several methods can be used to value a REIT, and a combination of these approaches can provide a more accurate picture of its intrinsic worth. Here are the key methods:
1. Net Asset Value (NAV) Method
The Net Asset Value method is a fundamental approach to valuing a REIT. It calculates the value of the REIT’s assets (real estate properties) minus its liabilities. The resulting figure represents the intrinsic value of the REIT based on its real estate holdings.
This method is especially useful when evaluating REITs with significant real estate holdings because it provides insight into the core value of those holdings. Here’s a breakdown of the components and considerations within the NAV method:
Total Assets: The first step is to determine the total value of the REIT’s assets. These assets include all of the real estate properties owned by the REIT, as well as any other assets it may hold, such as cash, securities, or other investments. The value of real estate assets should be based on their current market values, which may require periodic appraisals.
Total Liabilities: Next, you need to identify and sum up all of the REIT’s liabilities. Liabilities include things like mortgages, loans, and other outstanding debts. It’s essential to consider both short-term and long-term liabilities when calculating the total.
Net Asset Value (NAV) Calculation: With the total assets and total liabilities in hand, calculating the NAV is straightforward:
NAV = Total Assets – Total Liabilities
The NAV represents the estimated intrinsic value of the REIT, assuming that it liquidated its assets and paid off all debts. It’s important to remember that NAV represents a snapshot in time and may not fully capture the future growth potential or income-generating capacity of the REIT.
Let’s check the NAV for Realty Income Stock. We can easily get this information out of their Balance Sheet available in the Financials section on SeekingAlpha:
Realty Income Assets and Liabilities. Source: SeekingAlpha
To calculate the current NAV, is straight forward:
NAV = 53,980 – 22,669 = 31,331, i.e. about $31 Billion.
If you compute the NAV values over the years, you will notice a nice positive trend.
It would also be useful to calculate how much NAV we get per share. For this, we need to divide the NAV by the number of shares outstanding (708.8M, as per their Balance Sheet).
NAV / Share = 31,331 / 708.8 = $44.2
At the current trading price of ~$48, this means for every stock we buy we almost get the same asset value.
The Net Asset Value (NAV) method is a foundational tool for assessing the intrinsic value of a Real Estate Investment Trust. It provides investors with insights into the core worth of the REIT’s real estate holdings, helping them make more informed investment decisions.
However, it’s important to use the NAV method in conjunction with other valuation techniques and to consider the broader economic and market conditions that can impact a REIT’s value.
So, let’s see what comes next.
2. Price-to-Funds from Operations (P/FFO) Ratio
Funds From Operations (FFO) is another critical metric for evaluating REITs. FFO represents a REIT’s core earnings, often considered a more accurate measure of its financial performance compared to traditional earnings per share (EPS), which may not account for the unique characteristics of real estate investments.
The P/FFO ratio is calculated by dividing the market price per share of a REIT by its FFO per share. This ratio provides investors with a valuable tool for assessing a REIT’s relative valuation within its sector or industry.
A lower P/FFO ratio suggests that the REIT may be undervalued relative to its earnings potential, making it an attractive investment opportunity. Conversely, a higher P/FFO ratio might indicate that the market has priced the REIT at a premium, potentially signaling overvaluation.
Formula for P/FFO:
P/FFO Ratio = Stock Price / FFO per Share
In the case of Realty Income, the indicator is at 12.04 which is more or less in line with the sector average of 11.29, as denoted by SeekingAlpha:
Realty Income P/FFO. Source: SeekingAlpha.com
Next, things are getting a little bit more complicated.
3. Dividend Discount Model (DDM)
The Dividend Discount Model (DDM) is a valuation method used to estimate the intrinsic value of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) based on its future dividend payments. While DDM is more commonly applied to dividend-paying stocks, it can also be used for REITs, which are known for their consistent dividend distributions.
Here’s how the Dividend Discount Model works in the context of REITs:
Forecast Future Dividends: The first step in applying DDM to a REIT is to forecast its future dividend payments. In the case of REITs, these dividends often come in the form of regular distributions to shareholders. To forecast future dividends, analysts typically consider the REIT’s historical dividend growth rate, its financial performance, and economic conditions.
Determine the Required Rate of Return (Discount Rate): The next crucial component of the DDM is the required rate of return, often referred to as the discount rate. This rate represents the return an investor expects to receive for taking on the risk associated with investing in the REIT. The discount rate should reflect factors like the risk-free rate (typically based on government bond yields) and the REIT’s specific risk factors, such as market conditions, interest rate sensitivity, and industry risks.
Apply the DDM Formula: With the forecasted future dividends and the discount rate in hand, you can use the DDM formula to calculate the intrinsic value of the REIT:
DDM = D1 / (r – g)
DDM is the intrinsic value of the REIT.
D1 represents the expected dividend for the next period.
r is the company’s cost of capital equity
g is the expected dividend growth rate.
Realty income is expected to provide $3.15 in 2024, as per SeekingAlpha. That would mean a dividend growth (g) of 3.27% compared to 2023 ($3.15 future dividend (D1) / $3.05 current dividend).
To keep it simple, we will not compute the cost of capital equity (r). We will use the Realty Income consensus from Finbox.com, which is equal to 9.8%.
So, DDM = $3.15 / (0.098 – 0.0327) = ~$48
Again, we get a fair value equal to the current price of ~48.
4. Consider Growth Rates: In the DDM formula, the “g” factor represents the expected dividend growth rate. For REITs, this growth rate can vary significantly depending on factors such as property market conditions, rental income, and management decisions. Analysts often consider historical growth rates, industry forecasts, and the REIT’s business strategy to estimate “g.”
All you need to do is to redo the calculation using the average historical yearly dividend increase, rather than what is estimated for the next period.
5. Assess the Result: Once you’ve calculated the intrinsic value using the DDM, you can compare it to the REIT’s current market price. If the calculated intrinsic value is higher than the market price, the REIT may be considered undervalued, suggesting a potential buying opportunity. Conversely, if the intrinsic value is lower than the market price, it may be overvalued.
Our DDM calculation resulted in a fair value of ~$48. The current price of O stock is also ~$48. This means the stock is currently fairly valued.
Other Key Considerations:
DDM assumes that dividends are a reliable indicator of a REIT’s value. However, it’s essential to consider the quality and sustainability of the dividend payments.
Estimating the required rate of return (discount rate) accurately is critical, as it significantly impacts the DDM valuation.
DDM is a fundamental valuation method that provides a long-term perspective. Short-term market sentiment and price fluctuations may not align with DDM-based valuations.
To learn more about dividends, check out my book “Live Off Dividends.“
In summary, the Dividend Discount Model can be a valuable tool for estimating the intrinsic value of a REIT based on its expected future dividend payments. However, like all valuation methods, it should be used in conjunction with other metrics and considerations to make well-informed investment decisions.
4. Comparable Analysis
Comparing the REIT to its peers is a valuable method to gauge its relative value. Look at key metrics such as P/FFO ratio, dividend yield and growth record, and price-to-NAV compared to similar REITs in the same sector or category. If the REIT’s metrics are more favorable, it may be considered undervalued.
Realty Income vs Peers. Build by author.
As you can see, Realty Income is providing an attractive dividend yield and decent annual growth when compared to its peers. The P/FFO is somewhere in the middle, while the Price/NAV is very attractive. Out of this comparison, I am confident in my decision to buy Realty Income, and not any of its peers.
Factors to Consider When Valuing a REIT
In addition to the valuation methods, several factors should be taken into account when evaluating a REIT:
Historical Performance: Review the REIT’s historical financial performance, including FFO growth, dividend consistency, and total returns over different timeframes.
Property Portfolio: Assess the quality, location, and diversification of the real estate assets in the REIT’s portfolio. Look for properties in desirable locations with stable occupancy rates.
Management Team: Evaluate the experience and track record of the REIT’s management team. A capable team is more likely to make sound investment decisions.
Financial Health: Examine the REIT’s debt levels and interest coverage ratio. High debt and low-interest coverage can pose risks, especially in economic downturns.
Market Conditions: Consider broader economic and real estate market conditions that may affect the REIT’s performance. Factors like interest rates, supply and demand dynamics, and regional economic health can impact a REIT’s valuation.
Challenges in Valuing REITs
Valuing REITs can be challenging due to several factors:
Complexity: REITs can have complex structures and diverse property portfolios, making them more challenging to assess than traditional stocks.
Interest Rates: REITs are sensitive to interest rate changes. Rising interest rates can affect the cost of capital and the valuation of the REIT’s properties.
Market Sentiment: Investor sentiment and market trends can impact the stock price of REITs, leading to short-term price fluctuations that may not necessarily reflect the underlying value.
Economic Conditions: Economic downturns and real estate market cycles can affect rental income and property values, which, in turn, affect a REIT’s valuation.
Conclusion on Valuating REITs
Valuing a REIT is a critical step in making informed investment decisions. By understanding the methods and factors involved in the valuation process, investors can better assess the intrinsic value of a REIT and determine whether it aligns with their financial goals and risk tolerance. Keep in mind that REIT valuation is both an art and a science, and it requires continuous monitoring and adjustment to stay aligned with changing market conditions and investment objectives.