This study investigates whether the risk adjusted returns of a global REIT portfolio would be enhanced by adopting a trend following strategy (which is an absolute concept), a momentum based strategy (which is a relative concept and requires individual country allocations), or indeed a combination of the two. We examine the results in terms of both a dedicated Global REIT exposure, and the impact on a multi-asset portfolio. We find that the main improvements arise when the broad index is replaced with one of the four trend following (TF) strategies. The portfolios deliver similar returns but volatility is reduced by up to a quarter to the 8-9% range, the Sharpe ratios increase by 0.1 to 0.5 with the main benefit being the reduction in the maximum drawdown to under 30% compared to 43% when the broad index was used. We thus find that a combined momentum and trend following Global REIT strategy can be beneficial for both a dedicated REIT portfolio and adding REITs to a multi-asset portfolio.

Alpha Highlight:

The decade has seen an increase in interest in Global REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust). Allocating to domestic and international REITs within a portfolio helps diversify risk and generate better risk-adjusted returns, in expectation.

The table below shows basic statistics for 4 asset classes from 1991 to 2014. REITs are measured by the EPRA Developed Markets Index, which includes 37 developed markets. This global REITs portfolio has the highest annualized return as well as the highest volatility and maximum drawdown. If investors want to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road, risk-management within this volatile asset class is essential.

The results are hypothetical results and are NOT an indicator of future results and do NOT represent returns that any investor actually attained. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect management or trading fees, and one cannot invest directly in an index. Additional information regarding the construction of these results is available upon request.

But what can be done to reduce these hair-raising drawdowns?

Well, this probably isn’t a surprise to our readers, but a basic trend following strategy applied on REITS has been effective atreducing large drawdowns, historically.

REIT investing across countries

In Exhibit 1, REITs are considered as a single asset class, and represented as a global index consisting of a wide range of markets. In the first step, the paper disaggregates the REIT global index into 15 individual country indices (which is fewer than in EPRA). The below table shows the results based on country-level data.