Residential REITs ETFs to Capitalize on Rising Apartment Renters

Due to the elevated housing prices, priced-out home buyers are reluctantly coming back to the cities and renting again, bolstering residential real estate investment trusts and sector-related exchange traded funds.

Stock prices of publicly-traded apartment companies have rallied, with the FTSE Nareit Equity Apartments index up 42% since January, as compared to the 17% gain for the S&P 500 over the same period, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, median rent on apartments has increased more than 10% over the past year to $1,244, or 9.4% above where rents were back in March 2020, right before Covid-19 lockdowns, according to Apartment List.

Contributing to the rise in apartment rents, demand has rebounded in response to surging home prices that forced many would-be home buyers to give up and go back to paying rent. Median existing-home sales prices were 23.4% higher as of June year-over-year to $363,300, a record high, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“It’s kind of a good time to be an urban apartment owner again,” Mark Parrell, chief executive of Equity Residential, a real-estate investment trust, told the WSJ.

Investors who want a piece of the real estate action can access the space through funds like the Vanguard Real Estate ETF (NYSEArca: VNQ). VNQ seeks to provide a high level of income and moderate long-term capital appreciation by tracking the performance of the MSCI US Investable Market Real Estate 25/50 Index that measures the performance of publicly traded equity REITs and other real estate-related investments. However, broad REITs sector-specific ETFs have low exposure to residential REITs, with VNQ’s underlying portfolio including a 14.0% tilt to residentials.

On the other hand, ETF investors who are interested in gaining exposure to this ongoing trend in the housing market can consider residential-heavy REIT ETFs, such as the iShares Residential Real Estate Capped ETF (NYSEArca: REZ) and NuShares Short-Term REIT ETF (BATS: NURE). NURE includes a hefty 49.7% tilt toward apartment- or rental-related REITs while REZ has a 51.0% weight in residential REITs.

For more information on real estate investment trusts, visit our REITs category.