You may never have considered investing in Tokyo office buildings, British shopping malls or luxury condos in Singapore. But funds that invest in companies owning these types of properties are increasingly attractive because of their relatively high yields, recently topping 3%.
Over the past several years, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in US real estate have outperformed the overall stock market. But with interest rates in the US expected to start rising this year, the performance of those ETFs likely will falter as their yields become less attractive as an alternative to bond yields. That’s why it’s time to look at foreign real estate equities, which returned an average of 2.7% through March 31 this year, compared with a 1% return for the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.
How to invest in foreign real estate…
SPDR Dow Jones International Real Estate ETF (RWX), launched in late 2006, has one-third of its assets in Japanese and British real estate firms, which are especially attractive now. Recent 12-month yield: 3.2%. Five-year annualized return: 10.2%.
Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate ETF (VNQI), launched in 2010, offers the lowest annual expense ratio in the category at 0.24%. It has 600 holdings in 35 countries. Recent 12-month yield: 3.9%. Three-year annualized total return: 10.8%.
WisdomTree Japan Hedged Real Estate ETF (DXJR), launched in April 2014, is for aggressive investors, given its narrow focus, investing in just 90 real estate companies across Japan. However, these companies are likely to benefit from the country’s massive economic stimulus program. Unlike most other ETFs in this category, this one hedges against currency fluctuations, which neutralizes the effects of a volatile US dollar.