US REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts for European Portfolios

Table of Contents

In the ever-evolving landscape of investment opportunities, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in the United States offer a compelling avenue for diversification and potential returns. As a European investor, you may be accustomed to focusing on local or EU-based assets. However, the world of investment is borderless, and limiting yourself to a single region could mean missing out on lucrative opportunities elsewhere. This article aims to be your comprehensive guide to understanding U.S. REITs and how they can be seamlessly incorporated into your European investment portfolio.

Whether you’re a casual investor looking to dip your toes into international real estate or a seasoned asset manager seeking new avenues for growth, this article will provide you with the insights you need. We will delve into the intricacies of U.S. REITs, explore the benefits and challenges for European investors, and offer actionable strategies for investment. By the end of this read, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions about adding U.S. REITs to your investment mix.

Stay tuned as we unpack the complexities and opportunities that come with investing in U.S. REITs, ensuring that no question is left unanswered.

What Are U.S. REITs?

Definition and History

Real Estate Investment Trusts, commonly known as REITs, are companies that own, operate, or finance income-generating real estate across various asset classes, such as residential, commercial, and industrial properties. The concept of REITs originated in the United States in 1960, with the primary aim of providing individual investors with the opportunity to invest in large-scale, income-producing real estate. This democratization of real estate investment has since gained traction, not just in the U.S., but globally.

Read also: Understanding the Fundamentals of European Real Estate Investing

Types of REITs: Equity, Mortgage, and Hybrid

Understanding the different types of REITs is crucial for making informed investment decisions. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Equity REITs: These are the most common type of REITs. They own and manage income-generating properties and make money primarily from rental income. Examples include apartment complexes, shopping malls, and office buildings.
  2. Mortgage REITs: Unlike Equity REITs, Mortgage REITs don’t own real estate properties. Instead, they invest in property mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. They earn income from the interest on these investments.
  3. Hybrid REITs: As the name suggests, Hybrid REITs combine the investment strategies of both Equity and Mortgage REITs. They own properties and hold mortgages, aiming to diversify their income streams.

Regulatory Framework

In the United States, REITs are highly regulated to protect investors. They must comply with several requirements set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including:

  • At least 75% of total assets must be invested in real estate, cash, or U.S. Treasuries.
  • At least 75% of gross income must come from real estate-related sources.
  • A minimum of 90% of taxable income must be distributed to shareholders as dividends.

Failure to meet these criteria can result in the loss of REIT status, which comes with various tax advantages.

Advantages of Investing in U.S. REITs


One of the most appealing aspects of U.S. REITs is their liquidity. Unlike traditional real estate investments, which often require significant time and effort to buy or sell, REIT shares can be easily traded on major stock exchanges. This provides investors with the flexibility to enter or exit positions quickly, based on market conditions.


Investing in U.S. REITs allows you to diversify not only across asset classes but also geographically. Given that the U.S. real estate market often moves independently of the European market, adding U.S. REITs to your portfolio can offer a hedge against local market downturns.

Dividend Yields

U.S. REITs are renowned for their attractive dividend yields, primarily because they are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders. This makes them a compelling option for income-focused investors looking for consistent cash flow.

Why European Investors Should Consider U.S. REITs

Diversification Across Geographies

One of the cardinal rules of investing is to diversify your portfolio to mitigate risks. While European markets offer a plethora of investment opportunities, they are not immune to economic downturns, political instability, or market-specific risks. By incorporating U.S. REITs into your portfolio, you can achieve a level of geographical diversification that can act as a hedge against local or regional volatility. The U.S. real estate market has its own set of dynamics and growth drivers, often providing a counterbalance to European market trends.

Potential for Higher Returns

The U.S. real estate market is one of the most robust and diversified in the world, encompassing everything from commercial skyscrapers in New York City to residential properties in the Midwest. This diversity often translates to a broader range of investment opportunities with the potential for higher returns. While past performance is not indicative of future results, the long-term track record of U.S. REITs suggests a compelling risk-to-reward ratio that European investors may find attractive.

Currency Hedging Benefits

Investing in U.S. REITs also offers the advantage of currency diversification. While currency risk is an inherent part of international investing, having assets denominated in U.S. dollars can serve as a hedge against fluctuations in the Euro or other European currencies. In periods when the U.S. dollar is strong relative to the Euro, the returns on your U.S. REIT investments could be positively impacted when converted back to your local currency.

Legal and Tax Implications for European Investors

Before diving into U.S. REITs, European investors must be aware of the legal and tax implications involved. Understanding these aspects can help you make more informed decisions and optimize your investment strategy.

Double Taxation Treaties

One of the primary concerns for European investors is the issue of double taxation—paying taxes on the same income in both the U.S. and your home country. Fortunately, many European countries have double taxation treaties with the United States, which can alleviate or eliminate this burden. These treaties often provide for reduced rates of withholding tax on dividends, making U.S. REITs more tax-efficient for European investors.

Regulatory Considerations

Investing in U.S. REITs from Europe involves navigating a different regulatory landscape. While U.S. REITs are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), European investors must also consider local regulations, such as those imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK or the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) in France. It’s crucial to consult with financial advisors who are well-versed in both U.S. and European regulations to ensure compliance.

Recommended U.S. REITs for European Investors

After understanding the intricacies of investing in U.S. REITs and the associated risks, the next logical step is to identify specific REITs that offer promising opportunities for European investors. Below are some U.S. REITs that have consistently performed well and offer various advantages such as high dividend yields, strong management, and growth potential.

Equity REITs

  1. Simon Property Group (SPG) – Specializes in owning, operating, and developing premier shopping malls across the U.S.
  2. Equity Residential (EQR) – Focuses on high-quality apartment properties in top U.S. metropolitan areas.
  3. Prologis (PLD) – A leader in industrial real estate, particularly in logistics and distribution centers.

Mortgage REITs

  1. Annaly Capital Management (NLY) – Primarily invests in mortgage-backed securities and related assets.
  2. Two Harbors Investment Corp (TWO) – Focuses on investing in residential mortgage-backed securities, mortgage loans, and other financial assets.

Hybrid REITs

  1. W. P. Carey Inc. (WPC) – Invests in both properties and long-term net leases, offering a mix of stable income and growth potential.
  2. Starwood Property Trust (STWD) – Engages in originating, acquiring, financing, and managing commercial mortgage loans and other commercial real estate debt investments.

Comparative Table

REIT NameTypeDividend Yield5-Year Annualized ReturnSector Focus
Simon Property Group (SPG)Equity4.2%8.5%Retail
Equity Residential (EQR)Equity3.1%6.7%Residential
Prologis (PLD)Equity2.3%12.4%Industrial
Annaly Capital (NLY)Mortgage9.8%5.1%Mortgage-backed Securities
Two Harbors (TWO)Mortgage10.2%4.8%Mortgage-backed Securities
W. P. Carey Inc. (WPC)Hybrid5.7%9.2%Diverse
Starwood Property (STWD)Hybrid7.9%7.4%Commercial Real Estate

Please note that the above recommendations and data are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial advice. Always conduct your own research and consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

In the next section, we will delve into real-world case studies to provide you with practical insights into successful U.S. REIT investments by European investors.

Case Studies

Investing in U.S. REITs can seem like a daunting endeavor, especially for European investors unfamiliar with the American real estate market. To provide you with practical insights, let’s explore some real-world examples of successful U.S. REIT investments made by European investors.

Examples of Successful U.S. REIT Investments by European Investors

  1. Norwegian Pension Fund’s Investment in Prologis (PLD)
    The Government Pension Fund of Norway, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, made a significant investment in Prologis, a leading industrial REIT. The investment has yielded consistent returns, primarily due to the booming e-commerce sector, which has increased demand for logistics and distribution centers.
  2. German Family Office’s Stake in Simon Property Group (SPG)
    A German family office took a strategic position in Simon Property Group, attracted by its high dividend yield and strong management. Despite initial concerns about the retail apocalypse, the investment has proven profitable as SPG successfully pivoted towards experiential retail spaces.
  3. British Asset Manager’s Diversification into Annaly Capital (NLY)
    A UK-based asset management firm diversified its portfolio by investing in Annaly Capital, a mortgage REIT. The high dividend yield served as an income-generating asset, balancing out other growth-oriented investments in the portfolio.

Lessons Learned

  1. Due Diligence is Key: Thorough research and understanding of the U.S. real estate market can yield profitable investments.
  2. Diversification Works: The case studies highlight the importance of diversifying not just across asset classes but also geographies.
  3. Consult Experts: Regulatory and tax implications can be complex; consulting with financial advisors who understand both U.S. and European regulations is crucial.


Summary of Key Points

  • U.S. REITs offer a compelling avenue for diversification and potential returns for European investors.
  • There are various types of REITs—Equity, Mortgage, and Hybrid—each with its own set of advantages and risks.
  • Legal and tax considerations, such as double taxation treaties and regulatory compliance, are vital for European investors.
  • Multiple avenues exist for investing in U.S. REITs, including direct investment, ETFs, and real estate crowdfunding platforms.
  • Case studies demonstrate the viability and potential profitability of U.S. REIT investments for European investors.

Final Thoughts on the Viability of U.S. REITs for European Portfolios

The world of investment is increasingly global, and limiting oneself to local or regional opportunities can result in missed growth prospects. U.S. REITs present a viable and potentially lucrative option for European investors seeking to diversify their portfolios, both in terms of asset classes and geography. While there are inherent risks and challenges, these can often be mitigated through careful planning, due diligence, and consultation with financial experts.

By understanding the complexities and opportunities associated with U.S. REITs, European investors can make well-informed decisions, potentially unlocking new avenues for portfolio growth and income generation.

Thank you for reading this comprehensive guide on U.S. REITs for European portfolios. We hope this article serves as a valuable resource for your investment journey.

Additional Resources

For those who wish to delve deeper into the subject of U.S. REITs and expand their knowledge, there are numerous resources available. Whether you’re a novice investor or a seasoned professional, these books, websites, and courses can provide valuable insights and strategies for successful investing in U.S. REITs.


  1. “The Intelligent REIT Investor: How to Build Wealth with Real Estate Investment Trusts” by Stephanie Krewson-Kelly and R. Brad Thomas
    • A comprehensive guide that covers everything from the basics to advanced strategies for investing in REITs.
  2. “Investing in REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts” by Ralph L. Block
    • This book offers a deep dive into the world of REITs, including historical performance and future outlook.
  3. “Commercial Real Estate Investing For Dummies” by Peter Conti and Peter Harris
    • While not specifically about REITs, this book provides a solid foundation in commercial real estate, which is valuable for understanding the underlying assets in many REITs.


  1. National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT)
    • Website
    • A treasure trove of information, including market data, research reports, and investor education materials.
  2. Seeking Alpha – REIT Section
    • Website
    • Provides timely articles, analyses, and opinions on various REITs, including those based in the U.S.
  3. Investopedia – REIT Guide
    • Website
    • A beginner-friendly guide that covers the basics of what REITs are, how they work, and how to invest in them.


  1. “Real Estate Investment and Capital Markets” by NAIOP
    • This course covers real estate capital markets, including REITs, and is suitable for those looking to understand the financial aspects of real estate investment.
  2. “Introduction to Real Estate Investment Analysis” by Udemy
    • A beginner-level course that provides a broad overview of real estate investment, including a section on REITs.
  3. “Advanced Real Estate Finance and Investment” by MIT OpenCourseWare
    • A free, advanced-level course that delves into the complexities of real estate finance, including the role of REITs.

Relevant Articles