Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): Types, Benefits, and How to Invest

Unlock the potential of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) with comprehensive insights! Discover REIT types, their workings, advantages, limitations, and who should invest.
4 mins
08 December 2023

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have emerged as a popular investment option in India, offering individuals the opportunity to invest in real estate without the need for large capital or the hassles of property ownership. In this article, we will explore the concept of REITs, how they function, what qualifies as a REIT, the different types available, and most importantly, how you can invest in them. Additionally, we'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of REIT investments and provide a real-world example of a successful Indian REIT.

What are REITs?

A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) allows investors to invest in a portfolio of income-generating real estate assets by purchasing units of it. The assets can include shopping malls, office spaces, hotels, apartments, etc. These assets are rented or leased with the aim of generating income for the unitholders from the pool of funds contributed by them. REITs are like mutual funds, but instead of securities, they have real estate assets as their underlying investments. REITs are set up in the form of a trust registered with the stock market regulator.

Additional read: FD vs Real Estate

Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs)

REITs are investment vehicles that allow individuals to invest in income-generating real estate properties, similar to mutual funds for real estate. These trusts own, manage, and generate income from a portfolio of real estate assets, such as commercial buildings, malls, or residential properties. Investors purchase shares in the REIT, entitling them to a portion of the income and potential appreciation of the real estate properties.

Advantages of REITs

Investors who allocate their funds into a REIT can enjoy several advantages:


  • Consistent dividend payouts and potential capital growth: REIT investments are known to yield substantial dividends and offer consistent long-term capital appreciation.
  • Diversification opportunity: With REITs frequently traded on stock exchanges, investors have the chance to diversify their real estate holdings effectively.
  • Enhanced transparency: Regulated by SEBI, REITs are mandated to disclose financial reports audited by professionals, providing investors with transparent information on taxation, ownership, and zoning.
  • Increased liquidity: As most REITs are publicly traded, they offer ease of buying and selling, enhancing their liquidity profile.
  • Generates risk-adjusted returns: Investing in REITs provides investors with returns adjusted for risk, ensuring steady cash flow even during periods of high inflation.


How does a company qualify as a REIT?

To qualify as a REIT, the company must adhere to the following conditions:

  • The organisation must take the form of either a corporation or a business trust.
  • The firm's shares should be entirely transferable.
  • Approximately 75% of investments should be allocated to the real estate industry.
  • 75% of the total gross income must come from sources such as rents, real estate mortgage interest, or property sales.
  • 90% of taxable earnings should be distributed annually to shareholders in the form of dividends.
  • The corporation should be a subject to taxation.
  • The governance of the corporation should be overseen by a council consisting of directors and trustees.
  • The firm should have a minimum of 100 shareholders at the end of its first operating year.
  • No group of fewer than five individuals should collectively own over 50% of the total shares.
  • 95% of the income generated by the REIT should be reinvested.

Types of REITs

There are several types of REITs in India, each offering distinct advantages and characteristics:

  • Equity REITs: These REITs primarily invest in income-generating real estate properties and distribute the rental income to investors.
  • Mortgage REITs: These REITs invest in mortgage-backed securities and generate income from the interest earned on these investments.
  • Hybrid REITs: These combine elements of both equity and mortgage REITs, diversifying their income sources.
  • Private REITs: Privately held REITs, where the shares are not traded on stock exchanges, and typically have fewer regulations.
  • Publicly Traded REITs: REITs whose shares are listed and traded on stock exchanges.
  • Public Non-Traded REITs: These are registered with the SEC but do not trade on public stock exchanges.

Additional read: FD Interest Rates

The Regulatory Framework for REITs in India

In India, the concept of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) is relatively recent, with the initial guidelines introduced by the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in 2007. The current SEBI guidelines regarding REITs in India were ratified in September 2014.

As of now, there are only three REITs available for investment in India – Embassy Office Parks REIT, Mindspace Business Parks REIT, and Brookfield India Real Estate Trust. In the near future, other prominent names in the Indian real estate sector, are also expected to launch their REITs.

In the Indian context, a REIT has a three-tiered structure comprising a Sponsor, a Manager, and a Trustee, each of whom plays essential roles for the trust. Their roles and responsibilities, as stipulated by SEBI, are as follow:

  • Sponsor: Typically, a real estate company that owned the assets before the establishment of the REIT acts as the sponsor. For example, BSREP India Office Holdings Pvt. Ltd., an Indian subsidiary of the US-based Brookfield Asset Management Inc., serves as the sponsor for the Brookfield REIT. The Sponsor's responsibilities include setting up the REIT, appointing the Trustee, and holding a mandatory 25% stake in units for the first three years after the REIT's formation. After the initial three years, the sponsor's stake can be reduced to 15% of the total outstanding REIT units.
  • Manager: The REIT Manager is typically a company specializing in facilities management. For instance, in the case of the Brookfield REIT, Brookprop Management Services Pvt. Ltd. is designated as the manager. Their duties encompass managing the trust's assets, making investment decisions, and ensuring timely reporting and disclosure by the REIT.
  • Trustee: REIT Trustees are usually specialised companies providing trusteeship services. For example, Axis Trustee Services Limited operates as the trustee for both Embassy Parks REIT and Brookfield REIT. Trustees are responsible for holding the trust's assets in trusteeship for the benefit of unitholders. They also oversee the manager's activities and ensure the punctual distribution of dividends.

Additional key criteria mandated by SEBI that REITs in India must adhere to include:

  • At least 80% of a REIT's investments must be in income-generating commercial properties. The remaining assets of the trust, up to the 20% limit, can be held in the form of stocks, bonds, cash, or under-construction commercial properties.
  • A minimum of 90% of the rental income earned by the REIT must be distributed to unitholders as dividends or interest.
  • Listing on the stock market is a mandatory requirement for REITs.

Pros and Cons of Investing in REITs

Here are some pros and cons of investing in REITs in India:


  • Diversification in real estate without owning physical property.
  • Liquidity and ease of buying and selling REIT shares.
  • Regular income through dividends.
  • Professional management of properties, reducing the hassles of property ownership.
  • Attractive yields and potential for capital appreciation.


  • Market risk affecting property values.
  • Tax implications on dividends and capital gains.
  • Dependency on the real estate market's health.
  • Management fees may impact returns.

Additional read: FD Interest Rates In Post Office

Taxation regulations for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

When it comes to income from REITs, investors encounter distinct taxation rules for dividend income and capital gains. Furthermore, the tax treatment differs when redeeming investments made through an International REITs Fund of Fund. Here's an overview of the applicable taxation rules:

  • Taxation of Dividends: Under current regulations, dividends received from REITs are subject to full taxation in the hands of the investor. Dividend disbursements from REITs are incorporated into the investor's annual income and taxed in accordance with the applicable financial year's tax slab rate.
  • Taxation of Capital Gains: Capital gains resulting from the sale of REIT units fall under the purview of Short-Term Capital Gains (STCG) and Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) taxation, similar to equity investments. STCG applies if the units are held for one year or less from the date of unit allocation, with a tax rate of 15% on the capital gains from unit sales. In cases where the holding period exceeds one year from the unit allocation date, LTCG taxation rules come into play. The LTCG tax rate stands at 10% for gains exceeding Rs. 1 lakh (across all equity investments for the relevant financial year), without indexation benefits.
  • Taxation of Capital Gains for International REIT Fund of Funds: Capital gains from the sale of units of International REITs Fund of Funds are subject to non-equity Capital Gains taxation rules. In this scenario, STCG applies if the units are held for three years or less (calculated from the unit allocation date), and the STCG rate aligns with the investor's slab rate for the financial year. For units held for over three years from the unit allocation date, LTCG taxation applies, with a rate of 20% on indexed capital gains.

Tips to Assess Real Estate Investment Trusts

Here are some tips to assess REITs:

  1. Research the Portfolio: Analyse the types of properties held in the REIT's portfolio, their locations, and occupancy rates.
  2. Check Dividend History: Review the REIT's dividend distribution history to gauge its stability and growth.
  3. Understand Management: Assess the expertise and track record of the REIT's management team.
  4. Consider Tax Implications: Understand the tax treatment of REIT income and gains in India.
  5. Diversify Your Investments: Spread your investments across various REITs to reduce risk.

Who Should Invest in REITs?

REITs are suitable for investors looking to diversify their portfolio with real estate investments without the responsibilities of property ownership. They are ideal for those seeking regular income through dividends and potential capital appreciation. However, individuals should have a reasonable understanding of the real estate market and be willing to tolerate market volatility.

How Do REITs Generate Returns for Investors?

Here are some ways in which REITs generate returns for investors:

1. Dividend:

Many REITs invest in income-generating real estate properties such as office buildings, shopping malls, residential complexes, and hotels. The primary source of revenue for these REITs is the rental income generated from leasing these properties to tenants. A significant portion of this rental income is distributed to investors in the form of dividends.

Investors in REITs can enjoy a steady stream of income in the form of regular dividend payouts. These dividends are often higher than what investors might receive from stocks, as REITs are required by law to distribute a significant portion of their income to shareholders to maintain their tax-advantaged status.

2. Capital Gains:

  • Property Appreciation: The value of the real estate properties owned by a REIT can appreciate over time. When these properties are sold at a profit, the capital gains generated are distributed among the shareholders or reinvested to acquire additional properties.
  • Share Price Appreciation: Like stocks, the market price of REIT shares can fluctuate based on factors such as market demand, interest rates, and the overall performance of the real estate market. Investors can realize capital gains by selling their REIT shares at a price higher than their initial purchase price.

How to Invest in Real Estate Investment Trusts?

REITs are listed and traded on stock exchanges. Prices change based on demand and REIT performance. Currently, choose from three REIT investment options: Embassy Office Parks REIT, Mindspace Business Park REIT, and Brookfield India Real Estate Trust.

Keep an eye out for REIT IPOs for investment opportunities. Research thoroughly and understand risks. Given the evolving Indian REIT market, wait for new IPOs for more choices.

In conclusion, investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) offers a convenient way to access the real estate market in India. By understanding how REITs work, the types available, and the steps to invest, you can make informed investment decisions. However, it's crucial to consider the pros and cons, perform due diligence, and align your investment goals with the right REITs.

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Frequently asked questions

Why invest in REITs?

REITs provide investors with an opportunity to invest in real estate without owning physical property. They offer regular income in the form of dividends and capital appreciation.

How does a company qualify as a REIT?

To qualify as a REIT, a company must meet certain requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These requirements include distributing at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders as dividends and investing at least 75% of its assets in real estate.

Where do REITs invest?

REITs invest in a variety of real estate assets, including office buildings, shopping centers, apartments, hotels, and warehouses. Some REITs specialize in specific types of real estate, such as healthcare facilities or data centers.

Can REITs lose money?

A rise in short-term interest rates diminishes profits, potentially eradicating them entirely. Further increases could lead to losses for the REIT, contributing to their significant volatility and unpredictable dividend payouts.

Is REIT better than stocks?

REITs and stocks offer different investment benefits. REITs provide exposure to real estate, offering diversification, stable income, and potential for capital appreciation.

What is the 90% rule for REITs?

The 90% rule requires REITs to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends, benefiting investors with regular income.

Can I buy 1 unit of REIT in India?

Yes, investors can purchase individual units of REITs in India, allowing them to participate in real estate investments with smaller capital amounts.

Is REIT legal in India?

Yes, REITs were introduced in India in 2014 and are regulated by SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India), providing a legal framework for real estate investments.

Are REITs profitable?

REIT profitability depends on various factors such as property performance, rental income, and management efficiency. Well-managed REITs can generate stead

Can a REIT go to zero?

While it's unlikely for a REIT to go to zero, they can experience significant declines in value due to market conditions, mismanagement, or adverse events impacting their underlying properties.

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