When it comes to high-yield stocks, we can all agree on one thing: We want the best the market has to offer. Although we all have different ideas of what the best dividend stock looks like, I can tell you that HCP (NYSE:HCP) and Starwood Property Trust (NYSE:STWD) are two fantastic businesses, and with dividend yields above 6%, they certainly deserve consideration as two of the top high-yield stocks you can buy today.
Currently sporting a 6% yield, this $18 billion company has been cashing in on the aging of the U.S. population with its portfolio of over 1,200 primarily senior-housing and skilled-nursing facilities. These assets, spread across the U.S. and into the U.K., are leased to operators, or tenants, that run the day-to-day business.
The beauty of this business is that because senior housing and skilled nursing are necessities for many people, they have historically produced steady returns. This focus is a major reason HCP has been able to increase its dividend for 30 consecutive years and earn a place among the Dividend Aristocrats.
What makes this stock even more intriguing is that its price is down 17% year to date, and the drop is partly due to the company's announcement in March that it will provide $68 million per year in rent relief for its top tenant, HCR ManorCare -- which currently accounts for 25% of the company's annual rent.
To be fair, having 25% of your business reliant on an iffy tenant is not ideal, but on the plus side, HCP quickly designed a resolution and is in the process of selling off 50 assets to reduce exposure to HCR ManorCare. Moreover, given HCP's 2014 revenue of $2.3 billion, the loss of $68 million is hardly a death blow. So this is still a well positioned company, with a long and successful track record, in a very durable industry, and I think this Dividend Aristocrat with a 6% yield is a bargain and a solid buy today.
1. Starwood Property Trust
Up the yield ladder a bit further is this $5 billion company, currently yielding 9%. As a commercial mortgage REIT, Starwood Property Trust focuses on making loans to businesses acquiring commercial real estate (hotels, apartments, office space, and so on) and then holding those loans on the balance sheet. This is a unique model, and it makes the company quite different from your typical real estate investment trust, which owns physical properties, or even the typical mortgage REIT, which focuses on buying fixed-income securities.
The challenge for Starwood Property Trust is that commercial lending is extremely competitive. However, the company has one important advantage: the Starwood name. That name comes with built-in relationships to Starwood Hotels and Starwood Capital, which has $44 billion is assets under management and is one of the largest global managers of commercial real estate. This connection also gives the company better access to resources, information, manpower, global scale, and the brand recognition that makes Starwood Property Trust more likely to get the call when a company is looking for a loan.
Starwood Property Trust went public in 2009, so it's a fairly young business, but I think the company's relationships put it in a strong competitive position. And with Barry Sternlict, the founder of Starwood Hotels, as the company's CEO, the business has proven leadership at the top, and I believe Starwood Property Trust will prove to be a great long-term, high-yield opportunity.
Which is right for me?
These aren't the only high-caliber REITs on the market, but HCP and Starwood Property Trust are two of the best. If you're wondering which stock is better for you, it's probably a matter of risk tolerance. For instance, if you're looking for an opportunistic time to buy into a reliable business that will pay out a stable dividend, then HCP is the stock for you. Meanwhile, investing in commercial loans can be a very risky business, but it can also generate high returns, so if you want something with a little more teeth and don't mind short-term volatility, then I think Starwood Property Trust has the greater potential upside.