One way to get great dividends and growth potential is with high-quality real estate investment trusts, especially those specializing in commercial properties. While commercial real estate is thought of as a boring business by many investors, the reality is the exact opposite. Not only do these two REITs pay above-average dividends, but you may be surprised at how well these stocks can perform over the long term. In fact, I'm so confident in these two companies, I own both in my personal retirement account.
45 years of performance and counting
Formerly known as Health Care REIT, Welltower (NYSE:WELL) is a leading REIT specializing in healthcare real estate -- particularly senior housing.
The reasons for investing in healthcare real estate are pretty compelling. The population of senior citizens in the U.S. is expected to nearly double by 2050, so there will be no shortage of demand. And the market is highly fragmented -- the U.S. healthcare real estate market is estimated to be about $1 trillion in size, and the biggest companies have a market share of less than 3%, leaving plenty of room for growth by consolidation.
Welltower has nearly 1,500 properties, and in addition to its U.S. operations, the company is expanding rather aggressively into the U.K. and Canada, where similar aging population trends are expected. The company's strategy is to acquire properties that are superior to peers' in desirable, high-cost areas.
For example, Welltower's average senior housing property is 12 years old, and the median household income of the surrounding area is $77,169. In contrast, healthcare REIT peers have an average property age of 18 years, and a median area household income of $53,996. In other words, not only are Welltower's facilities newer and nicer, but they are located in markets where people can afford to spend money on them.
Welltower has been around since 1970 and has produced a 15.6% average annual total return throughout its history. As far as income goes, the company pays a 5% yield and has increased its dividend consistently (but not every year) by an average annual growth rate of 5.7%.
Safety in the retail industry?
National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN) specializes in freestanding retail properties leased to high-quality tenants. The company has over 2,200 properties in 47 states, leased to more than 400 individual tenants.
Many investors believe retail is risky, and some forms of it certainly are. For example, many apparel retailers are struggling to stay profitable, or are on the verge of bankruptcy as I write this.
However, National Retail invests in specific types of retail that are virtually immune to online competition and economic trends. This includes retail businesses that are service-based (such as fitness centers), non-discretionary (drug stores, gas stations), or sell deeply discounted goods (dollar stores, warehouse clubs).
Plus, the company's tenants sign long-term "net" leases, under which the tenants are responsible for variable costs such as building maintenance, property taxes, and insurance. These leases generally run from 15-20 years and have annual rent increases built in. All National Retail has to do is sign a lease and collect a rent check each month.
This business model has produced some impressive results. Over the past 25 years, the company's average annual total return is 14.9%, and the property portfolio has an industry-leading 99.1% occupancy rate. The stock pays a handsome dividend yield of 4%, and it has increased the payout for 26 consecutive years. There's no sign this trend will stop anytime soon -- in fact, 2016 is going so well for National Retail that the company just increased its FFO (funds from operations) guidance for the year.
Putting this performance in context
Now, it's important to point out that an investment's past performance is no guarantee of its future. Just because these two REITs have an outstanding track record in terms of dividends and overall performance doesn't mean it will continue.
However, there's no indication that either of these companies are slowing down. And, this kind of consistent performance and growth is extremely rare. To help you understand just how well these two REITs have done, let's say you invested $10,000 in each one 25 years ago, or $20,000 total. Well, without investing another dime, your initial investment would be worth more than $575,000 today.
Maybe commercial real estate isn't as "boring" as many people think it is.