Real Estate as An Alternative Investment: What You Need to Know

Real Estate as An Alternative Investment: What You Need to Know

Posted by on Mar 17, 2022


In its original form, Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) was a mix between stocks and bonds, usually a 60/40 split. As the theory evolved, other types of investments were added, and one of the first was real estate.

Traditionally, holding real estate investments in your wealth portfolio might have meant owning rental property or investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs). But today, we have many more options. Here are some of the ways you can include real estate in your portfolio.

Delaware Statutory Trusts

A Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) is a way for individual investors to pursue the benefits of investing in professionally managed commercial real estate with an investment cost that is typically lower than direct property ownership.

A DST is a real estate ownership structure under which multiple investors hold a fractional interest in the trust’s holdings. The trust is established by a DST Sponsor, a professional real estate company that identifies and buys the real estate assets.

As individuals invest, their investments displace the money used by the DST Sponsor to buy the property until its entirely owned by the investors. Investors own a beneficial interest in the trust. As such, investors hold a percentage of the ownership, and no one owner can claim exclusive ownership over any specific aspect of the real estate.

Potential DST Pros

One of the benefits of a DST is that it qualifies as a “like-kind” real estate for a 1031 exchange, which allows investors to defer capital gains taxes when selling an investment property. Investors can use the proceeds from the sale of their investment property to purchase a fractional interest in professionally managed real estate.

DSTs are a hands-off way to invest in real estate in the sense that there are no tenants to manage, no repairs to make, and no evictions to process for the investors who hold a fractional interest in the DST. They’re also a potential source of passive income.

DSTs make investing in commercial real estate accessible to small investors with minimums sometimes as low as $25,000.

Potential DST Cons

DSTs come with many of the same risks as any other real estate investments: extended vacancies, damage from natural disasters, market conditions, interest rates, and other factors that are often out of the investor’s control. But perhaps the biggest consideration when evaluating DSTs is keeping in mind that DSTs are an illiquid investment. Investors should understand that they need to hold their investment in a DST 1031 property for the full life of the program, which could be seven to ten years and longer in some cases. If an investor needs immediate access to cash, the illiquid nature of DSTs would make that difficult.

Ways to Invest in a DST

Accredited investors can buy an interest in a DST through a broker-dealer and DST sponsor. DSTs can be used as a like-kind property during a 1031 exchange, or investors also have the ability to make a direct cash investment.

Qualified Opportunity Zones

Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOF) are investing vehicles created to encourage real estate or business development investments in areas deemed Opportunity Zones (OZs) or Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs). There are almost 9,000 Opportunity Zones in the U.S. and U.S. Territories.

Potential QOZ Pros

To encourage investments in opportunity zones, the government offers several tax incentives. Any person who has capital gains can qualify:

  •           Taxes on capital gains invested in a QOZ, regardless of how long the investment is held, can be deferred until the investment is realized or sold until December 31, 2026.
  •           After ten years, investors will not owe federal income tax on the appreciation of the fund by the date of sale.
  •           Property deductions from QOZs can be used to help reduce taxable income, potentially leading to additional savings

Potential QOZ Cons

QOFs were only created in 2017, so a very young and, therefore, an unproven investment vehicle. QOFs have different requirements: some are only open to accredited investors, and some have high minimums that may price out some investors.

Ways to Invest in a QOZ

A list of investment opportunities is available to investors from the National Council of State and Housing Agencies (NCSHA) Opportunity Zone Fund Directory. You can filter the funds by fund name, size, geographic focus, or investment focus.

Raw Land

Raw land is property that hasn’t had any improvements like water, sewage, or electricity installed.

Potential Pros to Investing in Raw Land

Raw land is a tangible asset, and owners can use it for storage or various types of recreation, depending on the location. Raw land can be less susceptible to financial impact from natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, fires, etc.) than other forms of real estate, and little to no maintenance is required for raw land.

Land can act as a hedge against inflation when held over a long period and it is generally not correlated with the stock market, so it can provide a form of diversification in a portfolio.

Potential Raw Land Cons

Lenders will often consider loans for raw land risky as the land isn’t ready or suitable for development, and the potential buyer doesn’t have any plans for it. Because of this, a large down payment may be required, up to 50%. Additionally, raw land produces no income as there are no tenants.

Potential development for raw land is governed by zoning laws, something you can’t control and that can change. If you plan to develop the land eventually, you must deal with whatever permits are required, something that can be costly and involve a lot of red tape.

If your property is landlocked, you will need to secure easement rights from neighboring property owners to access it.

Ways to Invest in Raw Land

Several sites specialize in listing land for sale. Investors can find additional details and steps if they decide this is an option for their portfolio:

Co-Working Spaces

Co-working spaces rent office space to employees of different companies, small businesses owners, and freelancers. The offices supply equipment, supplies, utilities, receptionists, cleaning staff, and more to provide a turnkey working environment.

Potential Co-Working Space Pros

Arguably, one of the biggest questions when it comes to commercial real estate investing is how office spaces will fare during the pandemic. Even if most companies are operating in a hybrid or work-from-home environment, that doesn’t mean there is no need for office space; some jobs require being onsite and some employees enjoy having the option of going into an office.

Co-working spaces fit the need nicely for companies who need some office space but not nearly as much as before. Co-working spaces are also popping up in Opportunity Zones, which can provide additional tax incentives.

Potential Cons to Investing in Co-Working Space

These spaces are often rented by small start-ups and individuals running small businesses. As such, the turnover rate for these tenants may be higher than investing in a more traditional office space setting.

Ways to Invest In Co-Working Spaces

There are REIT options that include co-working spaces in their portfolios. There are co-working franchises available for investors.

Retail Space

Potential Pros of Retail Space

Retail leases are typically multi-year, which is longer than residential leases, so you have less tenant turnover. Some retail space is very versatile and is suitable or can easily be modified for a wide variety of business types.

Potential Cons of Retail Space

Retail businesses, and therefore their spaces, are sensitive to economic conditions. When there is a downturn, there is less demand for some of the products or services these businesses may provide. While there is less tenant turnover compared to multifamily or student housing, finding retail tenets is more challenging for retail space than for residential space.

Ways to Invest in Retail Space

REITs are the easiest way to invest in retail and other forms of commercial property. And you can invest in multiple REITs through a REIT ETF.

Real Estate and MPT

Real estate provides several investment opportunities as an asset class, which can help investors as they are building out a portfolio that seeks to follow the outline in Modern Portfolio Theory. It’s recommended to consult an investment professional when determining what investments are suitable for you based on your specific needs and investment goals.


This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation. Costs associated with a 1031 transaction may impact investor’s returns and may outweigh the tax benefits. An unfavorable tax ruling may cancel deferral of capital gains and result in immediate tax liabilities. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. It is a method used to help manage investment risk. No public market currently exists and one may never exist. DST programs are speculative and suitable only for Accredited Investors who do not anticipate a need for liquidity or can afford to lose their entire investment. A REIT is a security that sells like a stock on the major exchanges and invests in real estate directly, either through properties or mortgages. REITs receive special tax considerations and typically offer investors high yields, as well as a highly liquid method of investing in real estate. There are risks associated with these types of investments and include but are not limited to the following: Typically no secondary market exists for the security listed above. Potential difficulty discerning between routine interest payments and principal repayment. Redemption price of a REIT may be worth more or less than the original price paid. Value of the shares in the trust will fluctuate with the portfolio of underlying real estate. There is no guarantee you will receive any income. Involves risks such as refinancing in the real estate industry, interest rates, availability of mortgage funds, operating expenses, cost of insurance, lease terminations, potential economic and regulatory changes. This is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation or an offer to buy the securities described herein. The offering is made only by the Prospectus. The income stream and depreciation schedule for any investment property may affect the property owner’s income bracket and/or tax status. An unfavorable tax ruling may cancel deferral of capital gains and result in immediate tax liabilities. All investments have an inherent level of risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate with the value of the underlying investments. You could receive back less than you initially invested and there is no guarantee that you will receive any income. Exchange-traded funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from the Fund Company or your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest. Links to third-party web sites are provided as a convenience. Realized does not endorse nor support the content of third-party sites. By clicking on a third-party link, you will leave this website where privacy and security policies may differ from those practiced by Realized.

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