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Can Investors In Property Funds Participate At Varying Levels?

By Expert Author: Kelly Leary

er the different levels of participation in property fund investments.

The range across which investors can grow assets includes REITs, joint land investments and sole ownership of vast tracts. Each offers advantages and disadvantages.

Building wealth through buying, selling and holding land is a time-honoured tradition across the world and throughout history, in the U.K. as anywhere else. It is not fool proof, of course – everyone and anyone could get rich if it were – but at least the means by which one can invest in land are now more varied than ever before. It is possible to own shares in a real estate investment trust (REIT) for a few hundred pounds, just as the land barons of today own thousands of hectares in Britain and elsewhere.

REITs’ rules in the U.K. have been in effect since 2007, and are lauded for providing investors a means to access property value increases without having to buy the property itself.

However, REITs are traded publicly and tend to rise and fall with general market trends. The owner of REIT shares has no involvement in the actual properties, therefore value growth is entirely a function of the markets and the broader economy. Performance by REITs shares in the economic downturn since 2008 has been unkind to shareholders.

At the opposite end of the UK land investment spectrum, confident and experienced land developers look for raw, undeveloped land for asset growth. The savviest investor learns where market pressures for developed properties (e.g. housing) drive a need for zoning changes that will convert unused (sometimes agricultural) property to residential tracts. That investor will know how to buy at a price that will ultimately return a profit. The Duke of Westminster, one of the richest land investors in the UK, exemplifies this model.

In between REIT shareholders and His Grace are land development investors who work with property funds that hire professional land investment advisors. The price of entry into either type of fund ranges between £10,000 and £25,000 (US$15,000-$40,000) in most scenarios. Such an investment provides the investor greater opportunities than they might find in an REIT – for example, the prospectus will detail the specific features and risks associated with a particular land purchase. The investor will enter with some knowledge as to how long the investment will be held – typically between 18 months and five years – and what the benchmarks are for light development (infrastructure, less so buildings) before selling to housing or commercial structure developers.

Alternatives to land investing and property funds include stocks, bonds, commodities, hedge funds, precious metals (gold, silver), forestry products, energy (fossil fuels and renewables), and rarities such as art and antiques. For more information on choosing the right investments to match your individual asset growth needs, seek counsel from a qualified financial advisor.

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