The Relative Importance of Stock, Bond and Real Estate Factors in Explaining REIT Returns

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Abstract

This paper examines the link between REIT, financial asset and real estate returns, and tests whether it changed subsequent to the “REIT boom” of the early 1990s. The main focus is on answering the question do REIT returns now better reflect the performance of underlying direct (unsecuritized) real estate? We develop and implement a variance decomposition for REIT returns that separates REIT return variability into components directly related to major stock, bond, and real estate-related return indices, as well as idiosyncratic or sector-specific effects. This is applied to aggregate REIT sector (NAREIT) returns as well as returns to size and property-type based REIT portfolios. Our results show that the REIT market went from being driven largely by the same economic factors that drive large cap stocks through the 1970s and 1980s to being more strongly related to both small cap stock and real estate-related factors in the 1990s. There is also a steady increase over time in the proportion of volatility not accounted for by stock, bond or real estate related factors. We also find that small cap REITs are “more like real estate” compared to larger cap REITs, at least over the 1993–1998 period. We argue that this could be a result of the institutionalization of the ownership of larger cap REITs that took place in the 1990s.