Ways to start investing in industrial real estate
Investors have multiple ways to add industrial real estate to their portfolios, including:
- Purchasing vacant land and developing an industrial facility.
- Buying an industrial property from another real estate investor or acquiring it in a sale-leaseback transaction with the operator.
- Investing in a real estate investment fund focused on industrial properties.
- Participating in an industrial real estate property syndication deal on a crowdfunding platform.
- Buying shares of an industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) in a brokerage account.
These options vary in investment size, risk/reward profile, and holding period. For example, ground-up development of industrial property can be very risky and costly (in the millions of dollars) for a beginning investor, especially if building the property on speculation. If this investor can't secure a tenant or runs into permitting issues, they could lose their entire investment.
However, investors stand to earn a higher return on investment for a successful development project. They could also make a quick buck if they sell a fully entitled, tenant-secured industrial development to another investor. Meanwhile, real estate funds and crowdfunding syndications have lower initial investments -- usually between $25,000 and $100,000 -- but often require investors to hold for 10 years.
Industrial REITs offer the most flexibility. Investors only need to purchase one share, which often costs less than $100. Meanwhile, they can sell their shares at any time. Another benefit of REIT investing is that it allows investors to own a diversified portfolio of industrial properties across the entire sector or a pure-play REIT concentrated on one industrial property type or region.
Examples of industrial REITs include:
- Americold Realty Trust (NYSE: COLD): an industrial REIT focused on operating temperature-controlled warehouses vital for distributing food and beverages to grocery stores and restaurants.
- Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE: IIPR): a REIT focused on owning properties used to cultivate, process, manufacture, store, and sell products derived from cannabis.
- Prologis (NYSE: PLD): a global industrial REIT focused on modern logistics properties that meet the warehouse and distribution real estate needs of business-to-business and retail/online fulfillment customers.
- PS Business Parks (NYSE: PSB): an industrial REIT focused on multi-tenant industrial, office, and flex space (an office and warehouse combination with several uses, including office, assembly, showroom, laboratory, light manufacturing, and warehouse).
- Rexford Industrial (NYSE: REXR): a REIT concentrated on owning industrial properties solely in Southern California rather than building a globally diversified logistics portfolio like Prologis operates.
- STAG Industrial (NYSE: STAG): a diversified REIT that owns properties across the entire U.S. industrial real estate market, including light manufacturing, warehouse, and flex office space.
As that list shows, there are several ways to invest in industrial real estate using REITs.
What are the pros and cons of industrial real estate?
There are many benefits to investing in industrial real estate, including:
- Significant demand: Some speculate the U.S. may need more than 1 billion square feet of additional warehouse space by 2025 to support fast-growing e-commerce demand. This outlook suggests more expansion/development opportunities for investors.
- Longer rental terms: Industrial leases are usually three to 10 years but can be up to 25 years, whereas residential leases are a year, and self-storage properties are month by month. As a result, these properties tend to generate stable income for years.
- Lower maintenance: Industrial properties don't require as much upkeep as other property types. Most leases are triple net, meaning maintenance is the tenant's responsibility. Meanwhile, overall longer lease terms imply that an industrial building owner won't need to renovate the properties as often since there's lower tenant turnover.
However, these properties also have some drawbacks, including:
- Tenant risk: Many industrial buildings only house a single tenant. If that tenant runs into financial trouble and can't pay rent, it will impact the investor's ability to meet their debt obligations.
- Long-term vacancy risk: If a tenant vacates a purpose-built industrial facility, such as a manufacturing building, it won't be easy to find a new tenant. The owner might need to invest a significant amount of capital to make the property suitable for other tenants.
- Oversupply risk: Given anticipated future demand for warehouse space, real estate investors are building many properties on speculation. If they construct too many and the market softens, it could significantly impact occupancy and rental rates while reducing property values.
Industrial real estate can be a good investment
While industrial properties aren't as glamorous as other types of real estate, they're vital to the economy. This means tenants usually sign long-term leases that supply investors with stable cash flow. Add in the sector's growth potential, and real estate investors won't want to overlook this essential property type.