Recently, however, REZ's targeted focus on apartments and mutli-family REITs has paid off. Since early August, the fund has managed to consistently outpace its broad-based competitor. Over the most recent six-month period, REZ has declined less than 2% while ICF was off 6%.
This corner of the REIT sector continues to witness strength. The most recent housing starts report noted that construction on multifamily homes increased in September by over 51%. A Bloomberg report notes that "beginning construction of multifamily dwellings surged to the highest since October 2008."
REZ may appear to be the fund of choice given its heavy exposure to apartment REITs. However, it is important to note that, in the past, the fund has struggled to gather steam. Currently, its average trading volume stands at just over 60,000. Investors looking to quickly move in and out of positions here could find themselves running into issues.
In the end, ICF is the best choice between these two REIT-focused products.Real estate continues to be a closely watched corner of the marketplace. As I explained last week, a rebound in the U.S. housing industry is essential in order for Warren Buffett to win his $1 unemployment-related bet against former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag. While investors may be tempted to venture into real estate in order to take advantage of a strong deluge of data, I recommend using caution. Getting carried away with the homebuilders can leave an individual's portfolio vulnerable to losses. Instead, housing-hungry investors should opt for the relative stability found in REIT ETFs. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.