Equity Residential (EQR - Get Report) is a $16 billion apartment real estate investment trust that has ownership interests in 451 properties that feature a total of 129,600 apartment units. The firm's geographic footprint is centered on major metropolitan areas where rent and demand for units are both high; New York, D.C., South Florida and Los Angeles are Equity Residential's four biggest markets.
As a REIT, Equity Residential is essentially an income-generation tool. By law, the firm is required to pay out the vast majority of its earnings directly to shareholders as dividends, a feature that allows the firm to skirt income taxes. Instead, shareholders pay taxes directly on their income from the firm.While residential REITs have some major disadvantages compared with commercial REITs (laws concerning residential landlords are much more restrictive, and provide fewer options for recourse), Equity Residential operates at higher levels of profitability than most peers. At 68.15%, Equity Residential's dividend hike on Wednesday is the biggest of the stocks we're looking at this week. The move brings this REIT's yield up to 4.24%. Equity Residential is one of Capital Growth Management's top holdings as of the most recently reported quarter. For more on investing in REITs, read " 5 Heavily Shorted REITs That Could Pop."