6 Housing Stocks With Curbside Appeal

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Compelling demographics, including "echo boomers" leaving the nest, and a still-struggling single-family housing market are pushing rents higher for real estate investment trusts (REITs) focused on apartment buildings.

The appeal of REITs isn't just their share-price appreciation potential, but their high dividends, which make them attractive for yield hounds. For example, apartment REIT Essex Property Trust ( ESS) is up 12% this year and 40% over the past three years, on average, and currently yields 2.82%. The S&P 500 is up 9.6% this year.

Standard & Poor's says the "fundamental outlook for the residential REITs sub-industry is positive. We believe a lower homeowner rate, despite government incentives and modest new supply (new construction), are both working in favor of multi-family operators."

S&P Capital IQ says that as the home-ownership rate ticks lower, "many Americans may be reluctant to purchase a home until price stability returns. As the economic recovery gains steam, we expect an increase in new household formations."

7 Dividend Stocks You Can't Ignore Right Now >>

And it adds that new supply is at multi-year lows.

Here are six REIT stock summaries arranged in descending order of analysts' "buy" ratings:

6. BRE Properties Class 'A' ( BRE)

Company profile: BRE, with a market value of $4 billion, owns around 70 communities comprising 22,000 apartment units located mostly in California.

Dividend Yield: 2.94%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 4.4% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 30%. Analysts give its shares two buy" ratings, three "buy/holds, 13 "holds," and one "weak hold," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

5. Equity Residential ( EQR)

Company profile: Equity Residential, with a market value of $19 billion, has ownership interests in about 427 properties, with about 122,000 apartments.

Dividend Yield: 2.15%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 11% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 41%. Analysts give its shares two "buy" ratings, two buy/holds," 18 "holds," and one "weak hold," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

Analysts estimate it will earn 81 cents per share this year, and $1.01 per share next year.

4. Camden Property Trust ( CPT)

Company profile: Camden Property, with a market value of $5 billion, owns interests in and operates 196 properties with some 63,000 apartment homes in the Sunbelt, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West.

Dividend Yield: 3.3%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 10% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 35%. Analysts give its shares four "buy" ratings, four "buy/holds," and 11 "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

10 Best-Performing 'Dividend Aristocrats' >>

Analysts estimate it will earn $1.28 per share this year and $1.49 next year, which is 19% growth.

3. Essex Property Trust ( ESS)

Company profile: Essex Property Trust, with a market value of $6 billion, has an interest in 134 apartment properties, totaling 27,000 units, mostly in California.

Dividend Yield: 2.82%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 12% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 37%. Analysts give its shares seven "buy" ratings, three "buy/holds," and 13 "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

S&P has it rated "strong buy" with a $187 price target, a 20% premium to the current price.

2. Avalon Bay Communities ( AVB)

Company profile: Avalon Bay, with a market value of $14 billion, specializes in upscale apartment communities. It owns about 50,000 apartments, primarily in urban areas.

Dividend Yield: 2.67%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 12% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 39%. Analysts give its shares eight "buy" ratings, three "buy/holds," seven "holds," three "weak holds," and one "sell," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

Where the Next Boom Is Coming From >>

1. Home Properties ( HME)

Company profile: Home Properties, with a market value of $3 billion, operates 107 apartment communities with almost 40,000 units in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas.

Dividend Yield: 4.2%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 10.5% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 22%. Analysts give its shares 10 "buy" ratings, eight "holds," and one "sell," according to a survey of analysts by S&P. S&P has it rated "strong buy" with a $75 price target, a 19% premium.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

More from Investing

In Pugnacious Twitter Rant, Musk Proposes Website for Users to Rate the Media

In Pugnacious Twitter Rant, Musk Proposes Website for Users to Rate the Media

One-on-One With Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald (Watch)

One-on-One With Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald (Watch)

Marc Chaikin's Technical Tools: Cramer's Off the Charts

Marc Chaikin's Technical Tools: Cramer's Off the Charts

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald: China Will Become the Largest Cruise Market

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald: China Will Become the Largest Cruise Market

Bitcoin Today: Prices Plummet Below $8,000 in Market Downturn

Bitcoin Today: Prices Plummet Below $8,000 in Market Downturn