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."

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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.

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