REITs on The Street: Triple Net REITs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In late May the Federal Reserve began to prepare the markets for an impending pullback in the central bank's stimulus program. It became apparent that the sell-off in REIT-dom was getting baked. Although Uncle Ben Bernanke's announcement (in late May) indicated an overall uptick in the U.S. financial system, several industries became overheated.

Among those were the Triple Net REITs. It seemed rather ironic the "bond-like" asset class would be affected the hardest since they are supposed to be the safest and most reliable dividend payers. After all, interest rates won't be rising any time soon and Mr. Market seemed to jumping the gun in haste because the tapering is not supposed to take place until 2014 or possibly 2015.

Looking back to 2010, Mr. Market was begging investors to consider the Triple Net REITs since they offered comparatively higher yields; however, now the free-standing specialty REIT sector is under attack for doing precisely what Mr. Market wanted -- providing stable and growing dividends.

In today's turbulent market, net-leased real estate investments represent a stable alternative to the fluctuating stock and bond markets. Premier net lease properties -- those with favorable lease terms, a strong tenant credit and prime location - are among the most sought-after properties. Investors are most attracted to the stable, bond-like structure offered by net leases and the resilience to the recession-proof model.

But clearly, Mr. Market does not acknowledge the "standalone" REIT sub-sector as a stable real estate alternative. Instead, he has opted to associate the stalwart REIT class with the "kissing cousins" known as bonds. Further investigation however reveals that Triple Net REITs aren't bonds. In fact, they are capable of solid growth, both internally and externally.

But we all know Mr. Market has a magic wand that gives investors a seemingly good reason to buy or to sell. Perhaps he is waving his wand inappropriately to the tapering hints and not fully appreciating the historical significance of Triple Net REIT returns, especially when the economy is strengthening.

For example, WP Carey ( WPC), Realty Income ( O) and National Retail Properties ( NNN) -- all known for their reliable and growing dividends -- have never cut an annual dividend. In fact, all three of these REITs have increased annual dividends every single year (or as long as they have been publicly traded).

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