Last month, Chicago-based Ventas, which has a portfolio of more than 1,500 health care properties in 47 states, announced that it would increase its fourth-quarter dividend 8% to 72.5 cents a share. Over the past three years, Ventas has increased its dividend by an average of 8.5% per year, pushing its dividend yield to 4.8%. The stock trades at 14.6 times the company's estimated funds from operations for 2013. FFO is a common measure of profitability for REITs.
Ventas has a solid balance sheet with only 30% secured assets, and in December, S&P upgraded its rating on Ventas' senior unsecured debt to BBB+ from BBB.
Meanwhile, Realty Income, which is based in Escondido, Calif., has increased its dividend 19 years in a row and now has a dividend yield of 5.7%. The company has a portfolio of more than 3,500 properties in 49 states, and its tenants include FedEx (FDX), Family Dollar (FDO) and Walgreen (WGO). No one tenant makes up more than 5.1 percent of the REIT's revenue. The stock is trading at around 20 times the company's FFO for 2012.
Last year, S&P bumped Realty Income's credit score from BBB to BBB+. The company has modest leverage with only 17% secured debt and well-laddered debt maturities that correlate loan maturities with lease maturities. That means as rates increase, the debt is fixed for a longer period, which mitigates risks for investors.