This International ETF Is Ready to Eclipse Its U.S. Counterparts

Those at the forefront of the recent real estate investment trust run are likely reaping the rewards of impressive dividends.

Investors that got in last year or even in the past few months were probably able to take advantage of some relatively cheap yet promising REIT options. In fact, REITs have actually outpaced the S&P 500 for the better part of the year, and there is no reason to suspect that they can't finish strong, so long as the housing market continues on its trajectory.

Not surprisingly, the recent success of REITs has caught the attention of investors around the world. As a result, REITs have become the beneficiaries of increased exposure.

Due in large part to their attractive dividend yields and continued support from a robust housing sector, REITs have experienced an exponential increase in demand.

It is worth noting, however, that there is a significant caveat: REIT deals that were once commonplace on the market are harder to come by. Some would go as far as saying that REITs have become overextended.

The 10 largest REITs in the U.S. "currently trade at an average price-to-earnings multiple of 33x, compared to the S&P 500 which trades at 24x earnings," according to Nasdaq.com.

The disparity in each asset's average price-earnings ratio echoes the latest sentiment of investors, as REITs are simply not as cheap as they used to be.

Although one could argue that REITs are overextended, there are still incredible deals to be found for those who know where to look, though investors may need to alter their search criteria. Although the REIT environment has capitalized on a developed real estate market, it may be time to diversify.

In addition to the developed assets buttressing the REIT market, investors should look into emerging markets or those piggybacking off attractive valuations, favorable demographics and brimming with untapped potential.

Not unlike standard stock portfolios, REITs should be diversified to mitigate risk, but in this case, diversification may result in encouraging dividend potential.

Instead of relegating search criteria to familiar U.S. companies, look farther than stateside. Emerging real estate markets in other countries may hold the key to attractive dividends that have yet to be overextended like their U.S. counterparts.

Particularly encouraging are several emerging markets located in Latin America, as discounts on REITs can still be found there. What's more, their cheap prices are complemented by dividend yields fully capable of eclipsing those with which we have become familiar in the U.S.

"Latin American REITs are expected to grow revenue by nearly 30% in 2017," whereas analysts expect U.S. REITs to cool off from their torrid pace, according to Nasdaq.

Latin American REITs warrant U.S. investor attention. That begs the question, how can American investors intent on diversifying their real estate portfolios with emerging market fundamentals capitalize in Latin America?

It turns out that the Tierra XP Latin America Real Estate Exchange-Traded Fund (LARE) has already done all the heavy lifting.

In striving for portfolio diversification, income and growth potential, the ETF is a real estate index that "screens for all listed equities with primary listings in the Latin America region and which derive substantially most of their income from real estate and real estate services," according to Tierra Funds.

In short, Tierra Funds is an ETF sponsor that specializes in Latin American assets, whose fund managers focus on custom indexing, portfolio management and real estate alternatives.

Trading for just over $27, the ETF maintains a price point well below its U.S. counterparts but is far from being overextended. The dividend yield is a modest 2.62%, and it boasts a lot of room for growth.

Industry experts and pundits are convinced that favorable demographic indicators in cities in Mexico and Brazil, for instance, should boost the performance of the ETF sooner rather than later.

"Mexico has had investment-grade status for five years," according to Tierra Funds Managing Principal Jamie Anderson. "It's looked at as a quasi-extension of the U.S. economy, and long-term capital is being attracted towards the country." 

"Brazil on the other hand, is emerging from a three-year quasi-depression, and as it emerges from the ringer, specifically around real estate, it's attractive," Anderson said.

Not even one year old, the ETF has yet to receive the attention it deserves, which could account for its valuation. That said, a lot more investors will likely start paying attention to the progress made by the ETF.

Since its inception, the ETF is up more than 20%, trumping longtime powerhouse Vanguard REIT ETF.

And with 96% of the company's weight allocated to Brazilian and Mexican REITs, the near-term prospects are more encouraging than anything that can be said about U.S. REITs. If for no other reason, Brazil, home to one of the world's largest interest rates, is attractive because it is expected to reduce rates by year's end.

The move should simultaneously increase property values and boost the performance of REITs in the region. Tierra XP Latin American Real Estate ETF stands to benefit immensely if things play out the way most expect.

Those that capitalized on the run of U.S. REITs are certainly reaping the rewards of impressive dividends, but those that failed to get in on time are left wondering where all the deals went. Fortunately, the over-extension of U.S. REITs isn't so widespread that deals have dried up everywhere.

In fact, there are still great deals to be had, if investors know where to look. It just so happens that the deals aren't stateside but rather in Latin America.

For what it is worth, Tierra XP Latin America Real Estate ETF remains both promising and relatively inexpensive. With enough potential to eclipse some of the best U.S. REITs, the ETF warrants more attention than it has been receiving.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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