Are property shares an efficient way to invest in the asset class?

This article is part of
Guide to using property to fund retirement

Emergency exit

It’s a feature that may appeal in particular to those who would like to be invested in property as part of their retirement portfolio.

The last thing those who are approaching or at retirement need is for another run on property just as they are about to access their investments.

Alex Scott, deputy chief investment officer at Seven Investment Management, points out some of the other attributes of property shares.

“Stock exchange-listed property companies, including Reits, offer a more suitable structure because managers can take a long-term view of the market without the worry of potential investor redemptions, and without having to run significant amounts of cash – property can’t be sold overnight, after all,” he points out.

He acknowledges the structure is not perfect and discounts might widen significantly but adds “at least there’s an emergency exit if you need one”.

Mr Scott continues: “Stockmarket listed property companies can also borrow to help finance property assets, which can help improve total returns, and many listed property companies look for additional gains by developing or redeveloping property assets – these strategies are generally much harder to implement in open-ended property funds.”

This can add an extra layer of risk though, he notes, as some of the gearing levels can be high and are worth scrutinising. 

“Still, we find listed property companies to be a more appropriate way to invest in real estate in general,” he concludes.

Certainly, property shares do allow investors to get exposure to property, whether that's residential or commercial, without relying on a single property purchase for their retirement.

Property shares can be held in a self-invested personal pension (Sipp), for instance.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, suggests: "For most people a pension is going to be the best starting place when saving for retirement – you get tax relief, an employer contribution in the workplace and if you want exposure to property you can get that through Reits or property funds."

He points out a pension also has the benefit of allowing investors to pay in small amounts, whereas a direct property investment requires a significant upfront deposit payment.

“While commercial property funds suffered post-Brexit, with a number imposing suspensions, a pension is a long-term investment and so a relatively short-term measure such as this should not be too much of a concern for most people. If it is, a Reit is a good alternative option," Mr Selby adds.