How Real Estate Investment Trusts Work: Explained For Kenyan Investors


 Discover how Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) work and their benefits and risks for Kenyan investors. Get a comprehensive understanding of REITs and learn how to invest in them.

If you're a Kenyan investor looking to dip your toes into the world of real estate, you've probably come across the term Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). But what exactly are they, and how do they work? In this article, we'll break it down for you in a friendly and easy-to-understand way. From understanding the basics of REITs to exploring the benefits and risks involved, we'll guide you through the ins and outs of this exciting investment opportunity. So, let's get started and unlock the secrets behind Real Estate Investment Trusts!

What is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)?

A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a type of investment vehicle that allows individuals to invest in real estate properties, such as commercial buildings, residential complexes, or retail spaces, without directly owning them. REITs pool together funds from multiple investors and use them to purchase and manage a diversified portfolio of income-generating properties.


A REIT is a publicly traded company that owns, operates, and manages real estate assets, generating income from rent or sale. It is required by law to distribute a significant portion of its earnings to its shareholders in the form of dividends. The primary goal of a REIT is to provide investors with regular income and the potential for long-term capital appreciation.

Purpose of REITs

The purpose of REITs is to provide individual investors with an opportunity to invest in income-generating real estate properties without the need for large capital investments or direct property management responsibilities. REITs offer a convenient way for investors to diversify their portfolios and access the potential benefits of real estate investments, such as stable income and potential capital gains.

Types of REITs

There are several types of REITs available to investors, each specializing in different types of real estate properties. Some common types of REITs include:

  1. Equity REITs: These REITs primarily invest in and own income-generating properties, such as office buildings, shopping centers, or apartments. The income generated from rent is distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends.
  2. Mortgage REITs: These REITs invest in mortgage-backed securities or provide loans to real estate owners or developers. They earn income from the interest paid on these mortgages.
  3. Hybrid REITs: These REITs combine the characteristics of equity REITs and mortgage REITs, investing in both properties and mortgages.
  4. Publicly Traded REITs: These REITs are listed on stock exchanges and can be bought and sold by individual investors.
  5. Non-Traded REITs: These REITs are not publicly traded and are typically sold through brokers or financial advisors.

Benefits of Investing in REITs

Investing in REITs offers numerous advantages to individual investors. Some key benefits include:

Regular Income

One of the primary benefits of investing in REITs is the potential for regular income. REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. This can provide investors with a steady stream of income, especially for those seeking consistent cash flow from their investments.


Investing in REITs allows investors to diversify their portfolios beyond traditional asset classes, such as stocks and bonds. By investing in real estate properties across different sectors and geographic locations, investors can spread their risk and potentially mitigate the impact of any one property or market downturn.

Liquid Investment

Compared to direct real estate investments, which can take a considerable amount of time and effort to buy or sell, REITs offer a more liquid investment option. REIT shares can be easily bought and sold on stock exchanges, providing investors with the flexibility to adjust their holdings based on changing market conditions or personal financial needs.

Professional Management

REITs are managed by experienced real estate professionals who specialize in property acquisition, leasing, and management. Investing in a REIT allows individual investors to benefit from the expertise and professional management of the REIT's management team, without having to handle the day-to-day responsibilities associated with property ownership.

How Real Estate Investment Trusts Work: Explained For Kenyan Investors

Requirements for Investing in REITs in Kenya

Before investing in REITs in Kenya, there are certain requirements and considerations to keep in mind.

Minimum Investment Amount

Each REIT in Kenya may have its own minimum investment amount. Investors would need to verify the specific requirements of each REIT to ensure compliance with the minimum investment threshold.

REIT Regulations

Investing in REITs in Kenya is subject to regulations specified by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA). Investors should familiarize themselves with these regulations and ensure that they comply with the necessary legal and regulatory requirements before investing.

Risk Factors to Consider

As with any investment, there are risks associated with investing in REITs. Some key risk factors to consider include:

  • Market risk: The value of REIT shares can fluctuate based on market conditions and investor sentiment.
  • Interest rate risk: Changes in interest rates can impact the cost of financing for REITs and their ability to generate rental income.
  • Real estate market risk: REITs are exposed to the performance of the real estate market, including factors such as property values, occupancy rates, and rental demand.
  • Economic risk: Economic downturns or fluctuations can negatively impact the performance of REITs and their ability to generate income.

How to Invest in REITs in Kenya

To invest in REITs in Kenya, follow these steps:

Research REIT Companies

Start by researching different REIT companies operating in Kenya. Consider factors such as their investment portfolio, track record, management team, and financial stability. Review the company's offering documents, such as prospectuses and financial reports, to gain a deeper understanding of their operations and investment strategy.

Open a Brokerage Account

To invest in REITs, you will need to open a brokerage account with a licensed stockbroker in Kenya. Choose a reputable brokerage firm that offers access to the stock exchange where the REIT shares are listed.

Review the Offering Documents

Carefully review the offering documents provided by the REIT company, such as the prospectus or information memorandum. These documents contain key information about the REIT's investment strategy, financials, risks, and potential returns. Pay attention to details such as the minimum investment amount, fees, and dividend distribution policies.

Submit the Investment Application

Once you have selected a REIT and completed your due diligence, submit the investment application to the brokerage firm. Provide the necessary documentation, such as identification and proof of address, as required by the brokerage firm and regulatory authorities.

How Real Estate Investment Trusts Work: Explained For Kenyan Investors

Understanding REIT Returns and Risks

Investors should have a clear understanding of the potential returns and risks associated with investing in REITs.

Rental Income

REITs earn income primarily through rental payments from tenants. The amount of rental income generated depends on factors such as occupancy rates, rental rates, and lease terms. It is important to review the REIT's financial reports and analyze the strength and stability of its rental income stream.

Property Value Appreciation

REITs can also benefit from property value appreciation. As real estate properties increase in value over time, the underlying assets held by the REIT can appreciate, potentially resulting in capital gains for investors. However, property values can also decrease, leading to a decline in the value of the REIT.

Interest Rate Risks

Changes in interest rates can impact the financing costs for real estate properties and, consequently, the profitability of REITs. Rising interest rates can increase borrowing costs, potentially reducing the cash flow available for distribution to investors. Conversely, falling interest rates can benefit REITs by decreasing borrowing costs and potentially increasing property values.

Market Volatility

REITs are influenced by market conditions and investor sentiment. Changes in economic conditions, real estate markets, or investor confidence can lead to increased market volatility and may impact the performance and value of REIT shares. Investors should be prepared for potential fluctuations in the market and consider their risk tolerance before investing in REITs.

Tax Considerations for REIT Investors in Kenya

Investors in REITs should be aware of the tax implications associated with their investments.

Distribution Tax

In Kenya, REITs are exempt from paying income tax if they distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders. However, shareholders are subject to withholding tax on the dividend income received from REITs. The current withholding tax rate in Kenya is 10%.

Capital Gain Tax

Capital gains realized from the sale of REIT shares are subject to capital gains tax in Kenya. The rate of capital gains tax is determined by the prevailing tax laws and may vary over time.

Tax Reporting Obligations

Investors in REITs are required to report their earnings and pay any applicable taxes according to the tax laws of Kenya. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with tax reporting obligations and to maximize any available tax benefits.

How Real Estate Investment Trusts Work: Explained For Kenyan Investors

Factors to Consider Before Investing in REITs

Before investing in REITs, it is important to consider various factors that may influence the success of your investment.

Investment Goals

Clarify your investment goals and objectives. Determine if investing in REITs aligns with your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment time horizon. Consider whether you are seeking regular income, capital appreciation, or a combination of both.

Market Conditions

Analyze the current real estate market conditions and economic outlook. Evaluate factors such as supply and demand dynamics, rental trends, occupancy rates, and property values. Understanding market conditions can help you make informed investment decisions and assess the potential risks and returns of investing in REITs.

Financial Stability of REITs

Review the financial stability of the REITs you are considering investing in. Look at key financial indicators, such as debt levels, cash flow, and profitability. Assess the REIT's ability to generate consistent rental income and distribute dividends to shareholders.

Exit Strategies

Consider your exit strategies in case you need to sell your REIT investment. Evaluate the liquidity of the REIT shares and the potential ease or challenges you may encounter when attempting to sell your holdings. Having a clear exit plan can help you manage your investment effectively and make informed decisions when it comes to your REIT investment.

Role of REIT Managers and Trustees

REITs are managed by professionals who oversee the operations and investment decisions of the REIT. Additionally, REITs have trustees who act in the best interests of the investors.

Responsibilities of REIT Managers

REIT managers are responsible for day-to-day operations, asset management, property acquisitions, and property management. They make strategic decisions regarding the acquisition, development, and disposition of real estate assets, aiming to maximize returns for the REIT and its shareholders.

Duties of REIT Trustees

REIT trustees serve as stewards of investor capital and ensure that the REIT operates in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. They have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the REIT's shareholders and oversee the activities of the REIT manager, ensuring transparency and accountability.

Case Studies: Successful REIT Investments in Kenya

Examining successful REIT investments can provide insights into the potential returns and risks associated with investing in REITs.

Example 1: REIT Company A

REIT Company A specializes in commercial properties and has consistently delivered stable dividends to its shareholders over the past five years. The company's investment strategy focuses on high-demand office spaces in prime locations, resulting in consistent rental income and capital appreciation for investors.

Example 2: REIT Company B

REIT Company B primarily invests in residential properties and has a proven track record of generating attractive rental yields. The company's disciplined approach to property selection and management has resulted in steady income growth for its investors.

Example 3: REIT Company C

REIT Company C focuses on retail properties, leveraging its expertise in the retail sector to strategically acquire and manage properties with high-value potential. The company's ability to adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on retail trends has resulted in strong returns for its investors.

Tips for Successful REIT Investments

To maximize the potential benefits of investing in REITs, consider the following tips:

Diversify Your Portfolio

Investing in a diversified portfolio of REITs can help mitigate the risks associated with individual properties or sectors. Spread your investments across different types of REITs, such as equity, mortgage, and hybrid, as well as different geographic locations.

Regularly Monitor REIT Performance

Stay updated on the performance of your chosen REITs. Review financial reports, including annual or quarterly reports, to assess the REIT's financial health and track its progress towards meeting its investment objectives. Regular monitoring can help you identify any potential risks or opportunities and make informed investment decisions.

Stay Updated on Real Estate Market

Keep yourself informed about the real estate market and economic trends that may impact the performance of REITs. Stay up-to-date on factors such as interest rates, vacancy rates, rental trends, and regulatory changes. This information can help you anticipate market conditions and adjust your investment strategy accordingly.

In conclusion, investing in REITs can be an attractive option for Kenyan investors looking to diversify their portfolios and gain exposure to the potential benefits of real estate investments. By understanding the definition, purpose, and types of REITs, as well as the requirements, risks, and tax considerations associated with investing in REITs in Kenya, investors can make informed decisions and potentially achieve their investment goals. It is essential to conduct thorough research, review offering documents, and consider factors such as market conditions, financial stability, and exit strategies before investing. By following these tips and staying updated on real estate market trends, investors can position themselves for successful REIT investments in Kenya.

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