By Carla Pasternak
It's one of the most overlooked investments I've found. Ask 10 people on the street, and I'd guess that none of them would have heard of this business.
It only trades 165,000 units a day. That's what market darling Apple (AAPL) trades in about three minutes. That's because this business rarely gets any press. If most investors knew what I'm about to tell you, I think interest would soar.
You see, this company doesn't have a flashy business. It doesn't sell its product with glossy magazine ads. And it doesn't have a breakthrough new product that gets a lot of attention.
But it does make investors money. In fact, the units just hit a 5-year high. Meanwhile, it's paid a steady monthly dividend that hasn't faltered going all the way back to 2005. And one more thing: This business sells a staggering 99% of its product.
Earlier this month, I told you that you can find REITs in Canada that are yielding up to 13.5%. As I said, Canadian REITs (CanREITs) are similar in many ways to their U.S. counterparts. REITs own leased property, letting investors own a diversified portfolio of properties and letting someone else look after the hassles of managing them.
These securities are known for their high yields and for consistently (although certainly not always) delivering strong returns.
But you don't want to own just any Canadian REIT. These trusts all have specialties. Some own properties leased to retailers. Some own just multi-family apartments. Some own commercial office space.
Right now, many Canadian apartment REITs are doing extremely well.
Apartment REITs are traditionally a conservative CanREIT play. They typically have high occupancy levels and are recession-resistant, since people need to live somewhere no matter what their financial condition.
In Canada, there's a lack of new multi-family supply. Consistent and stable demand is based on population growth and the housing needs of new immigrants. Proposed legislation to make underwriting standards harder for first-time home buyers may also lead to more people remaining as renters.
That's one reason why Canadian Apartment Properties, or CAPREIT (CDPYF.PK) had an occupancy rate on its apartments of 99% as of the end of 2011.
The Toronto-based company owns 30,821 apartment buildings and townhouses, as well as several manufactured home courts, in or near urban centers from coast to coast across Canada.
Almost half of the apartments are in Toronto, Canada's largest city, and nearly 70% are in Ontario, Canada's most populated province.
During the past several years, the CanREIT has steadily grown its business. The number of rental suites was 28,916 in 2009, increasing by 7% to 31,014 by the end of 2011. Despite increasing supply, demand has more than kept up.
Meanwhile, revenue and net funds from operations (NFFO) -- a measure of earnings for REITs -- have both climbed sharply over the past few years. Given that, it's little surprise the units have been on a roll. They recently hit a new 5-year high.
And that price performance is on top of a solid monthly distribution. CAPREIT has paid C$0.09 per unit monthly or C$1.08 per year since January 2005. (The U.S. dollar and Canadian dollar exchange rate is roughly 1:1 right now, so you'll receive the same amount in U.S. dollars.) At today's price that provides a solid yield of close to 5%.
Remember, as I told you last week, many U.S. brokers, such as T.D. Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers, provide easy online access to the Toronto exchange where these REITs trade. If not, the vast majority of large-cap Canadian REITs are inter-listed and trade on an over-the-counter (OTC) exchange in the United States, providing easy access.
With this in mind, there's little reason not to give Canadian REITs like this one a little further look.
Carla Pasternak does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article. StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.