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How to Start a REIT: A Comprehensive Roadmap for Success

Are you ready to dive into the world of real estate investing? If so, starting a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) might be the perfect opportunity for you. Whether you're an experienced investor looking to...

Are you ready to dive into the world of real estate investing? If so, starting a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) might be the perfect opportunity for you. Whether you're an experienced investor looking to diversify your portfolio or a beginner eager to enter the rewarding real estate market, a REIT can provide an attractive avenue for generating passive income. In this article, we'll guide you through everything you need to know to start a REIT and set yourself up for success in this exciting venture.

What is a REIT?

A REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust, is a business enterprise that specializes in owning and financing income-producing properties. These properties can range from residential apartment complexes to commercial office buildings. The primary function of a REIT is to generate revenue through these investments and distribute income to its shareholders in the form of dividends.

One important requirement for a REIT is that it must distribute at least 90% of its taxable income to its investors. As an investor in a REIT, you have the potential to earn regular dividend payments based on the performance of the underlying real estate assets.

Types of REITs

There are various types of REITs, each with its own focus and investment approach. Here are some of the most common types:

Equity REITs

Equity REITs are the most common type of REIT. They own and manage different types of properties, such as apartments, office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels. Equity REITs typically generate income from rent payments and the sale of their properties.

Mortgage REITs

Mortgage REITs focus on providing financing for real estate transactions by purchasing existing mortgages or issuing loans themselves. They earn income primarily from interest payments made by borrowers.

Hybrid REITs

Hybrid REITs invest in a combination of equity and debt securities. They offer a mix of the risk and return characteristics of equity and mortgage REITs.

Specialty REITs

Specialty REITs invest in a specific type of real estate, such as healthcare facilities, timberlands, or infrastructure. They can provide larger returns but are also riskier.

Non-traded REITs

Non-traded REITs are not traded on public stock exchanges. They are typically illiquid and may be more difficult to sell than traded REITs. However, non-traded REITs can offer higher returns.

Infrastructure REITs

Infrastructure REITs own and operate real estate assets that are essential to the functioning of the economy, such as toll roads, airports, and power plants. They can offer stable income and capital appreciation.

Healthcare REITs

Healthcare REITs invest in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and medical office buildings. They can offer stable income and capital appreciation.

Self-Storage REITs

Self-storage REITs own and operate self-storage facilities, which provide storage space for individuals. They can be a good way to invest in population and economic growth.

The best type of REIT for you will depend on your individual investment goals and risk tolerance. It is important to do your research before investing in any REIT.

REIT vs. Crowdfunding

While REITs and crowdfunding may appear similar at first glance, there are key differences between the two.

With crowdfunding, investors typically invest in a specific deal, and the investment is over once the property or project is sold or completed. Each deal operates as a separate transaction.

On the other hand, REIT investors generally invest in a portfolio of properties. The portfolio evolves as the REIT's management team strategically sells underperforming properties and acquires new ones with higher returns. As more investors purchase shares, additional real estate assets can be added to the portfolio.

Investing in crowdfunding often means that an investor's capital is tied up for several years until the completion or sale of the specific project. Similarly, private REITs usually require a longer commitment from investors. In contrast, publicly traded REITs offer greater flexibility since their shares can be bought and sold whenever desired by the investor.

These distinctions highlight how investing in either option comes with its own set of advantages and considerations for potential investors to evaluate carefully before making a decision.

Pros and Cons of Starting a REIT

Starting a REIT can offer several advantages, making it an appealing investment option for many individuals. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  1. Easy Buying and Selling: REITs can be easily bought and sold on stock exchanges, making them a flexible investment.
  2. Diverse Investments: REITs invest in various types of real estate, spreading the risk across different properties.
  3. Clear Reporting: REITs share regular financial reports with shareholders, ensuring transparency.
  4. Steady Income: REITs pay regular dividends, providing a reliable income source for investors.
  5. Good Returns with Less Risk: Well-managed REITs can provide good returns with lower risk, making them attractive.


  1. Slower Growth: REITs may not grow as fast as some other investments.
  2. Regular Taxation: Profits from REITs are taxed like regular income, which might mean higher taxes.
  3. Market Risks: REITs are affected by market changes that can impact property values and rental income.
  4. High Fees: Running a REIT can involve significant fees, which may affect overall returns.

Moreover, there may be high management and transaction fees associated with operating a successful REIT business model that could eat into overall returns over time.

How to Start a REIT: A Step-by-Step Guide

Starting a REIT requires careful planning, financial expertise, and adherence to regulatory requirements. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

Step 1: Define Your REIT's Objectives and Strategies

Before diving into the world of REITs, it's crucial to define your objectives and strategies. What type of properties do you want to invest in? Are you targeting residential, commercial, or industrial real estate? How much risk are you willing to take? These are all questions that need careful consideration.

Step 2: Choose a Business Structure

Choosing the right business structure is important as it impacts various aspects of your operation, including tax obligations and liability protection. Options include corporations, partnerships, or limited liability companies (LLCs). Consulting with legal and financial professionals can help guide you in making the right choice.

Step 3: Draft a Comprehensive Business Plan

Developing a well-crafted business plan is essential for impressing investors and securing financing. It should outline your investment strategy, target markets, projected returns, and risk management strategies. Be sure to conduct thorough market research and analysis while creating this plan.

Step 4: Raise Capital from Investors

With your business plan in hand, it's time to seek capital from investors who share your vision for growth. Building good relationships with potential investors through networking events or working with reputable fundraising platforms can boost your chances of success.

Step 5: Acquire Real Estate Assets

Once funding is secured, start acquiring real estate assets that align with your investment goals. Conduct due diligence on each property before finalizing any transactions - this includes evaluating the viability of the location and assessing potential risks associated with each asset.

Step 6: Establish Operational Structure

To ensure smooth operations within your REIT framework, hire competent professionals specializing in finance management, property acquisition/sales/marketing/operations, compliance, etc. Develop policies and procedures that maintain transparency among stakeholders while upholding regulatory standards.

Step 7: Comply with Regulatory Requirements

REITs are subject to various regulatory requirements at the federal, state, and local levels. Ensure compliance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations to maintain REIT status and avoid tax penalties. Adhere to securities regulations and comply with reporting requirements.

Step 8: Distribute Dividends

REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. This regular income stream is a key attraction for investors and a defining characteristic of REITs.

Remember, starting a REIT is a complex endeavor that requires careful planning, expertise, and risk management strategies. By following these steps and seeking financial expert guidance, you can increase your chances of success in establishing a thriving REIT that generates significant returns for your investors.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a REIT?

Starting a REIT can be an exciting venture, but it's important to understand the financial implications involved. While the cost can vary depending on factors such as the type of REIT and its investment strategy, there are some general guidelines to consider.

Non-traded REITs, although not listed on stock exchanges, still require registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to industry standards set by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (Nareit), non-traded REITs typically have a minimum investment requirement ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

It's important to note that these figures are estimates and may vary depending on specific circumstances. The actual cost of starting a non-traded REIT will depend on factors such as legal fees for SEC registration, operational expenses for acquiring real estate assets, professional services like accounting or tax advisory services, marketing costs for attracting investors, and ongoing compliance requirements.

Before embarking on this journey, it's crucial to research and consult with specialists to gain a clear understanding of all related costs. By doing so, you can ensure that you are well-prepared financially when starting your REIT.


Starting a REIT can be a complex process, but with careful planning and execution, it can provide substantial benefits. By defining your goals and strategies, choosing the right structure, raising capital from investors, acquiring real estate assets, establishing operations, complying with regulations, and distributing dividends, you can lay the foundation for success.

Acquiring real estate assets and organizing an operational structure are vital steps in building your REIT portfolio. Compliance with regulatory requirements is crucial to ensure legal compliance and maintain transparency. Distributing dividends to investors will help generate solid cash flow and provide attractive risk-adjusted returns.

In conclusion, starting a REIT requires careful planning, defining objectives, choosing the right structure, raising capital, acquiring real estate assets, setting up operations, complying with regulations, and distributing dividends. While there may be challenges along the way, the rewards of starting a successful REIT can include financial stability, attractive returns on investment, and long-term wealth creation opportunities.

By following these steps and staying informed about market trends, you'll be well on your way towards building a thriving real estate investment company.

FAQs - How to Start a REIT?

Can anyone set up a REIT?

For your business to be categorized as a REIT, you need at least 100 investors. The IRS only requires you to fulfill that threshold by the start of the REIT's second tax year, so you don't necessarily need to obtain all 100 upfront.

Who can own a REIT?

A REIT must pass two ownership requirements starting with its second taxable year: the 100 Shareholder Test, which requires the REIT to have 100 shareholders, and the 5/50 Test, which prohibits five or fewer people from owning more than 50% of the REIT's stock value in the latter half of the taxable year.

How do REIT owners make money?

The business plan of the majority of REITs is simple: the REIT leases space, collects rent on the buildings, and then distributes that money to shareholders in the form of dividends. Mortgage REITs, on the other hand, finance real estate and earn income from interest payments on these assets.

What are the conditions to qualify as a REIT?

To qualify as a REIT, a business must invest at least 75% of its total assets in real estate and obtain at least 75% of its total revenue from real estate sales, mortgage interest, or rental income.

Why not invest in REITs?

Since a REIT's value is derived from the real estate market, reduced property prices could arise from rising interest rates and decreased demand, which would diminish the value of your investment.