The Comparison REITs, Real Estate Funds and Real Estate Mutual Funds.

Investors often mix up REITs, Real Estate Funds, and Real Estate Mutual Funds. But these three investment vehicles have significant differences that need to be understood. This article will explain the definitions and compare their features.

last updated Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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John Burson     Subscribe
REITS, Real Estate Funds & Real Estate Mutual Funds: The Comparison


The discussion of REITs, Real Estate Funds, and Real Estate Mutual Funds is of utmost importance in the investment sector. These three types of investments are often used interchangeably, yet they have distinct differences. An understanding of these differences is essential in making informed investment decisions. Therefore, this article will explore the definitions of these three investment vehicles and compare and contrast their features. So what are REITs, Real Estate Funds, and Real Estate Mutual Funds? Let's discuss what they are and observe the differences between these three types of investments.

What is REIT?

REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust, is a company that invests directly in real estate using properties or mortgages. They are bought and traded like stocks. REITs are similar to mutual funds, where investors combine all the funds to buy a share of commercial real estate to generate income. REITs are required to pay a minimum of 90% of taxable income each year as dividends. This helps the investors earn real estate income without buying or financing properties.

Types of REITs

There are three main REIT types: Equity, Mortgage, and Hybrid REITs. Let’s see what they are:

  • Equity REITs, Equity REITs own and operate income-generating real estate.
  • Mortgage REITs lend money to real estate owners and operators directly through mortgages, loans, or indirectly by obtaining securities backed by a mortgage.
  • Hybrid REITs, Hybrid REITs are a combination of equity and mortgage REITs.

What is a Real Estate Fund?

Real Estate Funds are mutual funds that focus on investing in securities offered by public real estate companies. Like mutual funds, real estate funds can be managed actively or passively. The funds that are passively managed track the performance of a benchmark index. 

Types of Real Estate Funds

There are three types of real estate funds:

  • Real estate exchange-traded funds
    This type of fund owns the shares of real estate corporations and REITs. 
  • Real estate mutual funds
    This fund can be open- or closed-end and actively or passively managed.
  • Private real estate investment funds
    Private real estate investments are professionally managed funds that invest directly in real estate properties. These are available only to accredited or high-net-worth investors and typically require a significant minimum investment.

What is a Real Estate Mutual Fund?

Real estate mutual funds are professionally managed pooled investments in various vehicles like stocks and bonds. Investors purchase mutual fund shares or units brought or acquired at the fund’s current net asset value. The value is calculated daily and based on the closing prices of the securities in the fund’s portfolio. Both real estate mutual funds and REITs work the same, more or less. They offer diversification and an affordable way for individual investors to invest in various real estate market segments. 

The Differences Between REITs and Real Estate Mutual Funds

REITs are directly invested in real estate and own or operate income-producing properties. It trades on major exchanges, and the prices fluctuate throughout the trading session. Most REITs are very liquid and trade under substantial volume. Almost 90% of the taxable income is paid as dividends to shareholders.

Real estate funds invest in REITs and real estate-related stocks. The funds don’t trade like stocks. The share prices are updated only once a day. You can buy a real estate fund directly from the company that created it or through an online brokerage. Real estate funds provide value through appreciation.

Like REITs, real estate mutual funds give individual investors with limited capital access to diversified or concentrated real estate investments because they have low investment minimums. Depending on their investment strategy, real estate mutual funds can be a more diversified investment vehicle than REITs. This can reduce transaction costs for those looking for greater diversification concentrated in one or a few funds. They also have the benefit of professional portfolio management and research.


In general, REITs can provide a steady source of income through dividends, while Real estate funds create much of their value through appreciation, which is ideal for long-term and regular investors. Real estate mutual funds are liquid and are accessible like REITs. These funds can create an avenue for investing in various properties. Like real estate funds, long-term investors are the ones to reap the rewards of dividend income and capital appreciation.


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