Perpetual-Life Non-Traded REITs: Four Things Investors Should Know

Companies with good track records oversee the largest perpetual-life non-traded REITs, but there are some structural concerns about the funds to be aware of.

A businessman and businesswoman on the balcony of a skyscraper look at the skyscrapers surrounding them.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As co-founder of real estate private equity investment firm Hamilton Point Investments, I believe the current perpetual non-traded REIT (real estate investment trust) structure creates certain concerns that investors should be aware of and take into consideration.

Non-traded REITs proliferated in the decade after the real estate crash of 2008-09. Individual investors placed money with these groups largely through independent financial advisers and, in return, were told to expect distributions for a number of years after which the REIT would pursue liquidation of the portfolio or list to go public. The focus and energy were on raising equity, with investment and operations seemingly an afterthought. Their results were poor, underperforming public REITs and direct, private investments, with numerous examples of complete losses of investment.

After the collapse of American Realty Capital in 2014, other failures and accompanying arbitration awards led to a dramatic decline in non-traded REIT investment. Several years later, though, a number of large publicly traded financial firms entered the space, raising huge amounts of equity through the name-brand wirehouses instead of independent broker-dealers. A twist from the previous non-traded REITs is that this new structure is perpetual, with no planned exit.

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While these newer sponsors differ in that they are experienced real estate investment companies with the institutional knowledge, infrastructure and track record to be successful, there are considerations investors in these perpetual-life non-traded REITs should be aware of.

Issues that investors need to know about

Share valuation issues. Current non-traded REITs offer monthly or quarterly share valuations, which are used to calculate both the price at which new investors come in and at which existing investors may endeavor to redeem and cash out. The share transaction price, or net asset value (NAV) per share, is solely determined by the company, which employs third-party valuation advisers, but the ultimate NAV is at the sole discretion of the company and is portrayed as exact.

NAV calculations are not exact and can be far from. Take for example a property declared to be worth $100 million. This is an approximation. No matter how experienced and smart the REIT principals are, that $100 million really means somewhere between, say, $95 million and $105 million. Leverage, in turn, magnifies that disparity. If the above property has 50% leverage, the equity is $50 million. If the ultimate value of the property is $95 million, that equity is worth $45 million. At $105 million, the equity is $55 million. This roughly 10% swing in property value, leveraged, translates to closer to a 20% swing in share equity value. NAV calculations are a good guess of what the share price should be, but they are far from perfect.

Legacy assets acquired at market peak pricing. When investing in a perpetual-life non-traded REIT, one is not investing in the real estate market as it sits now. A good portion of the real estate may have been purchased several years ago, which currently coincides with the peak of this last market pricing run-up. Some non-traded REITs have been slow to adjust their valuations — where overall commercial real estate values have fallen around 20% since November 2022, some non-traded REITs have stated much lower declines, perhaps materially light even taking into account different property-type allocations.

Current investors in a perpetual-life vehicle may believe they are getting into the market at this attractive time, taking advantage of the pricing correction that occurred over the last two years. But with many of those properties purchased at 2021 and 2022 market peak pricing, the assets are likely worth less now than what was paid for them.

While hotels and student housing bought in 2021, for example, may have been good investments as the COVID pandemic beat those property types down, conventional apartments and industrial/warehouses were likely much less so. There could be a good reason why the REIT’s legacy investments are currently attractive. Just don’t take the often shared “it’s better real estate” or “we’re really good managers” as a sufficient answer.

Questionable liquidity. Liquidity (the ability to get one’s investment capital back) in newer perpetual-life non-traded REITs is touted as sort of “no problem,” with passing reference to quarterly liquidity up to some percentage of assets. However, as we’ve seen over the last year, the ability to get your money back and the price-determining mechanism for such are not ideal.

While liquidity is offered, in practice an investor essentially must apply for an equity redemption, which could be approved fully, in part or not at all. Potential investor need for liquidity aside, this removes an important ability of investors to react quickly to changing market conditions, up or down, or changing views of the sponsor.

Dilutive nature of redemptions. Redemptions if met often strain the finances of the non-traded REIT to the detriment of remaining investors. The older REITs, which underperformed, at least had a stated target of company liquidation or public listing after some period. With today’s perpetual non-traded REITs, you get liquidity at the REIT’s sole discretion.

Often the REITs do not have the cash to perform on redemptions, requiring dilutive repayment of current equity with capital coming in from new investors. Note there is a cost of new equity in the form of commissions to financial advisers, so the net new cash to the REIT will always be less than the amount of cash redeemed.

Another way REITs handle redemptions may include sales of assets into poor market conditions or placing of new debt on properties at high interest rates.

None of these equity redemption methods is helpful to the remaining shareholders.


The major sponsors of today’s largest perpetual-life non-traded REITs are generally successful groups with decades of experience successfully managing institutional equity in closed-end real estate funds. They’ve got the institutional capabilities needed for success and strong track records. However, the four structural concerns noted above regarding perpetual-life non-traded REITs are only just now being tested, and the jury is out on how well it will go.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Matt Sharp
Co-Founder and Managing Principal, Hamilton Point Investments LLC

Matthew A. Sharp is co-founder and Managing Principal of Hamilton Point Investments LLC, a real estate private-equity investment firm that enables accredited individual investors to diversify their investment portfolios through institutional-quality, professionally managed real estate investments. Prior to forming the company, Mr. Sharp was Director of CMBS Origination at ABN AMRO Bank, N.V., and before that Mr. Sharp was a CMBS analyst at Standard and Poor’s.