What is the Difference between REIT and ETF? Explained

Have you ever considered investing in real estate, but the thought of being a landlord scared you off? If so, you may have heard of two popular investment options – Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). These two investment vehicles can help you access the potential benefits of real estate without the hassles of property management. But what exactly are REITs and ETFs, and how do they differ from one another?

REITs are companies that own and operate real estate properties, such as office buildings, apartment complexes, and shopping centers. They allow investors to own a piece of real estate without the burden of managing it themselves. On the other hand, ETFs are funds that track a basket of securities, such as stocks, bonds, or commodities. They allow investors to diversify their portfolios and gain exposure to different market segments without the need for individual stock picking.

While both REITs and ETFs can offer investors diversification and potentially attractive returns, they have unique characteristics that set them apart from one another. REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends, making them popular among income-seeking investors. ETFs, on the other hand, offer low expenses, intra-day tradability, and wide diversity. Understanding the differences between REITs and ETFs can help you decide which investment vehicle aligns with your investment goals and risk tolerance.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a company that invests in income-producing real estate properties. Essentially, REITs own and manage properties such as apartments, hotels, malls, warehouses, and office buildings. Investors can purchase shares of a REIT on stock exchanges, which give them a chance to profit from the rental payments made by tenants or the potential appreciation of the properties they own.

  • REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to their investors as dividends, making them attractive to income-seeking investors.
  • REITs can be publicly traded or privately owned, and can focus on a specific type of property or have diversified portfolios.
  • REITs provide investors with the opportunity to invest in real estate without the need for large amounts of capital or the responsibilities of managing property.

For example, if you were to purchase shares of a REIT that owns a shopping mall, you would be entitled to receive a portion of the rental income generated by the tenants of the mall. You would also benefit from the appreciation of the value of the mall over time if the property increases in value.

Overall, REITs provide a relatively simple and hassle-free way for investors to gain exposure to the real estate market and generate income through dividend payments.

Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)

An Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is an investment fund that holds a collection of assets, such as stocks, bonds or commodities and is traded on stock exchanges. ETF is similar to a mutual fund as it pools money from investors to buy a basket of different assets. However, unlike mutual funds, ETFs trade like a stock on the stock exchange and as a result, the price of an ETF fluctuates throughout the trading day as it is being bought and sold.

  • ETFs provide diversification as a single unit of an ETF represents a basket of different assets. Hence, investing in a single ETF can give an investor exposure to a broad range of stocks or bonds and reduce the impact of a single stock or bond failure.
  • ETFs are generally more cost-effective than mutual funds. The expense ratios for ETFs are significantly lower because they are passively managed, which means they simply track a particular index or asset and do not require significant human intervention, unlike active mutual fund managers who have much higher fee structures.
  • ETFs have a higher degree of transparency as its holdings are disclosed daily. This allows investors to know the exact composition of the assets held and their respective weightages within the ETF.

Types of ETFs

There are several types of ETFs that cater to different investment objectives or themes:

  • Equity ETFs – tracks the performance of one or more stock indices or sectors
  • Bond ETFs – tracks the performance of bond indices and provides exposure to fixed-income securities
  • Commodity ETFs – tracks commodity prices or commodity indices
  • Currency ETFs – invests in foreign currencies to provide exposure to foreign exchange rates
  • Inverse ETFs – designed to provide inverse returns to a particular index, bond, or other underlying asset. This means that if the index or asset decreases in value, the ETF would increase in value, and vice versa.


REITs are Real Estate Investment Trusts, which are companies that invest in real estate properties or mortgages. One of the primary differences between REITs and ETFs is that ETFs are more diverse, as they invest in different assets such as stocks, bonds, and commodities, while REITs invest solely in real estate. Additionally, REITs often pay out a higher dividend yield due to the nature of their business but are also more illiquid in comparison to ETFs, which can be bought and sold at any time during the trading day on the stock exchange.

Diverse investments Real estate properties/mortgages
Traded on stock exchange Not publicly traded, bought and sold through brokers
Low expense ratios High dividend yield
More liquid More illiquid

In summary, ETFs provide a cost-effective and diversified way of investing in the market while providing greater transparency and flexibility. While REITs provide high dividend yield and invest solely in real estate, they are more illiquid and have fewer investment options.

Types of REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts, commonly referred to as REITs, are a type of investment fund that owns and operates income-generating real estate properties. REITs are commonly described as being either equity REITs or mortgage REITs, but there are actually several other types of REITs that investors can choose from.

  • Equity REITs: This is the most common type of REIT. Equity REITs primarily invest in and own physical properties, such as office buildings, apartment complexes, and shopping centers. They generate rental income and then distribute the earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends.
  • Mortgage REITs: Another popular type of REIT, these companies primarily invest in real estate debt, such as mortgages, and earn revenues from the interest on these loans.
  • Hybrid REITs: As the name implies, these REITs invest in a combination of real estate properties and mortgages, earning revenue from both sources.
  • Retail REITs: These REITs invest exclusively in retail properties such as shopping malls, retail centers, and outlets.
  • Residential REITs: These REITs invest in residential properties, such as apartment buildings and single-family homes, and generate income from collecting rent from tenants.
  • Healthcare REITs: Also known as medical REITs, these REITs invest exclusively in healthcare-related properties, such as hospitals, medical offices, and nursing homes.

When choosing a REIT to invest in, it’s essential to select one that aligns with your investment objectives and fits within your overall investment portfolio. It’s also important to consider factors like the fund’s historical performance, the quality of its management team, and the underlying real estate assets within its portfolio.

Investors who aren’t sure which type of REIT is right for them may opt to invest in an REIT ETF, which provides exposure to a diversified basket of REITs across various types, sectors, and geographic regions. This allows investors to enjoy the benefits of real estate investing without having to select individual REITs directly.

Types of REITs Primary Investments
Equity REITs Investment in physical properties
Mortgage REITs Investment in real estate debt
Hybrid REITs Investment in both properties and debt
Retail REITs Investment in retail properties
Residential REITs Investment in residential properties
Healthcare REITs Investment in medical properties

Overall, REITs provide investors with a diversified and accessible way to invest in real estate properties and generate income from rental revenues. Understanding the different types of REITs available can help investors make informed decisions and deploy capital into investments that align with their goals and risk tolerance.

Types of ETFs

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a type of investment fund that are traded on stock exchanges, much like stocks. ETFs offer investors the opportunity to gain exposure to various asset classes, sectors, and regions, without having to buy individual stocks or bonds. There are several types of ETFs available to investors:

  • Equity ETFs: Equity ETFs invest in a basket of stocks that represent a particular equity market, sector, or theme. These funds offer investors a diversified exposure to the stock market, without the need to pick individual stocks.
  • Bond ETFs: Bond ETFs invest in a range of fixed-income securities, including government bonds, corporate bonds, and municipal bonds. These funds provide investors with a diversified exposure to the fixed-income market, without the need to buy individual bonds.
  • Commodity ETFs: Commodity ETFs invest in commodities such as gold, silver, oil, and other natural resources. These funds provide investors with exposure to the dynamic commodity market, without the need to own physical commodities.

Another type of ETF that has gained popularity in recent years is the Smart Beta ETF. Smart Beta ETFs are designed to deliver a specific investment outcome or strategy, often using a rules-based approach. These funds seek to outperform traditional market-cap-weighted ETFs by employing factors such as quality, value, and momentum.

Type of ETF Investment Objective Examples
Equity ETFs Diversified exposure to stock markets S&P 500 ETF (SPY), Technology ETF (QQQ)
Bond ETFs Diversified exposure to fixed-income market iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD), Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND)
Commodity ETFs Exposure to commodities such as gold, silver, and natural resources iShares Gold Trust ETF (IAU), Invesco DB Commodity Index ETF (DBC)
Smart Beta ETFs Deliver a specific investment outcome or strategy Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM), Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (SPLV)

Overall, ETFs offer investors a diversified, low-cost, and tax-efficient way to gain exposure to various asset classes and investment strategies. Understanding the different types of ETFs available can help investors make more informed investment decisions that align with their investment objectives and risk tolerance.

Advantages of Investing in REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, are becoming increasingly popular as an investment vehicle. A REIT is a company that owns or finances income-producing real estate, such as shopping centers, apartments, and office buildings. Investing in REITs provides a number of advantages over other types of investments. Here are five reasons why REITs should be considered for any investor’s portfolio:

  • High Dividend Yields: REITs are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their income to shareholders in the form of dividends. This results in an attractive dividend yield, which is significantly higher than the average yield of the S&P 500. In fact, according to Nareit, the average dividend yield for REITs in 2020 was 3.9%, compared to 1.8% for the S&P 500.
  • Diversification: Investing in REITs allows for diversification in one’s portfolio. By investing in REITs that specialize in different types of real estate, such as residential or commercial properties, investors can spread their risk across different sectors. This can help reduce overall volatility and protect against market downturns.
  • Stable Cash Flow: REITs generate stable cash flows from rent payments, which helps to mitigate risk. Furthermore, because the majority of REITs’ income is generated from leasing properties, they are less susceptible to economic downturns than other types of investments.
  • Tax Benefits: Investing in REITs offers certain tax benefits. For example, dividends received from REITs are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income, and some REIT dividends may be considered qualified dividends, which are taxed at lower rates than non-qualified dividends. Additionally, REITs can be included in tax-deferred retirement accounts.
  • Professional Management: By investing in a REIT, individuals are benefiting from professional management. REITs are required to have a management team responsible for the daily operations of the company. This can alleviate the stress and time commitment that comes with managing real estate on one’s own.

Overall, investing in REITs can provide a number of advantages over other types of investments. From high dividend yields and diversification to stable cash flows and tax benefits, REITs should be considered as part of any well-balanced portfolio.

Advantages of investing in ETFs

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are a popular investment vehicle that offer investors several benefits compared to other options. Here are some of the advantages of investing in ETFs:

  • Diversification: ETFs provide instant diversification by holding a basket of stocks, bonds, or other assets. For example, an ETF that tracks the S&P 500 index gives investors exposure to the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. Without owning the individual stocks, investors can benefit from the overall performance of the index.
  • Liquidity: ETFs are listed on a stock exchange, so investors can buy and sell them throughout the trading day just like individual stocks. This makes them a more flexible investment option compared to mutual funds, which are priced and traded only once per day after the market closes.
  • Lower costs: ETFs typically have lower expense ratios compared to mutual funds, which can eat into an investor’s returns over time. Additionally, ETFs are generally more tax-efficient than mutual funds because they have fewer taxable events (such as capital gains distributions).

ETFs vs. REITs: What’s the difference?

While ETFs offer investors several advantages, they are not the same as real estate investment trusts (REITs). Here are some key differences between the two:

Asset Class Stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and other securities Real estate
Diversification Can provide instant diversification across various asset classes Can provide diversification across different types of real estate
Liquidity Can be bought and sold throughout the trading day on an exchange Some REITs are publicly traded, but many are not, which can impact liquidity
Yield Some ETFs offer dividends, but generally not as high as REITs REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income as dividends to shareholders
Tax treatment Generally more tax-efficient than mutual funds, but can still have taxable events such as capital gains REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income as dividends, which can be taxed at a higher rate than other dividends


ETFs are a popular investment option that provide investors with diversification, liquidity, and lower costs compared to other options. While they are not the same as REITs, investors can choose ETFs that track various asset classes including real estate if desired. As with any investment, it’s important to do your research and understand the risks before making a decision.

Taxation of REITs vs ETFs

When investing in real estate, many people consider either Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) as a way to diversify their portfolios. While both REITs and ETFs provide investors with access to diversified real estate portfolios, there are significant differences in the way they are taxed.

  • Pass-Through Taxation: REITs are unique in that they are required by law to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders through dividends. This means that REITs are not taxed at the corporate level, but rather are taxed as pass-through entities on the individual shareholder’s tax return. This is advantageous for investors because it results in a lower tax rate compared to investing in a corporation or traditional mutual fund.
  • Corporate Taxation: Unlike REITs, ETFs are taxed at the corporate level on any dividends or capital gains earned from the underlying investments. This means that investors in ETFs may face a higher tax rate on their investment earnings.

While REITs are favored for their pass-through taxation and potentially lower tax rates for investors, there are still additional tax considerations to keep in mind.

Firstly, while REIT dividends are generally taxed at the individual shareholder’s ordinary income tax rate, up to 20% of REIT dividends may be eligible for the lower qualified dividend tax rate (currently up to 20%). Secondly, if an investor holds a REIT in a tax-advantaged account such as a traditional IRA or 401(k), they may still be subject to taxes on the dividends once they start withdrawing from the account.

On the other hand, while ETFs are subject to corporate taxation, they may be more tax-efficient than traditional mutual funds because of their ability to minimize taxable events such as capital gains distributions. This can result in lower taxes for investors in the long run. Additionally, ETF investors can also take advantage of tax-loss harvesting strategies to offset any capital gains in their portfolio.

Overall, when deciding between investing in REITs or ETFs, it is important to consider the tax implications of each investment. While REITs may offer lower tax rates for investors, there are still additional tax considerations to keep in mind. ETFs may be subject to corporate taxation, but they can also offer tax-efficient advantages and tax-loss harvesting strategies.

Taxation Pass-Through Corporate
Dividends 90% required payout Subject to corporate taxation
Tax Rates Potentially lower for investors Can be higher for investors
Tax-Loss Harvesting N/A Available for investors

What is the Difference Between REIT and ETF?


1. What is a REIT?

A REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) is a type of investment tool that allows individuals to own shares in income-generating real estate properties such as commercial buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces.

2. What is an ETF?

An ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) is a type of investment tool that is made up of a basket of different financial assets such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. ETFs are typically used by investors to diversify their portfolios.

3. What is the main difference between REIT and ETF?

The main difference between REIT and ETF is that a REIT is a type of investment tool that invests in real estate properties, while an ETF invests in a variety of financial assets.

4. What are the benefits of investing in a REIT?

Some of the benefits of investing in a REIT include generating passive income, diversifying your investment portfolio, and having the ability to invest in real estate properties without owning them.

5. What are the benefits of investing in an ETF?

Some benefits of investing in an ETF include diversification, lower fees than traditional mutual funds, and the ability to buy and sell shares throughout the day.

Closing Paragraph:

Thanks for taking the time to read about the differences between REIT and ETF. While both are investment tools, they have distinct differences in their asset allocation and investment strategies. Remember to do your own research and consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Don’t forget to check back for more informative articles on investing and personal finance.