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You Might Be a Real Estate Investor And You Didn't Even Know It

Before I began writing about real estate investing, I was convinced it was the sort of thing I just wasn’t cut out for. My idea of real estate investing meant buying houses in disarray and fixing them up at a profit, or buying income properties to rent out and having to play the unwanted role of landlord.

Neither of those options appealed to me in particular. And as someone who’s somewhat risk-averse, I never really got excited about the idea of taking on another physical property to own. Also, I prefer true passive income — the kind you get when you collect interest payments from bonds or dividend payments from stocks.

But then I realized that it’s more than possible to invest in real estate without owning actual property. In fact, you may already be a real estate investor without even being the wiser.

Image source: Getty Images.

Is your portfolio invested in REITs?

Buying homes to flip or rent out is an obvious way to invest in real estate. But if you own shares of REITs, or real estate investment trusts, you can achieve the same goals.

REITs are companies that own and operate different types of properties — and you may already have some in your portfolio. If so, congratulations — you’re a real estate investor! And if not, you may want to load up on REITs for a couple of key reasons.

First, just as regular stocks have the potential to gain value over time, so do REITs. But what makes REITs unique is that they’re required to pay at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends. This means that if you buy REITs, you might enjoy more generous dividends than what your other stocks pay you.

REITs can also lend to added diversification in your portfolio. And that’s an important thing to have, both when the market is healthy and when it’s stuck in a rut.

How to buy and sell REITs

Publicly traded REITs are extremely easy to buy and sell because it’s the same process as buying and selling stocks. Just research different REITs, find their tickers, enter that information into your brokerage account, and voilà — you can add shares to your portfolio pretty seamlessly.

Publicly traded REITs are also a very liquid investment (unlike income properties, which are fairly illiquid). That means you can sell them quickly and easily.

I make a point to keep my portfolio filled with different types of REITs. Not only do I like collecting the dividend income that allows for, but I’ve also chosen companies I think will lend to steady growth over time.

I definitely don’t consider myself a real estate investor in the classic sense. I’m not about to venture into the house-flipping game, and I certainly don’t have the patience to be a landlord and deal with tenant issues. But owning REITs makes me a real estate investor in my own right — and in a manner that aligns better with my comfort zone and doesn’t cause me needless work or stress.