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Real Estate Sector Rating: Marketperform

What is the real estate sector?

It includes equity real estate investment trusts (REITs) and companies engaged in real estate development and operation.

Over recent years, the Real Estate sector’s domestic orientation and relatively high payout yields have made it attractive, particularly in an environment of low and falling interest rates. Low interest rates enable real estate investors to leverage property with relatively “cheap” money.

However, during periods of financial stress, as we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate investment trusts (REITs) tend to struggle. Funding dried up for real estate, and commercial property demand is falling as much of the economy has yet to fully recover—which increases the risk of lease defaults. While net debt for the sector is low by historic standards, the risk to cash flow puts many REITs in a difficult position.

Retail space is under significant stress, as many companies cannot pay rent and may become insolvent. Health care facilities are under stress, with revenues lower amid delayed elective care and expected higher costs for extended and senior care facilities. Shared office space demand is sharply lower, and multi-family lease defaults are expected as unemployment remains very high.

The outlook for the sector will be highly dependent on the speed at which the economy recovers. While government support payments to businesses and newly unemployed workers will help, a slow, drawn-out recovery would become a longer-term headwind for the sector. However, if the economy recovers more quickly, people get back to work and interest rates stay low as the Federal Reserve maintains accommodative monetary policy, the Real Estate sector stands to benefit. In a low-interest-rate environment combined with renewed economic growth, investors’ search for yield could be a strong tailwind for the sector.

Given the high level of uncertainty regarding the path of the real estate market, however, we are maintaining a marketperform rating on the sector.

Sector Overview: Real Estate

10 real estate mini table

Note: Each of the sector lenses shown above—Macroeconomic, Value, Fundamental and Relative Strength—is both intuitive and evidenced-based in nature. Within each, there are a varying number of factors. The Macroeconomic lens includes sector sensitivities to interest rates, stocks and the value of the U.S. dollar; the outlook for each of these is determined by the Schwab Center for Financial Research (SCFR)’s Asset Allocation Working Group, which uses a mosaic approach of quantitative and qualitative considerations. Value includes six different valuation metrics that provide a holistic perspective on current valuations relative to each of the sectors’ own historical valuations, as well as relative to the other sectors. Fundamental provides insight as to how efficiently the companies within each sector use invested capital to produce earnings; this historically has been informative as to future relative performance of the sectors. Finally, Relative Strength measures momentum of the individual sectors against all of the other sectors. We also consider the data in the context of factors outside the scope of these indicators—for example, geopolitical risk or central bank policy changes.  

Source: Charles Schwab, as of 10/15/2020

What do the ratings mean?

The sectors we analyze are from the widely recognized Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS®) groupings. After a review of risks and opportunities, we give each stock sector one of the following ratings:

  • Outperform: likely to perform better than the broader stock market*
  • Underperform: likely to perform worse than the broader stock market
  • Marketperform: likely to track the broader stock market


Want to learn more about a specific sector?  Click on a link below for more information or visit Schwab Sector Views to see how they compare. Clients can log in to see our top-rated stocks in the Real Estate sector.


* As represented by the S&P 500 index

Communication Services Health Care
Consumer Discretionary Industrials
Consumer Staples Information Technology
Energy Materials
Financials Utilities


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Important Disclosures

Schwab Sector Views do not represent a personalized recommendation of a particular investment strategy to you. You should not buy or sell an investment without first considering whether it is appropriate for you and your portfolio. Additionally, you should review and consider any recent market news. Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market or other conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses and cannot be invested in directly. For more information on indexes please see

Past performance is no guarantee of future results and the opinions presented cannot be viewed as an indicator of future performance.

Risks of the REITs are similar to those associated with direct ownership of real estate, such as changes in real estate values and property taxes, interest rates, cash flow of underlying real estate assets, supply and demand, and the management skill and credit worthiness of the issuer.

The policy analysis provided by the Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., does not constitute and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any political party.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.


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