6 Housing Stocks With Curbside Appeal

Tickers in this article: AVBG BRE CPT EQR ESS HME

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Compelling demographics, including "echo boomers" leaving the nest, and a still-struggling single-family housing market are pushing rents higher for real estate investment trusts (REITs) focused on apartment buildings.

The appeal of REITs isn't just their share-price appreciation potential, but their high dividends, which make them attractive for yield hounds. For example, apartment REIT Essex Property Trust is up 12% this year and 40% over the past three years, on average, and currently yields 2.82%. The S&P 500 is up 9.6% this year.

Standard & Poor's says the "fundamental outlook for the residential REITs sub-industry is positive. We believe a lower homeowner rate, despite government incentives and modest new supply (new construction), are both working in favor of multi-family operators."

S&P Capital IQ says that as the home-ownership rate ticks lower, "many Americans may be reluctant to purchase a home until price stability returns. As the economic recovery gains steam, we expect an increase in new household formations."

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And it adds that new supply is at multi-year lows.

Here are six REIT stock summaries arranged in descending order of analysts' "buy" ratings:

6. BRE Properties Class 'A'

Company profile: BRE, with a market value of $4 billion, owns around 70 communities comprising 22,000 apartment units located mostly in California.

Dividend Yield: 2.94%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 4.4% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 30%. Analysts give its shares two buy" ratings, three "buy/holds, 13 "holds," and one "weak hold," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

5. Equity Residential

Company profile: Equity Residential, with a market value of $19 billion, has ownership interests in about 427 properties, with about 122,000 apartments.

Dividend Yield: 2.15%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 11% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 41%. Analysts give its shares two "buy" ratings, two buy/holds," 18 "holds," and one "weak hold," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

Analysts estimate it will earn 81 cents per share this year, and $1.01 per share next year.

4. Camden Property Trust

Company profile: Camden Property, with a market value of $5 billion, owns interests in and operates 196 properties with some 63,000 apartment homes in the Sunbelt, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West.

Dividend Yield: 3.3%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 10% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 35%. Analysts give its shares four "buy" ratings, four "buy/holds," and 11 "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

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Analysts estimate it will earn $1.28 per share this year and $1.49 next year, which is 19% growth.

3. Essex Property Trust

Company profile: Essex Property Trust, with a market value of $6 billion, has an interest in 134 apartment properties, totaling 27,000 units, mostly in California.

Dividend Yield: 2.82%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 12% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 37%. Analysts give its shares seven "buy" ratings, three "buy/holds," and 13 "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

S&P has it rated "strong buy" with a $187 price target, a 20% premium to the current price.

2. Avalon Bay Communities

Company profile: Avalon Bay, with a market value of $14 billion, specializes in upscale apartment communities. It owns about 50,000 apartments, primarily in urban areas.

Dividend Yield: 2.67%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 12% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 39%. Analysts give its shares eight "buy" ratings, three "buy/holds," seven "holds," three "weak holds," and one "sell," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.

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1. Home Properties

Company profile: Home Properties, with a market value of $3 billion, operates 107 apartment communities with almost 40,000 units in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas.

Dividend Yield: 4.2%

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 10.5% this year and have a three-year, average annual return of 22%. Analysts give its shares 10 "buy" ratings, eight "holds," and one "sell," according to a survey of analysts by S&P. S&P has it rated "strong buy" with a $75 price target, a 19% premium.

Tickers in this article: AVBG BRE CPT EQR ESS HME