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Take a Bite Out of a 'Big Apple' REIT

Tickers in this article: BXP SLG VNO
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Manhattan commercial real estate volumes increased in the second quarter as total transaction volume rose more than $2.1 billion to $9.1 billion from the first quarter.

Manhattan office property sales doubled in the second quarter to $5.2 billion, due to the sale of a 40% interest sale of the GM building for a whopping $1,870 per square foot. ( Eastern Consolidated) .

That large deal, known as 767 Fifth Avenue, traded for $1.36 billion (40% interest) and the buyer was M. Safra & Company and the seller was Meraas Capital and Goldman Sachs. Other large office deals included Tenth Avenue (leasehold) for $750 million, 425 Lexington Avenue for $700 million, 125 West 55th Street for $470 million, and 499 Park Avenue for $386 million.

One of the most overwhelming differentiators for the New York City real estate market today is employment. Since 2009, New York City has added more jobs (112,600 since September 2009) and in 2013 the all-star city added 45,400 jobs. According to Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist with Eastern Consolidated, "the outlook for New York City is very favorable given how popular New York is for investors, students, tourists, potential residents and young entrepreneurs.

In a commentary in The Commercial Real Estate Observer on July 23, Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services explained, "The recovery in the property sales market continues to outpace the recovery in the broader economy and is, in fact, performing better than the recovery in commercial real estate's underlying fundamentals would dictate."

How Can the Average Investor Get a Bite Out of a Big Apple REIT?

There are many REITs that own property in or near the New York City area; however, there are just a few REITs that have a significant concentration of properties in the "big apple."

SL Green is the only fully integrated REIT that focuses on the New York City market. The company also owns more than 3 million square feet of prime office space in nearby Westchester County and Stamford, Conn.

As the FAST Graph illustrates below, SL Green began (IPO in 1997) to develop a strong track record for paying dividends. But in 2008 the company was forced to slash its dividend from a high payout of $3.15 per share (aqua blue-shaded area represents dividends paid) to a low of 40 cents in 2010 (and 2011).

The share price (the black line) fell from $146.58 in January 2007 to a low of $11.62 in 2009. SL Green has made steady progress with its share price (now $92.90), and the current dividend yield is 1.42%. I consider SL Green to be fairly valued today (with a price-to-funds from operations ratio of 18.5), and the dividend yield is modest compared with other office REIT peers.

Courtesy of F.A.S.T Graphs