Spain has been praised for its plans to overhaul the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) regime by the European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA). REITs have been identified by EPRA as an effective way to recapitalise property after a crisis and, with Spanish real estate struggling to reverse falling values, it is hoped this will be just the tonic. Ireland, which has endured similar property woes, will also be overhauling its REIT system in 2013.
Philip Charls, chief executive of EPRA, stated: "The Spanish and Irish governments have realised that the best way to attract domestic and international capital into their real estate markets and so underpin banking systems that are laden with property debt, is to make the sector attractive to investors." REITs are capable of doing this and have demonstrated their efficacy in previous crises, including the US Savings & Loans dilemma in the early 1990s.
According to Mr Charls, REITS have also been effective in Europe, channelling investment into top quality energy efficient buildings for businesses, retail units and housing. France and the UK are just two examples of countries that have effective REIT structures in place. However, there are risks for countries using REITs and these must not be ignored. “They are effectively equities and can therefore be just as volatile,” explained Darius McDermott, managing director at Chelsea Financial Services, a financial adviser, to the Financial Times.
Nevertheless, Spain is trying to make the system as secure and effective as possible, approving an amendment on December 20th 2012 to cut tax on profits to zero, so long as 80 per cent of earnings are given to investors. This brings Spain broadly in line with the rest of Europe and abolishes the flat tax regime, which was unattractive to investors.
Speaking to Property Investor Europe, Mayra Merchan, general manager of the Association of Spanish Rental Property Companies, claimed that the overhaul of REITs and potential influx of property investment could also help to create much needed jobs. With unemployment limiting the activity of domestic buyers in the property market, this will have positive ramifications across the board.