Investing Education

What are the Differences Between Open-End and Closed-End Real Estate Funds?


Investors evaluating alternative opportunities often look to private real estate funds due to their low correlation to the stock market, strong risk-adjusted returns and tax efficiency. These pooled funds receive money from investors and invest the combined capital into properties as a single portfolio. Pooled funds are broken down into two categories: open-end real estate funds and closed-end real estate funds. Private real estate funds are illiquid, so individuals should understand the unique structure of each category before investing.

Real Estate Fund Structure and Strategy

Closed-end real estate funds have a predetermined life set by the manager at the fund’s onset. These funds are typically value-add and capital gains driven. That means more of the expected return is earned from asset sales rather than income stream. Closed-end funds might employ a “buy-fix-sell” strategy. That typically includes some construction, repositioning, recapitalization of existing debt, and property management changes. Implementing these strategies can take time. Therefore, closed-end funds may deliver negative returns in the initial years. An example of a closed-end fund is Origin’s Qualified Opportunity Zone III Fund.

Assuming the value-add strategies are executed successfully, returns can exceed those of a fully stabilized property. Fund returns are contingent on executing a business plan. So proper due diligence on the fund manager’s performance track record is critical. Further, the capital gains-driven approach has tax implications that are important to consider when calculating an investment’s total return.

Unlike closed-end funds, an open-end fund structure has no termination date. These funds might employ a “buy-fix-hold” strategy where more of the expected return comes from the income stream. The core advantage of open-end funds is flexibility. Without an end date, managers aren’t forced to liquidate assets and can focus on long term capital appreciation. An example of this type of fund is Origin’s IncomePlus Fund, which offers tax-efficient passive income and appreciation.

However, the need to produce strong, recurring cash flow may potentially reduce the aggregate income stream. That could result in a lower total return than what may be achieved by a closed-end fund. But since immediate cash flow is part of the acquisition criteria, open-end funds also typically have a lower risk profile. Additionally, the fund’s income can be offset using depreciation and interest, providing investors with tax-efficient income.

Real Estate Capital Raising and Liquidity

A closed-end fund raises capital during a commitment period which may only take place for 12 to 18 months. Investment capital is locked up for the term of the fund, and investors cannot redeem their ownership interests at any time. Because of the lock-up, there is no risk of a forced asset sale. However, a drawback to closed-end funds is that sponsors must sell the assets at some point. That’s true even if an asset is achieving returns greater than what was originally projected.

Open-end funds allow investors to enter and exit the fund at regular intervals determined by the fund’s manager. Capital can be raised and repaid on an ongoing basis. That provides investors access to liquidity without needing to sell the underlying real estate. To balance the liquidity needs of investors with the illiquid nature of the underlying real estate, sponsors still include a lock-up period. As well, redemptions may be subject to a discount to the fund’s net asset value.

Real Estate Acquisition Strategy

Managers of closed-end funds are only allowed to purchase assets during the fund’s predetermined investment timeline. The downside of this restriction is that it may create pressure to deploy capital, resulting in a less optimal portfolio. For this reason, it is important that investors evaluate and understand how managers build and manage their deal pipeline.

For example, at Origin, we utilize a “boots on the ground” investment approach. Our acquisitions officers live and work in our target markets. This allows us to build local relationships and utilize both on and off-market transactions to maintain consistent deal flow, which is especially crucial when we’re offering closed-end funds.

In an open-end fund structure, there is no timetable that acquisitions teams must abide by. The fund’s perpetual nature also allows managers to reevaluate their investment strategy and rebalance the portfolio if necessary. The rebalancing feature can be important when faced with changing market conditions. For example, when launching the Origin IncomePlus Fund, we had a target portfolio allocation of 75% equity and 25% debt. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, we felt the best risk-adjusted returns could be derived from debt and preferred equity investments. In early 2021, we shifted the IncomePlus Fund’s target portfolio to 55% core plus, 25% preferred equity debt investments and 20% build-to-core ground-up developments. We can easily make adjustments to our IncomePlus Fund and will continue rebalancing the portfolio as the market changes.

Which Category Is Best?

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both open-end and closed-end private real estate funds. It’s important to understand your investment objectives and make informed choices. That means considering each fund’s strategy, liquidity considerations, acquisition strategy and tax implications that may impact an offering’s projected returns.

This article was originally published on July 8, 2020.
This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on, for investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. The information is provided as of the date indicated and is subject to change without notice. Origin Investments does not have any obligation to update the information contained herein. Certain information presented or relied upon in this article may come from third-party sources. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information and may receive incorrect information from third-party providers.