December Idea of the Month: Buy Apartments in Boom Towns

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, December 17, 2010

Yes, there are a few boom towns out there. And if you buy the right apartment owner, you might be able to profit from their growth while enjoying the income that owning real estate can provide. Today I want to share with you some thoughts on a Real Estate Investment Trust that is also, in some ways, a play on oil, gas, gold and diamond exploration — so though this is technically a REIT, just like the data center stock I profiled last month was a REIT, it’s about as different from CoreSite (and from a standard US office building REIT) as you can get and still be, at heart, a real estate business. And no, I promise this isn’t becoming a REIT-focused space — I’ll find something entirely different to write about next month.

This month I want to suggest that you take a look at shares in Northern Property REIT, this is a real estate investment trust that owns thousands of apartments (and, to a lesser degree, commercial properties) in Western and Northern Canada, and while their portfolio is not without some soft spots (particularly in Grande Prairie, which is dependent on natural gas) they own properties and strong market position in key areas of oil and gas and mineral exploration in Newfoundland, Northern BC, and the “Far North” of Northwest Territories (mostly Yellowknife) and Nunavut (mostly Iqaluit). You can see the makeup of their asset portfolio here.

The shares are not listed directly in New York and the stock is relatively small (though not teeny — just under $700 million market cap, plus about $550 million in debt), so if you choose to buy the shares either in Canada or on the pink sheets be careful about using a limit order (particularly on the pink sheets). Most brokers can buy in Canada for you quite easily, and will probably do so even if you place an online order using the pink sheets symbol, but note that the price is set in Canada and you can’t trust the pink sheets ticker quote to be the current fair price. The ticker in Toronto is NPR.UN or NPR-UN (the UN is to designate a trust unit, since this isn’t a corporation), the pink sheets ticker is NPRUF, so if you can’t trade directly in Toronto but decide you wish to buy the stock immediately you would start with ...

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