This Top REIT Will Soar Thanks to a Population Boom in These States

Recently, American moving and relocation company United Van Lines released its annual "Movers Study." The research outlines the state-to-state movement of its customers to get a better understanding of migration patterns across the United States.

The study provides a decent sampling size (tracking states with at least 250 moves) for determining what states are adding citizens and what states are losing citizens - and a few clues as to why.

This year, the state with the largest percentage of inbound migration to a state was surprising.

After all, this state has the 11th smallest population in the United States, and it's not exactly known as a hub for technology startups or manufacturing.

Idaho saw 67.4% of state-to-state customer relocations using United Van Lines as inbound migrations. Given the proximity to California, Idaho has found itself as a desirable, less expensive destination with lower taxes and housing prices.

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Investors looking to take advantage of the growing population might want to consider getting in on one real estate investment trust (REIT) that is tapping into other high-growth cities like Boise - the capital of the state.

I'm talking about other cities that saw similar swells of movers packing up and leaving high-tax states and turning to "secondary" markets with a more affordable lifestyle.

Let's dig into this opportunity - with a top REIT that has a 7% dividend and steep upside over the next 12 to 15 months.

High Growth in the City

Population growth in Idaho is booming. It was the first time in more than 25 years that Idaho led the survey results. But anyone paying attention wouldn't be surprised by the development.

The state has seen its population grow by nearly 14% since 2010, ranking seventh in growth rate out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Its capital, Boise, has grown by a staggering 18.5% since 2010, boosting property values, rents, and job demand in the process.

The only states outpacing Idaho are other popular, high-growth cities where millennials are flocking to. They include Salt Lake City, Dallas, Orlando, Tampa, Florida, Denver, Las Vegas, and the District of Columbia.

With this significant population shift and growth for real estate demand, investors have a rare opportunity to tap into this demographic shift while capturing a solid dividend in the process.

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City Office REIT Inc. (NYSE: CIO) has one purpose: to acquire, own, and operate high-quality office properties located in high-growth U.S. markets. The company calls these locations "18-hour cities." They are defined by active urban living experiences that tap into leading employment and population trends.

The REIT went public in 2014 and remains one of the smaller office REITs on the market today with a market capitalization of $730 million. Today, it owns 26 properties across the country with an explicit focus on several of the cities I mentioned above.

Properties reside in Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa. Every city listed (with the exception of San Diego) saw a swell of inbound population growth in 2019, according to the United Van Lines survey. But keep in mind, San Diego is still booming.

Largely considered "secondary" markets, these cities see less competition from larger real estate institutions yet benefit from lack of supply, high-credit tenants, low acquisition costs, and improving demographics.

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Until 2018, the company owned a four-building office campus across 24 acres in Boise, Idaho. It sold the properties for $86.5 million, and it showed the company's ability to leverage demographic shifts and capitalize on underlying opportunities in real estate.

The REIT continues to show strong, impressive growth and is priced very nicely in the current environment. The dividend sits at 7%, while its price to funds from operations (P/FFO) sits at just 11.6 times.

The FFO metric is simply a calculation of earnings plus depreciation and amortization. The lower the figure, the more value might exist for the investor.

Now Is the Time to Buy CIO

Looking forward, City Office REIT can benefit from more Americans moving to secondary markets like Boise and finding a more comfortable life there than Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York - where cost of living remains very high.

Combined with a 7% dividend, I project City Office REIT could hit $20 in the year ahead.

The combination of yield and price appreciation at that level would offer investors a total return of 55% over the next 12 to 15 months.

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About the Author

Garrett Baldwin is a globally recognized research economist, financial writer, consultant, and political risk analyst with decades of trading experience and degrees in economics, cybersecurity, and business from Johns Hopkins, Purdue, Indiana University, and Northwestern.

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