Earlier this month, Inland Western Retail REIT, now known as Retail Properties of America, went public, giving investors a first-time look at the value of their investment at a publicly set price. And the news wasn’t what they expected. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based real estate investment trust priced its offering of 31.8 million Class A shares at $8. It had been hoping to sell the shares at between $10 and $12.
Investors in Inland Western have now lost significant amounts of money, about 65% by some reports. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that many non-traded REIT investors know only too well. Several high-profile non-traded REITs also have seen their valuations plummet over the past 12 months, including Cornerstone Core Properties and Behringer Harvard REIT.
Issues surrounding non-traded REITs have met with increased scrutiny in recent years, raising red flags and questions among regulators. In March 2009, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) officially opened an inquiry into non-traded REITs and the broker/dealers responsible for marketing and selling the products to investors. Among other things, FINRA wanted to determine the suitability of non-traded REIT sales to retail investors and the disclosures made regarding fees, dividends and liquidity.
That same year, FINRA issued a regulatory notice requiring REITs to publish their valuations no later than 18 months following the conclusion of an offering. Then, in October 2011, FINRA issued an investor warning on non-traded REITs, citing the products’ lack of transparency, illiquidity, potential conflicts of interest, risks to an investor’s principal, and high fees.