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Real estate as an inflation hedge

Nashville at night

How does inflation affect real estate?

Real estate may provide an attractive inflation hedge, as rents and property values are highly correlated with rising consumer prices. Today’s inflation is partly due to an economy running at full speed, increasing the demand for real estate and driving rents upward. We believe investors should play the long game to benefit from real estate’s inflation hedge characteristics.

Growth in rent has moved in line with inflation

Real estate has generally served as a hedge against inflation over the long term. A key to its effectiveness lies in landlords’ ability to raise rents in markets with low vacancy rates, thus outpacing rising inflation and potentially increasing income to investors.


Landlords benefit from pricing power

In the 50 largest cities across the U.S. and Europe, many sectors showed below-average vacancy rates, giving landlords the power to raise rents. However, above-average vacancies in U.S. offices and European retail may mean rent hikes might not be possible at this time.


Strong demand meets limited supply

Inflation has increased almost in unison across developed markets to levels not seen for approximately 30 years. While we believe inflation will decline markedly as central banks take action to cool global economies, it is important to remember that, historically, higher inflation rates have not systematically affected real estate investment performance.

Real estate remained relatively steady during the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to the asset class’s stable income generation even during times of high economic volatility. Past data from the U.S. and European economies suggest that real estate may protect investors from inflation risks.

Inflation hedging works better in periods of demand-driven inflation compared to cost-driven inflation. The current environment features both types. The strong economic rebound has led to aggregate demand driving up wages and prices of goods and services including real estate, which benefits from higher rents. However, higher energy costs and supply bottlenecks have left less money for firms and households to spend on real estate.

Inflation effects vary by sector and country

Inflation hedges in practice

Inflation can directly drive net operating income growth (real estate income) when long-term leases have built-in rent escalators tied to inflation, which protects the income-generation of in-place leases. New leases allow investors to capitalize on rising market rents.

Today’s sharp increase in commodities and building costs will constrain new supply to some degree, further supporting real estate values. In fact, construction cost inflation has outrun other measures of inflation in recent years. High construction costs imply increased replacement costs for buildings, making existing real estate investments more valuable.

The current run of inflation is partly attributed to an economy running at full speed, which also increases the demand for real estate across the economy, driving rents upward. This can be witnessed across property types, in particular apartment rents and industrial/logistics rental growth.

Target the healthiest cities and sectors

Inflation rates vary widely around the world, and property markets function differently. While this period of inflation should be largely benign for real estate, perhaps even offering a cushion from rising prices, investors are best advised to gain exposure to a variety of property markets and sectors with particular focus on markets and sectors with strong current fundamentals and demand tailwinds.

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The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature.

Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such. For term definitions and index descriptions, please access the glossary on Please note, it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

A word on risk
Responsible investing incorporates Environmental Social Governance (ESG) factors that may affect exposure to issuers, sectors, industries, limiting the type and number of investment opportunities available, which could result in excluding investments that perform well. Real estate investments are subject to various risks, including fluctuations in property values, higher expenses or lower income than expected, and potential environmental problems and liability. Please consider all risks carefully prior to investing in any particular strategy. A portfolio’s concentration in the real estate sector makes it subject to greater risk and volatility than other portfolios that are more diversified and its value may be substantially affected by economic events in the real estate industry. International investing involves risks, including risks related to foreign currency, limited liquidity particularly where the underlying asset comprises real estate, less government regulation in some jurisdictions, and the possibility of substantial volatility due to adverse political, economic or other developments.

Nuveen provides investment advisory services through its investment specialists.

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