HomeMarket NewsThe Real Estate Reckoning: 3 Stocks Under Short Sellers' Crosshairs

The Real Estate Reckoning: 3 Stocks Under Short Sellers’ Crosshairs

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Are real estate stocks teetering on the brink of disaster? Short sellers are increasingly placing their bets on a rocky road ahead for the real estate sector in 2024 and beyond. The reasons behind this growing skepticism are as clear as day.

Multiple concerns are looming over the sector. Rising interest rates have a profound adverse effect on the value of existing real estate, as landlords grapple with higher debt servicing costs. Moreover, as yields on alternative investments like government bonds escalate, the value of real estate stocks sees a proportional decline.

Furthermore, specific economic pressures are exerting downward pressure on particular sub-segments of the real estate market. These are three real estate stocks that have garnered at least 5% of their floats sold short, indicating traders’ bracing for impending storms.

Vornado Realty Trust (VNO)

illustration of tall buildings on an upwards arrow

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Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE:VNO) stands as one of the nation’s prominent real estate investment trusts focusing on office properties, boasting extensive holdings in the New York City metropolitan area.

The shift to remote work and hybrid work models has proved to be a formidable challenge for office property owners. While office occupancy rates have rebounded to some extent since the depths of the pandemic, the sector remains a far cry from its pre-2019 levels. Almost every week brings news of office properties fetching significantly below their prior valuations. Notably, Vornado faces unique challenges specific to the New York area, such as concerns surrounding the city’s high cost of living and escalating crime rates.

Value investors are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping landlords can weather the storm and navigate through these testing times. The bears, on the flip side, foresee a perfect storm brewing with hybrid work models, surging interest rates, and the looming specter of a potential recession.

Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR)

A close-up shot of a marijuana growhouse. cannabis trends

Source: Shutterstock

Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) operates as a specialized real estate investment trust primarily focusing on properties designated for marijuana cultivation.

The company’s business model presents an intriguing market opportunity, given marijuana’s federal illegality in the U.S. As most banks refrain from lending to marijuana farmers, Innovative Industrial has seized the chance to purchase greenhouses and cultivation facilities, subsequently renting them out to marijuana farmers at premium rates – effectively serving as a specialized high-yield financing facility for the cannabis industry.

An overarching issue with this model has arisen as marijuana has proven to be significantly less profitable than anticipated. Numerous American marijuana firms have amassed notable losses over time, making it increasingly challenging for Innovative Industrial’s tenants to uphold their rent payments. Already, instances of tenants failing to meet rental obligations have surfaced. Additionally, potential progress on federal-level cannabis decriminalization could enable farmers to secure financing directly from banks, potentially rendering Innovative Industrial’s services redundant.

In essence, the company encounters both immediate risks should tenants falter in rent payments and long-term perils should their business model become obsolete. Consequently, short sellers have begun homing in on IIPR stock.

Medical Properties Trust (MPW)

Blurred hospital images, Patient bed in the hospital, Hospital cleaning, Hospital disinfection cleaning, Patient bed cleaning for emergency patients. Medical Properties Trust (MPW)

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Medical Properties Trust (NYSE:MPW) operates as a hospital real estate investment trust that has encountered turbulence post the pandemic outbreak. The disruption caused by COVID-19 significantly jarred the conventional commercial hospital business model, with hospitals heavily reliant on elective surgeries for substantial profitability. Conversely, they generate lesser revenue from emergency care, which became paramount in treating pandemic patients.

This REIT’s revenue stream is concentrated, with several key tenants – notably Steward Health Care – facing financial woes. This has necessitated Medical Properties Trust to restructure contracts, infuse more equity into situations, or accept diminished returns on their hospital holdings in certain instances.

Moreover, investigative reports from the Wall Street Journal have flagged intriguing questions around Medical Properties Trust’s business strategies. Battling these challenges, the REIT has resorted to slashing its dividend as it conserves cash to navigate through this downturn.

The stock portrays a battleground scenario, with optimists banking on a potential short squeeze. On the contrary, pessimists anticipate the REIT’s downward trajectory to persist in the long haul. While volatility might characterize its short-term performance, given the precarious financial landscape, MPW stock stands susceptible to further share price decline.

On the date of publication, Ian Bezek did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Ian Bezek has penned over 1,000 articles for InvestorPlace.com and Seeking Alpha. He previously served as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach out to him on Twitter at @irbezek.

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