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Why Many Investors Prefer DSTs Over Triple Net (NNN) Properties

Triple net properties (NNN) are leased to tenants who bear the responsibility for paying rent, plus added expenses including building maintenance, insurance, and taxes. They can provide a good option for investors who are seeking mostly passive income and who wish to avoid the burdens of more active management. Popular examples of NNN properties would include single tenant retail, fast food, and service providers such as Walgreens, CVS, Dollar Stores, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Jiffy Lube among many others. 

While the overall annual sales volume of single tenant NNN properties is currently higher than DST properties (roughly $50+ billion for NNN versus about $10 billion for DSTs), a growing number of our clients who have previously been NNN investors are switching to DSTs. We’ll explore the reasons for this shift in preferences in this blog post.

The Appeal of NNN Properties

First and foremost, NNN leased properties have been around a long time and are well known to real estate investors and the real estate brokerage community. They are considered to be a type of traditional real estate which allows licensed real estate brokers and agents to receive sales commissions – so they are actively marketed and promoted to investors by a large number of intermediaries as a first choice when considering passive real estate investments. 

The benefits of investing in NNN properties can be compelling and typically include: 

  • Long term stable income per lease terms which can typically range from 5 to 20 years (plus options) in duration
  • Reduced management stress and work required from the investor since the tenant is largely responsible for paying rent and expenses
  • Security of income subject to the credit rating of the tenant who is often required to guarantee the performance of all lease terms
Potential Disadvantages of NNN Properties

Our firm has managed many NNN properties on behalf of our clients and while the investment benefits can be attractive, these investments can also be subject to risks that prudent investors should consider including the following: 

  • NNN leases generally have a limitation on the amount of annual rent increases that can be passed onto tenants. This limitation is typically based on past historical increases of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which, until recently has been in the range of ~2%. The recent spike in reported inflation to annualized price increases above 5% has raised justifiable concerns among many of our clients over whether the income from NNN properties can keep pace with ongoing elevated inflation rates. Income properties that fail to keep pace with rising price levels can be subject to added risks that may impact overall returns. 
  • While a NNN tenant is obligated to perform maintenance and upkeep of the property, the investor/owner is ultimately responsible for any failure to the tenant to meet its lease obligations. As a practical matter, no matter how strong the tenant may appear to be, we advise all our NNN investors to have periodic engineering studies completed to ensure that their tenants are fully living up to their responsibilities. In our experience, it is rare that a comprehensive engineering study will not find at least several items that need to be addressed by the tenant. Even minor items such as delaying the timely replacement of a grease trap can lead to costly repairs and perhaps even contentious and expensive litigation.
  • As the term of the lease declines, there are added risks to consider including negotiating favorable renewable terms plus the possibility that a tenant may not renew and leave the investor stuck with an empty building and burdened with unanticipated costs to find a new tenant. Even tenants who are doing well in one location may decide to move to a new nearby building – or leverage that possibility to negotiate less favorable renewal terms including lower rents and improvement allowances that may negatively impact overall returns. 

Ironically, added renewal risks can raise the current cash yields on NNN properties with limited remaining lease term and cause unsuspecting investors who are solely looking at yield to be motivated to make poor investment decisions. NNN investors who are chasing current cash yields are wise to understand that higher current returns are often accompanied by higher risks. Investors should be wary that an above market cash yield can be a signal of a desperate seller who is trying to unload a problem property. 

Comparing DSTs to NNN Properties 

Like NNN properties, properties structured as Delaware Statutory Trusts (DSTs) appeal to investors who are seeking passive income and who may also be considering investments that would qualify as like-kind replacement properties when completing a 1031 exchange. Here are some of the most cited reasons provided from our clients who have shifted from NNN properties to DSTs.

  • While DSTs can include NNN properties, they are also available in asset classes such as apartments and storage where owners have greater flexibility to raise rents to keep up with changing market conditions and price levels. Unlike commercial and retail properties which are subject to fixed term leases that decline year by year, apartments are perpetually leased as tenants come and go. 
  • Finding attractive NNN properties is especially challenging in today’s frothy market. Investors must compete to outbid other investors to secure desirable properties and time is very limited to win suitable properties if they are doing 1031 exchanges. By contrast, there is no price competition among DST investors – all who invest in a particular DST are offered their interests at the same price.
  • The risk of not being able to close on an identified property is also far less with a DST than a NNN property. The DST is already owned and being managed by the DST sponsor who is reselling their interests to investors. Provided DST interests remain available, and the investor qualifies to purchase interests, they have a high likelihood of closing and no risk of losing out by being outbid by another investor.   

While NNN properties currently remain more popular than DSTs, the large increase in DST investments in recent years is being fueled in part by investors who are switching from NNN investments to DSTs. Should current elevated inflation levels persist into the longer term, we would expect investor preferences for DSTs over NNN options to accelerate as investors look to reposition equity from retail and commercial assets into more inflation resilient investments such as apartments, storage, and other. 

If you wish to further explore the full range of both NNN and DST investments offered by our firm, please contact us at or call us toll free at 866 398-1031. You can also schedule a free one on one consultation with me here

Help Save 1031 Exchanges
Write to your Member of Congress and Senators urging them to oppose restricting Section 1031 like-kind exchanges. As part of the American Families Plan, the Biden Administration has proposed eliminating the application of Section 1031 for gains greater than $500,000. Like-kind exchanges have been part of the U.S. tax code since 1921 and are one of the tax code’s most powerful economic tools. It is critical that we all vigorously and visibly oppose this proposal. Make your voice heard with a pre-filled letter, which you can customize to add personal anecdotes or powerful client stories to highlight the positive impact of Section 1031 like-kind exchanges. Take action today by clicking HERE.

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2 DST investors must be accredited i.e., have a net worth > $ 1million exclusive of equity in their personal residence or// annual income of $200K if single or $300K if married. 

Paul Getty

Paul Getty is a licensed real estate broker in the state of California and Texas and has been directly involved in commercial transactions totaling over $3 billion on assets throughout the United States. His experience spans all major asset classes including retail, office, multifamily, and student, and senior housing. Paul’s transaction experience includes buy and sell side representation, sourcing and structuring of debt and equity, workouts, and asset and property management. He has worked closely with nationally prominent real estate brokerage and investment organizations including Marcus Millichap, CB Richard Ellis, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley among others on the firm’s numerous transactions. Paul also maintains a broad network of active buyers and sellers of commercial real estate including lenders, institutions, family office managers, and high net worth individuals. Prior to founding First Guardian Group/FGG1031, Paul was a founder and CEO of Venture Navigation, a boutique investment banking firm specializing in structuring equity investments made by institutions and high net worth individuals. He possesses over 35 years of comprehensive worldwide business management experience in environments ranging from early phase start-ups to multi-billion-dollar corporations. His track record includes participation in IPOs and successful M&A activity that has resulted in investor returns of over $700M. Paul holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Wayne State University. Paul Getty holds Series 22, 62, and 63 securities licenses and is a registered financial representative with LightPath Capital Inc, member FINRA /SIPC. Paul is a noted speaker, author, and actively lectures on investments, sales, and management related topics. He is author of The 12 Magic Slides, Regulation A+: How the JOBS Act Creates Opportunities for Entrepreneurs and Investors, and Tax Deferral Strategies Utilizing the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST), available on Amazon and other retail outlets.

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