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Are You An Income Investor? Don't Miss Out On Invitation Homes Inc. (NYSE:INVH)

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Simply Wall St
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Is Invitation Homes Inc. (NYSE:INVH) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Some readers mightn't know much about Invitation Homes's 1.9% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for the last two years. Many of the best dividend stocks typically start out paying a low yield, so we wouldn't automatically cut it from our list of prospects. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Invitation Homes for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Invitation Homes!

NYSE:INVH Historical Dividend Yield, August 7th 2019
NYSE:INVH Historical Dividend Yield, August 7th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Invitation Homes paid out 46% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Invitation Homes's cash payout ratio in the last year was 40%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Invitation Homes is a REIT, which is an investment structure that often has different payout rules compared to other companies. It is not uncommon for REITs to pay out 100% of their earnings each year.

Is Invitation Homes's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Invitation Homes has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 9.60 times its EBITDA, Invitation Homes could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we'd be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 1.09 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Invitation Homes, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them, and we're reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.

We update our data on Invitation Homes every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.24 in 2017, compared to US$0.52 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 47% a year over that time.

Invitation Homes has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. Invitation Homes's earnings per share are up 162% on last year. We're glad to see EPS up on last year, but we're conscious that growth rates typically slow as companies increase in size. With high earnings per share growth in recent times and a modest payout ratio, we think this is an attractive combination if earnings can be reinvested to generate further growth. Any one year of performance can be misleading for a variety of reasons, so we wouldn't like to form any strong conclusions based on these numbers alone.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Invitation Homes's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any earnings growth, and the company's dividend history has been too short for us to evaluate the consistency of the dividend. All things considered, Invitation Homes looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 16 Invitation Homes analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.