With the average equity REIT dividend around 3.5%, there are plenty of options -- over 134 today -- where a dividend investors can fish. The more juicy REITs, however, can be found in the deeper waters where investors can now find dividend yields of over 5%.
It was just a few weeks ago that we saw shares of most equity REITs climbing to levels where a 5% dividend was not attainable. Now, however, some of the outliers can be found swimming closer to shallow waters where dividends are much easier to hunt.
Looking for a 5% dividend yield hasn't been a picnic, but the REIT sector is producing some high-quality alternatives. In the health-care sector, some REITs yield 5%, including Healthcare Trust of America and Omega Healthcare Investors .
In the retail sector, some attractive names include American Realty Capital Properties , Inland Retail Corporation , Agree Realty and Realty Income .
In the industrial sector, there are two solid players: WP Carey and Chambers Street Group .
Specialty REITs Digital Realty and Campus Crest are both part of the 5%-plus dividend family.
Because REITs must pay out almost all of their taxable income to shareholders, investors have historically looked to REITs for reliable and significant dividends -- typically four times higher than those of other stocks on average.
The industry's dividend yields have produced a steady stream of income through a variety of market conditions. Albert Einstein said, "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it."
Maybe that's why I think REITs are like the ninth wonder of the world. The compounding effect for the dividend investor has the ability to turn a small amount of money into a substantial sum, and the longer the compounding effect, the more profits you earn over time.
Unless you are Warren Buffett or Donald Trump, it's hard to get broad access to real estate ownership by purchasing individual shopping centers or medical office buildings. By owning REITs, an investor can gain access to a diverse group of asset sectors and geographies.
REITs are also exceptional risk managers, and there is no substitute for investing in a company that can control risk.
There's no better time than now. Jump in and load up your REIT basket with some attractively priced shares. Rest assured, that's the REIT way to sleep well at night.
At the time of publication, the author was long on Realty Income.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.