I invest almost solely in REIT's now , the first thing I look at is the payout and their distribution history , I like the ones that pay a good distribution and have maintained that distribution over over the years.
I have found small cap REITs generally have the highest payouts and are therefore the most profitable (capital gains aside) , the larger ones tend to pay more to their principals and management companies , leaving less for the unitholders.
You have to watch as some of them resort to some questionable practices (especially the larger ones) to attract investors , such as Calloway and Primaris who recently doubled their distributions when unit prices were low , it just isn't sustainable.
If you had invested in either of those in the last few months , based on payout , you would now be a little choked that they have cut their distributions in half again now that unit price is up.
If a REIT I am invested in cuts its distribution too much , I sell quickly on the news , as share price usually begins to drop right afterwards.
I avoid healthcare or hotel REITs right now as most will not qualify for REIT status in 2011 , and may see declining unit prices due to the masses wanting out before the conversion date.
Some REITs offer a 3% or so incentive if you enroll in their DRIP , these ones I DRIP and the ones that offer no incentive , I take the cash and re-invest it where I want.
So far my strategy is paying me very well , I am averaging over 16% return , and unit prices of most of my REITs are way up from a few months ago when I loaded up at all time lows.