MIAMI—REITs are still en vogue. Multifamily is a darling and industrial is starting to turn some heads. So what’s next, and how long will the REIT run last? caught up with Mark Stapp, executive director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, to get his thoughts on the topic in this exclusive interview. Be sure to come back to this afternoon’s Miami edition for part two, where Stapp will discuss REIT challenges and make bets on the future. Some say now is not the right time for REITs—that it’s time to reduce REIT holdings. What’s your take?

Stapp: REITs are a component of the equity market. One of the reasons REITs are now—and will continue to be—a significant participant in the real estate markets is because they are predominantly equity, and that gives them the ability to make strategic decisions faster and gives them holding power. They can make deals, look to long-term positioning, and they can endure market changes better than small investors or those with debt. Are REITs in some sectors performing better than others—or will they in the future?

Stapp: I think the apartment REITs have been able to take advantage of the rental market, which benefited from the recession. Financially damaged people still needed to live someplace.

I think those REITs will continue to do well. Industrial REITs in some sectors are interesting as our economy improves. Retail is a challenge.

One of the other sectors that is interesting now is healthcare and how that business shifts, given implementation of the new healthcare law. There are some significant opportunities, as well, with assisted living and related healthcare and wellness, associated with the aging population. In 2007 and again in 2011, people were asking if the REIT run is over. That question is emerging again. Has the REIT run ever really ended? How has it evolved?

Stapp: I don’t think so. It is a very efficient way to raise significant amounts of money, which allows the REIT to make purchases of well-located, well-designed, key assets.

The ability to avoid borrowing, except for strategic or tactical purposes, gives a lot of flexibility and staying power. They also offer an ability to diversify geographically and within geographic regions. They give average folks the ability to participate in the commercial real estate market.