Demystifying Real Estate Investments: REITs vs. DPPs – Which is Right for You?


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Real estate has long been considered a cornerstone of wealth-building and investment diversification. However, navigating the complex world of real estate investments can be daunting, especially for those new to the game. Two standard investment options that often come into focus are Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Direct Participation Programs (DPPs). This blog post will demystify reits vs. dpps and their investment structures, highlight their fundamental differences, and help you determine which aligns best with your financial goals and preferences.

Table of Contents

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) Explained

Real Estate Investment Investment Trusts or REITs are a popular and accessible way for individuals to invest. It is more income-generating real estate assets without directly owning and managing physical properties. They offer a structured and organized approach to real estate investment, making it easier for investors to participate in the real estate market. Let’s delve deeper into the various aspects of REITs:

Definition and Purpose

REITs are specialized investment vehicles designed to pool capital from multiple investors and invest it in a diversified portfolio of real estate assets. The primary purpose of REITs is to generate income and capital appreciation from these assets. They allow individuals to access real estate investments without the challenges and complexities of buying, managing, and maintaining physical properties.

Investment Structure

Unlike direct participation programs, REITs come in two primary forms:

1. Publicly Traded REIT: These are listed on public stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ. Publicly traded REITs are easily accessible to retail investors, as they can be bought and sold through brokerage accounts, similar to stocks. They offer the advantage of liquidity and transparency, as their market prices are readily available.

2. Non-Traded REITs: Unlike publicly-traded REITs, non-traded REITs are typically not traded on public markets. Instead, they are offered directly by REIT sponsors or through financial advisors. Non-traded REITs have their characteristics and considerations, including potentially higher fees and limited liquidity. Investors in non-traded REITs may have to wait for a specific period or event to redeem their investment.

Ownership Structure

REITs are structured as corporations, which means they have a board of directors, management team, and shareholders. Shareholders are the owners of the REIT and hold shares in the company. They receive dividends based on the rental income and capital gains generated by the real estate assets in the REIT’s portfolio.

Investment Size

One of the appealing aspects of REITs is their accessibility to a wide range of investors. They accommodate investors with varying capital commitments, from those with modest savings to institutional investors. This flexibility in investment size makes REITs an inclusive investment option.


REITs offer investors the benefit of diversification. By pooling capital from multiple investors, REITs can acquire and manage a diverse portfolio of real estate assets, including office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping malls, hotels, and more. Diversification spreads the risk across different property types and geographic locations, reducing the impact of underperforming assets on the overall investment.


Liquidity is a significant advantage of investing in publicly traded REITs. Shares of publicly traded REITs can be easily bought and sold on stock exchanges during regular trading hours. This liquidity allows investors to adjust their positions or exit their investments when needed, unlike traditional real estate investments, which can be illiquid and time-consuming to sell.

Tax Benefits and Considerations

REITs come with tax credits for investors. To maintain their special tax status, REITs must distribute at least 90% of their taxable income as dividends to shareholders. As a result, investors in REITs often enjoy attractive dividend yields. Additionally, REITs are exempt from corporate income tax at the federal level, although shareholders are typically subject to income tax on their dividends. The tax treatment of REIT investments can vary by jurisdiction and individual circumstances, so investors need to consult with tax professionals for personalized guidance.

Understanding Direct Participation Programs (DPPs)

Direct Participation Programs (DPPs) represent a distinct avenue for real estate investment, offering investors a more hands-on and specific approach than Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Let’s dive deeper into the various aspects of DPPs:

Definition and Requirements

Direct Participation Programs (DPPs) are investment vehicles that allow individuals to participate directly in specific real estate projects or assets. These programs are typically structured as limited partnerships or limited liability companies (LLCs) and are designed to channel capital into specific real estate ventures. The role of DPPs is to generate income and potential capital gains from the development, acquisition, or operation of specific real estate properties.

Investment Structure

DPPs are structured as limited partnerships or LLCs, distinguishing them from REITs, typically structured as corporations. This structure gives investors a more direct ownership stake in the underlying real estate assets.

Ownership Structure

Investors in a direct participation program are categorized into two main groups:

  1. Limited Partners: Limited partners are passive investors who provide capital to the partnership but do not actively manage the real estate project. They have limited liability and are typically not involved in the day-to-day operations of the investment. Their role is primarily financial, and they share in the partnership’s income, gains, and losses.
  2. General Partners: General partners, on the other hand, are actively involved in managing and operating the real estate project. They assume more significant responsibilities, including decision-making and project management. General partners often have a higher level of risk and liability but also have the potential for greater control and rewards.

Types of DPPs

Direct participation programs (DPPs) encompass a range of investment opportunities, allowing individuals to engage directly in various sectors. Oil and gas programs, real estate, equipment leasing, and business ventures through limited partnerships. These programs often offer investors the potential for cash flow through dividends or distributions generated by the underlying assets.

Moreover, DPPs can provide tax benefits, including deductions related to depreciation, depletion, or intangible drilling costs associated with oil and gas investments. However, advisors and investors must carefully assess each DPP’s risks and rewards. Investors need to consider factors such as market volatility, industry trends, and the management team’s expertise. While DPPs can offer attractive opportunities for diversification and potential returns, they may also lack liquidity and involve long-term commitments, requiring a thorough evaluation of suitability for investors’ portfolios.

The ownership structure in a direct participation program reflects the varying degrees of involvement and risk tolerance among investors. It provides flexibility for those who want to participate actively and those who prefer a more passive role.

Investment Size

DPPs typically require more significant capital commitments compared to REITs. Because investors are directly participating in specific real estate projects, the capital required can vary significantly depending on the nature and scope of the project. This makes DPPs more suitable for potential investors with substantial financial resources or those seeking exposure to more prominent real estate ventures.


One notable difference between DPPs and REITs in the financial industry is the level of diversification. DPPs often focus on real estate projects like development, property, or asset class. Consequently, investors in DPPs may have a more concentrated exposure to a single project or a limited set of assets. This can result in higher risk than the diversified portfolios offered by REITs.


DPPs generally have limited secondary markets for their ownership interests. This means that investors may face challenges when attempting to sell or transfer their ownership stakes in DPPs. The illiquidity of DPP investments can tie up capital for extended periods, which is an essential consideration for investors who may need access to their funds in the short term.

Tax Benefits and Considerations

One of the key advantages of investing in DPPs is the pass-through taxation structure. DPPs do not pay taxes at the entity level. Instead, the DPP’s income, gains, losses, and deductions pass through to individual investors. This can result in potentially favorable tax treatment, as investors report their share of DPP income on their tax returns. Pass-through taxation can lead to tax efficiency and the ability to offset income with deductions related to the investment.

Factors to Consider as Investors When Choosing Between REITs and DPPs

A. Investment Goals and Risk Tolerance: Consider your financial objectives, wealth management, and risk tolerance. REITs may be suitable if you seek a stable income with lower risk. For potential higher returns with higher risk, DPPs might align better.

B. Investment Horizon: Your timeframe matters when doing any type of business. A short-term investor benefits more from REITs for liquidity, while long-term business investors may consider DPPs for potential growth.

C. Available Capital: Assess your financial capacity. DPPs require more substantial investments, whereas REITs offer accessibility with lower capital requirements. You may use alternative investment capital requirements and investor participation rules to see other types of businesses that may align with your interest in business.

D. Desired Involvement: Determine how hands-on you want to be. The benefits of DPPs allow direct control with lesser commitment, while REITs offer a hands-off approach.

E. Tax Considerations: Evaluate tax implications. DPPs offer pass-through taxation, while REITs have their tax advantages. Choose the option that aligns with your tax strategy.

F. Liquidity Needs: Assess your need for immediate access to funds. REITs provide liquidity, while DPPs offer limited liquidity. Consider your comfort with tying up capital.

Key Takeaways

REITs and DPPs offer distinct paths to real estate investment and business, each with advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these differences is crucial for making an informed decision.

At Ranch Investor, we help you choose the right path in the ever-evolving landscape of real estate investments. We’ll help you consider your goals, risk tolerance, and financial situation to make an informed choice between REITs and DPPs. Ultimately taking steps toward achieving your real estate investment objectives.


Do DPPs have higher returns?

DPPs and REITs are real estate investment options but differ in structure and risk. DPPs offer direct ownership in specific projects, potentially yielding higher returns but with greater risk. Conversely, REITs pool investments into diversified real estate portfolios, offering liquidity and income but generally with lower returns. Investors should weigh the risks and returns of each before deciding.

What are the three types of REITs? 

The three REIT types are Equity REITs, which own and operate properties; Mortgage REITs, which invest in mortgages or mortgage-backed securities; and Hybrid REITs, which combine aspects of both.

Do DPPs pay dividends? 

The payment of dividends in DPPs varies based on the investment structure. Some DPPs may pay dividends from generated cash flows, while others may reinvest profits for growth.

What are the different types of DPPs? 

Different types of DPPs include real estate partnerships, oil and gas ventures, equipment leasing programs, business development companies (BDCs), and renewable energy projects.

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