Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are designed to pass cash on to investors, so getting a quarterly check from one isn't exactly shocking. However, there are some REITs that go one step further, paying you more each quarter than they paid before. Even a monthly paycheck isn't likely to pull that one off. Here's why you might want to look at Realty Income (NYSE:O), W.P. Carey (NYSE:WPC), and relatively young Alpine Income Property Trust (NYSE:PINE) and their growing quarterly dividends.

1. Not just quarterly

Realty Income, with a portfolio of more than 10,000 properties, is the largest net lease REIT and a bellwether in the space. Net lease means that the REIT owns the properties, but its tenants are responsible for most of the costs of the assets they occupy. Given adequate diversification, it's generally considered a low-risk approach to investing in real estate. Realty Income has increased its dividend annually for over 25 consecutive years, making it a Dividend Aristocrat

A person looking at a paycheck in front of a computer.

Image source: Getty Images.

However, within that streak is another one: Realty Income has increased its dividend quarterly for 96 consecutive quarters. Dividend 96 by 4, and you come up with 24 years of quarterly increases. Wouldn't it be nice if your paycheck did that?

But that's not all there is to like about Realty Income's dividend, because it is also paid monthly, which really makes the dividend seem like a paycheck replacement. And there's no sign of the company slowing down, either, given its investment-grade-rated balance sheet and historically low dividend yield of roughly 4.2%.

While that low yield suggests that Realty Income isn't cheap today, it also means that the company has access to cheap equity capital to fund future growth. That's a huge benefit, combined with cheap debt financing, and one that will help to keep it at the forefront of the net lease sector for years to come. All in, if you don't mind paying for quality, Realty Income should be on your dividend payer short list.

2. Diversification, diversification, diversification 

For some, the only notable problem with Realty Income might be its heavy emphasis on retail assets, which make up around 80% of its portfolio. That's not odd in the net lease space, but diversification is good for your portfolio, and its good for a REIT's portfolio as well.

This is where W.P. Carey comes in, given that its around 1,300 properties are spread across the industrial (25% of rents), warehouse (24%), office (21%), retail (17%), and self-storage sectors (5%), with a fairly large "other" category to round things out. On top of that, 37% of its rents come from outside the U.S., a category that only accounts for around 10% or so of Realty Income's rent roll (mostly retail). 

Far from being a simple matter of portfolio management, W.P. Carey's diversification has paid dividends for shareholders because it allows the REIT to put its money to work in an opportunistic manner. Essentially, it has the flexibility to invest in five sectors across two continents when many of its peers lock into just one sector in North America. 

W.P. Carey has raised its quarterly dividend every year since it went public in 1998, putting it on the cusp of joining Realty Income as a Dividend Aristocrat. And, equally exciting, it has a long history of increasing its dividend on a quarterly basis, just like its larger competitor. Now add in the more generous 5.3% yield, and dividend investors who were reluctant to buy Realty Income because of its yield might find W.P. Carey more to their liking.

O Dividend Yield Chart

O Dividend Yield data by YCharts

3. Growth is the big story

The thing with both Realty Income and W.P. Carey is that they are large, mature REITs that only grow their dividends slowly: think low- to mid-single digits over time, at most. Enter relatively tiny Alpine, with a minuscule $200 million market cap.

The company's IPO was in late 2019, meaning that it got started at a pretty awful time, given the 2020 pandemic headwinds. However, starting in the final quarter of 2020, it began to increase its dividend each quarter. Like Realty Income, it's predominantly a retail net lease REIT. However, thanks to its small size, it should be able to grow relatively quickly. And that should translate into faster dividend growth.

For example, the most recent increase was 5.9% over the previous quarterly payment. However, if you go back to the start of 2021, the increase was a far more impressive 12.5%. 

To be fair, there's much greater risk here, given the still small size of the portfolio (less than 100 properties) and the potential conflicts that come with an eternal management structure (it is managed by CTO Realty Growth but plans to transition to self-management at some point in the future). However, so far, it appears to be moving in a great direction that dividend growth investors will appreciate. And there are years of growth ahead when you compare the REIT's portfolio to Realty Income's over 10,000 properties.

That, however, doesn't mean you won't get rewarded now, given that it offers a hefty 5.6% dividend yield. If slow and steady isn't your speed, perhaps fast-growing Alpine will be.

You should find one to your liking

If you are looking for a paycheck-like dividend payment, Realty Income, W.P. Carey, and net lease newcomer Alpine should all be on your short list. They might appeal to different types of investors, but all three have a history of not only paying quarterly but also of boosting their dividends quarterly. That's a positive trend that's hard to ignore.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.