Reliability is a value investors shouldn't take lightly. Dividend stocks like real estate investment trusts (REITs) have become well known for their reliability, providing a passive income stream and dependable returns during times of high volatility. 

Realty Income (O -0.42%), Mid-America Apartment Communities (MAA -1.83%), and Welltower (WELL -0.64%) are three fantastic REITs that rarely go on sale. If you didn't buy in the latest market dip, here's a closer look at these dependable dividend stocks and why these three Motley Fool contributors believe they are great buys for the next market dip.

Dividend record that's hard to beat

Liz Brumer-Smith (Realty Income): When it comes to dependability, few REITs can compete with Realty Income. The net lease REIT, which owns and leases a wide range of commercial properties across the globe, is a Dividend Aristocrat, meaning it's raised its dividends consistently for over 25 years. It's also one of the few REITs that pay dividends monthly. 

The company has an absolutely massive portfolio of over 11,400 properties, with a tremendous balance sheet and plenty of capital to help it continue growing. Plus, its track record can't be beaten. The company has been in business for over 53 years. It's lived through several recessions and, despite the ups and downs of the markets, managed to come out ahead -- providing an annualized return of 14% for the past 25 years.

Its diverse tenant base includes large Fortune 500 companies in over 72 industries. The diversification of its portfolio's assets, its locations, and the industries its tenant serves give it the upper hand in times of volatility. Right now its dividend yield is just under 4%, which is below its historical average but still two times higher than the S&P 500.

Mid-America Apartment Communities adds value to grow FFO

Kristi Waterworth (Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc): Dividends make the world go 'round, at least for some investors. These cash-paying stocks can be a great way to round out a portfolio, or they can be the meat and potatoes of your holdings. And right now, many dividend-paying REITs are on sale big time. One super-reliable residential REIT that's still on discount in the market dip is Mid-America Apartment Communities.

Throughout 2022, Mid-America Apartment Communities has continued to generate increased revenues from its apartment units. It's not doing this just by raising the rents, and that's what really has my attention. Instead of simply raising rents to follow the market and doing nothing else, Mid-America Apartment Communities is continually reinvesting in its units. During second-quarter 2022 alone, it completed the redevelopment of 1,844 apartments, which generated rental rate increases of 11% over non-renovated units.

So far, 2,942 units have been renovated this year, at an average cost of $5,364 per unit, yielding an increase of $142 per month, per unit, average rent. Mid-America Apartment Communities expects these renovations to deliver yields on average of 8% overall. It has plans to complete at least 10,000 more units this year, which should make for a really green 2023, in the most financial of senses.

A wise investor would wonder if all this spending is taking a toll on this company's ability to pivot as needed. But as of June 30, 2022 reporting, its current debt to adjusted asset rate is just 29.4%. This is a reasonable, and perhaps even low, rate of debt considering the widespread investments Mid-America Apartment Communities is making across the U.S., including new apartment developments in Orlando and Denver, and a community acquisition in Tampa.

For the three-month period ending June 30, 2022, it saw just over a 20% increase in core funds from operations (FFO) over the period the prior year, and a nearly 10% increase in funds available for distribution. That took core FFO from $199.7 million to $239.9 million, and funds available for distribution from $132.2 million to $145.2 million.

A senior housing REIT that didn't miss a beat through the pandemic

Mike Price (Welltower): Welltower was in one of the toughest real estate businesses to be in when the pandemic struck. It is a healthcare REIT that specializes in senior housing. The senior population was hit the hardest by the virus, and Welltower's occupancy rates were hit hard in turn. It still didn't miss a single dividend payment, and, in fact, hasn't missed one in 205 consecutive quarters.

Today, the dividend yield is around 3%, and that will likely go up soon. Funds from operations (FFO) were up 8.9% in the latest quarter, driven by same-store sales growth of 11.5%. The pandemic isn't over, but the vaccines and improvements in treatment have made it unlikely that the pandemic will materially affect Welltower's business going forward the way it did in 2020.

That means we can focus on the long-term secular trends powering Welltower's business. In the five years from 2015 to 2019, its revenue grew 33%. The pandemic took a big bite out of that growth, but revenue in the last 12 months is already back above where it was in 2019. The trend of baby boomers retiring and then eventually needing long-term care will only accelerate the growth and pricing power at Welltower's existing facilities.

According to a recent investor report, the population of seniors needing housing is going up, the wealth they have to pay for housing is going up, and the inventory of properties is going down. It all spells likely future growth in revenue, which will make its way down the income statement into dividends and into your pockets as an investor.

The question we should be asking about all REITs as interest rates rise is: What is the debt picture? The REIT has $14.8 billion in total debt, with around $2.6 billion due by the end of 2025. Much of that debt has a fixed rate, and the REIT uses interest rate swaps when necessary to fix the rate of variable rate debt. None of the debt has a current rate of over 6.50%.