Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, don't always get a lot of respect. Even though savvy real-estate investing is a proven means of building considerable wealth, REITs are often relegated to the "other" or "miscellaneous" category of most investment books, shows, and magazines. That is, of course, until they go on one of their periodic runs and briefly become the rediscovered darlings of Wall Street before fading away again.

Over the long haul, though, well-run REITs can provide investors with solid cash flow and a good hedge against the vagaries of other types of stock. What's more, the best REITs -- at least, those that actually own real estate -- also give investors exposure to the gradual but consistent appreciation in real estate that stems from the fact that nobody is making more land these days -- Japan's artificial island-building aside.

That's an admittedly long introduction for American Financial Realty Trust (NYSE:AFR), a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation and a REIT that specializes in owning properties tied to the banking industry.

First-quarter results were pretty solid. Revenue doubled while adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) climbed 13% by the company's calculations. Funds from operations (FFO), though, declined 27% as calculated by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts' standard definition of the term, and 11% by the company's definition.

Through April, the company had acquired 22 properties at a total of $237 million while selling 43 properties for more than $33 million. The company also announced a sale of shares to units of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Wachovia (NYSE:WB), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) potentially totaling more than 19.2 million shares.

There's a lot to like about AFR's basic business model. While the banking industry increasingly consolidates, the number of branches continues to rise, slowly but steadily.

What's more, I don't believe there are any compellingly critical risks to the company's basic business model. Yes, the company garners a lot of its income from just a few sources --Bank of America, Wachovia, and State Street (NYSE:STT) -- but I find it unlikely that any of those banks will collapse and/or renege on their leases. What's more, bank branches are not generally located in the boondocks, so if a lessee goes under, AFR should be able to sell that property for a fair price relatively easily.

That's not to say that AFR is a risk-free way to reap a 7%-plus dividend. The company has a hefty debt load, and the ratio of price to FFO seems a bit high to this Fool. Investors with some risk tolerance can chalk that up as the trade-off for an above-average dividend. Although I'd prefer to see less debt and a cheaper valuation, I really do like what AFR does. This could be an intriguing opportunity for more risk-tolerant income investors.

Read these Foolish takes on AFR and other REITs, ASAP:

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).