Dividend stocks can be a powerhouse for passive income. Not only do they offer reliable monthly or quarterly income, but the money you make can grow over time. That means investors can supercharge their earnings by investing in high-quality dividend stocks with a history of dividend growth.

If you're on the hunt for reliable dividend-paying stocks and attractive yields, look no further than Realty Income (O -0.17%), Essex Property Trust (ESS -1.58%), and Stag Industrial (STAG -0.87%). Here's a closer look at each company and why three Motley Fool contributors believe they are fantastic buys right now.

O Dividend Yield Chart

O Dividend Yield data by YCharts

After 119 dividend increases, this net lease REIT is still going strong

Liz Brumer-Smith (Realty Income): Realty Income is one of the few real estate investment trusts (REITs) that has raised its dividends consistently for over 25 years. In fact, the stock has increased its monthly dividend payout more than 119 times, growing its total payout by 239% over the last 29 years.

The net lease REIT, which owns and leases over 12,300 mostly retail properties across the United States, the U.K., Spain, and Puerto Rico, has only seen its share price fall by 4.5% since last year. This is impressive considering most other REITs have tumbled by 15% to 25% or more. Its stable performance is undoubtedly thanks to its fantastic track record of dividend growth and alluring yield, which is nearing 5%. Investors saw the stock as an attractive buy for reliability during market volatility.

The company is coming off a fantastic year. Its record acquisition spend from 2020 to 2022 grew its portfolio by 83% and helped supercharge its earnings. Last year its net income jumped 63% for the full year and its funds from operations (FFO) per share (a key metric that illustrates a REITs profitability) rose by 20% year over year.

Its expansionary efforts not only grew its portfolio, but diversified it, too. Realty Income now owns a mix of industrial real estate and a casino with its retail portfolio accounting for roughly 81% of its annual income. And its growth isn't over. The company is well positioned financially, with an A credit rating, roughly $1.7 billion of cash and cash equivalents for further expansionary efforts. It is already working on the acquisition of 185 net lease retail properties and projects to spend another $5 billion on expansionary efforts this year.

Its well-covered dividend, growth opportunities, and fantastic track record of dividend raises make Realty Income a dividend powerhouse worth stocking up on.

Essex Property Trust offers decades of dividend growth on sale

Marc Rapport (Essex Property Trust): Now's a good time to pay active attention to some passive income plays that have long records of payout growth and the portfolios to keep pumping out the profits.

Among that number can be included Essex Property Trust, a REIT with a collection of 253 apartment communities offering about 62,000 units of high-end rental options in the desirable Southern California, Silicon Valley, and Seattle markets.

This chart shows how sharply the market has punished Essex stock first during the pandemic shutdowns and then again as rising inflation and interest rates launched the latest bear market. Concerns about the ability to continue growing rent revenue as layoffs hit the workforce of the high-paying, high-tech markets inhabited by Essex only exacerbated this stock's slump.

ESS Chart

ESS data by YCharts

But the chart also shows in stepladder fashion how trustworthy this trust has been about growing its payouts over the past 10 years, adding to its record of 29 straight years of dividend increases.

Essex executives also point out that its core markets still have some of the better job growth rates in the country and some of the highest home prices, and that it still expects to be able to raise rents by a modest 2% or so this year.

That should provide the continuing revenue to keep the dividends flowing and growing, and at a beaten-down price, this reliable REIT could indeed be a very good buy, especially among income stocks.

Stag Industrial offers investors solid dividends and a stable rent base

Kristi Waterworth (Stag Industrial): My portfolio is made up of a lot of what I like to call "unsexy stocks." These are mostly REITs in industries that no one notices, ever, until they need them. I love them because they give me no trouble, and they tend to fly under the radar, keeping stock prices relatively low and dividends relatively high.

One of my favorite passive income powerhouses is industrial REIT Stag Industrial. This industrial REIT makes its money by acquiring and leasing buildings to companies that need structures for massive warehousing, distribution centers, and the like. Most of their buildings are rented to a single massive tenant, rather than many small tenants.

Although single-tenant buildings can pose additional risks for whole buildings going vacant at once, the tenants Stag has are some of the more reliable tenants. Some of its top tenants include Amazon, American Tire Distributors, Lippert Component Manufacturing, FedEx, and Iron Mountain; these are not unreliable tenants by any means.

In fact, by the end of 2022, Stag Industrial's tenants had re-signed 66 new leases with an average term of 4.7 years for a total of 7.8 million square feet. The past year saw a 71% tenant retention rate, as well as 35 new leases with an average of 5.9 years for a total of 4.3 million square feet.

Of the 26 new buildings acquired in 2022, Stag is seeing an average capitalization rate of 5.6% for leases with an average term of 6.6 years. It also has an additional 131 buildings totaling 20.4 million additional square feet in the pipeline.

Despite the apparent spending spree, the company has increased dividends again for 2023, to $0.1225 per share per month, from $0.1217 per share per month in 2022. This takes its dividend yield to 4.32% as of March 1, 2023. The stock is still down over 20% off its March 2022 high of $42.22, making it a great buy for passive income investors.