We examine financing, investment and investment performance in the equity REIT sector over the 1981–1999 time period. Analysis reveals significant differences between the old-REIT (1981–1992) and new-REIT (1993–1999) eras. The sector experienced rapid growth in the new-REIT era, primarily from firm-level investment as opposed to new entry. Firm-level investment was largely financed by equity and long-term debt, with little reliance on retained earnings. Financing policy stabilized in the new-REIT era, and capital structures became more complex. We find that REITs provided returns over and above their cost of capital, where most of the value-added investment occurred in the new-REIT era by newer firms. Finally, we present novel evidence on IPO activity and new firm investment–investment performance relations that is consistent with Tobin's q theory of investment.