As real estate recovers, non-listed REITs are soaring. But they haven't been much of a hit with customers of Merrill Lynch.

Merrill Lynch announced its entry into the space late last year, becoming the first wirehouse to offer non-listed REITs in recent years. And while these equity deals raised nearly $10 billion in the first seven months of 2013, up more than 85% from the year-earlier period, according to the Investment Program Association and Robert A. Stanger & Co., Merrill's activity has lagged, says Keith Allaire, a managing director at Stanger, which provides information and research on direct investments.

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