Despite some signs of recovery in recent months, the U.S. real estate market remains soft. For example, housing starts increased in 2012 from 2011, but just barely, with the difference being only a mere 300 or so more new residential construction projects. Home sales actually fell 7.3 percent in December from November, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and they were worth only about half what they were before the housing market crashed in 2008. But, while these may not be encouraging signs for home owners or real estate brokers, they add up to opportunities for investors, who are eyeing multifamily homes and some types of commercial properties, including nursing homes and shopping centers, with particular glee. Private equity firms, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and strategic buyers are all taking advantage of the depressed state of the real estate market to gobble up properties, with the pace of dealmaking accelerating quickly.

"Since January, there has been an avalanche of capital and a stampede of players into the market who had been on the sidelines licking their wounds from deals done in 2007," says Matt Galligan, president of CIT Real Estate Finance.

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