A record number of non-traded real estate investment trusts were launched in 2009, adding 12 new REITs to the universe of 36, independent research firm Blue Vault Partners announced this week.

Companies introducing the REITs are hoping to capitalize on investors’ appetite for commercial real estate stocks, the Atlanta-based firm, which focuses on the real estate investment securities market, said in a release.

“In the non-traded REIT world, 2009 was a year of great change as a record number of new products, 12 to be exact, were launched, the most since the industry was founded 20 years ago,” Blue Vault managing partner Vee Kimbrell said in a statement.

Through December 31, the non-traded REIT industry comprised 30 open and effective programs and 18 programs closed to new investments, with estimated total assets under management of $68 billion, Blue Vault reported in its first-time study, “Non-traded REIT Industry Review – 4Q 2009 Report.”

The top five effective non-traded REITs ranked in order of total assets were:

? Wells Real Estate Investment Trust II, Inc. – $5,374.1 million

? CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc. – $2,672.1 million

? Healthcare Trust of America, Inc. – $1,673.5 million

? Corporate Property Associates 17 – Global, Inc. – $1,067.9 million

? CB Richard Ellis Realty Trust – $1,059.0 million

Non-traded REITs are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as publicly registered stock offerings, but sales of their shares are managed by registered financial advisors rather than stock exchanges. Assets under management for non-traded REITs represent 20% of the total market capitalization for all publicly registered REITs, according to Blue Vault.