They’re back! Maybe not all the way back, but part of the way. Private equity real estate funds raised approximately $45.3 billion in 2010, an increase of $3.6 billion or almost 9 percent over 2009.

While fund raising activities were dampened in prior years by a combination of factors including performance of legacy properties, funds taking everything from huge write-downs and write-offs to mailing back the keys to the lender, vintage capital standing on the sidelines waiting to be invested, investor caution, etc., 2010 marked the return of institutional investors and high net worth individuals to the private real estate funds in search of better relative value, opportunistic investments and the like.

Take-a-way: Do not get your hopes up for outsized returns too much. If there is one lesson investors should have learned from the past few years it is that high returns were as much a consequence of high amounts of leverage as they were due to brilliant real estate decision making. In other words, 15 percent is the new 20 percent.