A couple of distinctions.
First, if you were to "invest in real estate" were you planning to buy a home to live in, or buy a home to rent out to someone else? Buying a home as a primary residence really isn't "investing in real estate" per se. It's buying a place to live rather than renting one. Unless you rent a room out or get a multi-family unit, your primary residence won't be income-producing. It will be income-draining, for the most part. I speak as a homeowner.
Second, if you are buying to rent out to someone else, buying a single home is quite a bit different than buying an REIT. The home is a lot less liquid, the transaction costs are higher, and all of your eggs are in one basket. Having said that, though, if you buy one right and do your homework it can set you on the road for a very comfortable retirement.