Even as some buyers remain cautious of the real estate market, several best-performing REIT funds posted solid returns over the past five years. While a few REITs bested the S&P 500 in that period, most advisors and their clients would have fared better in broader index funds. 

Clients who are interested in investing in real estate, but don’t want the risk, hassle and illiquidity associated with direct property ownership, may lean toward REIT funds as a starting point, according to a Financial Planning special report. As investors find their way back into the real estate market, here's a look at the top REIT funds.

The following funds are ranked by five-year returns. The data reflects the five years ending April 30.

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Source: Morningstar

10. Nuveen Real Estate Securities I
Ticker: FARCX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.07%
Total Return 1 Year: 13.15%
Total Return 3 Year: 10.66%
Total Return 10 Year: 10.04%
Expense Ratio: 1.05%
Status: Limited

9. AMG Managers Real Estate Securities
Ticker: MRESX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.19%
Total Return 1 Year: 14.52%
Total Return 3 Year: 10.79%
Total Return 10 Year: 9.52%
Expense Ratio: 1.19%
Status: Open

8. Lazard US Realty Equity Open
Ticker: LREOX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.28%
Total Return 1 Year: 11.90%
Total Return 3 Year: 9.95%
Total Return 10 Year: N/A
Expense Ratio: 1.35%
Status: Open

7. American Century Real Estate Inv
Ticker: REACX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.29%
Total Return 1 Year: 14.03%
Total Return 3 Year: 10.42%
Total Return 10 Year: 7.76%
Expense Ratio: 1.14%
Status: Open

6. Phocas Real Estate
Ticker: PHREX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.35%
Total Return 1 Year: 16.42%
Total Return 3 Year: 12.78%
Total Return 10 Year: N/A
Expense Ratio: 1.50%
Status: Open

5. E.I.I. Realty Securities Institutional
Ticker: EIIRX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.75%
Total Return 1 Year: 13.53%
Total Return 3 Year: 10.95%
Total Return 10 Year: 8.95%
Expense Ratio: 0.80%
Status: Open

4. REMS Real Estate Value Opportunity Instl
Ticker: HLRRX
Total Return 5 Year: 13.88%
Total Return 1 Year: 11.70%
Total Return 3 Year: 14.18%
Total Return 10 Year: 10.32%
Expense Ratio: 1.36%
Status: Open

3. Alpine Realty Income & Growth Instl
Ticker: AIGYX
Total Return 5 Year: 14.02%
Total Return 1 Year: 15.79%
Total Return 3 Year: 11.60%
Total Return 10 Year: 6.69%
Expense Ratio: 1.40%
Status: Open

2. PIMCO Real Estate Real Return Strategy A
Ticker: PETAX
Total Return 5 Year: 17.05%
Total Return 1 Year: 16.43%
Total Return 3 Year: 9.47%
Total Return 10 Year: 10.62%
Expense Ratio: 1.14%
Status: Open

1. Baron Real Estate Institutional
Ticker: BREIX
Total Return 5 Year: 19.44%
Total Return 1 Year: 15.79%
Total Return 3 Year:22.25%
Total Return 10 Year: N/A
Expense Ratio: 1.06%
Status: Open

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