As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (akin to a "buy" call) or underperform rating (akin to a "sell" call) in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The top 7 real estate high yielders
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the seven four- and five-star-rated real estate stocks that yield 3% or more that have garnered the most outperform ratings by CAPS members. I used a minimum market capitalization of $100 million and the proviso that it must be listed on a major U.S. exchange. Remember, stocks are rated on a five-star scale by our CAPS community, so four- and five-star stocks are consensus outperforms.

Company

 Market Capitalization (in millions)

P/E Ratio

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Outperform Picks

Plum Creek Timber Co. (NYSE: PCL)

$5,570

33.1

4.9%

****

     676

Northstar Realty Finance (NYSE: NRF)

$245

NM

12.6%

****

     648

Chimera (NYSE: CIM)

$3,471

5.5

17.3%

****

     610

CommonWealth REIT (NYSE: CWH)

$1,558

23.2

8.3%

****

     575

Health Care REIT (NYSE: HCN)

$5,724

46.4

6%

****

     393

Resource Capital Corp. (NYSE: RSO)

$310

4.6

16.9%

****

     229

Winthrop Realty Trust (NYSE: FUR)

$291

12.7

4.7%

*****

     222

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. NM = not meaningful.

It's not surprising at all that this list is dominated by real estate investment trusts. These types of companies pay out most of their income as dividends in order to gain favorable tax treatment. The upside is a high yield, the downside is capital inflexibility. Plum Creek Timber, a REIT that (you guessed it) owns and manages timberland, takes top honors with the CAPS voters. 

Which real estate play is your favorite? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. Health Care REIT is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Plum Creek Timber and owns shares of the company. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.