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 (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") 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 No. 1 real estate play
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the No. 1 real estate stock (as well as the top runners-up) based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Only stocks rated four or five-stars -- recipients of our community's staunchest support -- are included.

Company

Market Capitalization
(in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

LoopNet (Nasdaq: LOOP)

   $330

   1,703

****

Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL)

   $3,220

   722

****

Plum Creek Timber (NYSE: PCL)

   $5,600

   668

****

Northstar Realty Finance (NYSE: NRF)

   $265

   648

****

Chimera (NYSE: CIM)

   $3,420

   585

****

Rait Financial Trust (NYSE: RAS)

   $125

   412

****

Health Care REIT (NYSE: HCN)

   $5,570

   391

****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

More CAPS members think commercial real estate website LoopNet is a buy than any other real estate-related stock, including the popular REITs. Do you think it deserves to be the No. 1 buy? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Not feeling talkative? Just head over to CAPS to do further research on any of these popular stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. Jones Lang Lasalle is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. LoopNet is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Health Care REIT is a Income Investor pick. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Plum Creek Timber. The Fool has a disclosure policy.