Many of the largest REIT ETFs track the same batch of companies, including Simon Property (NYSE: SPG), Public Storage (NYSE: PSA) and Ventas (NYSE: VTR), so factors such as fees and yield take on added importance. VNQ has annual of just 0.1% compared to 0.35% for IYR. Over the past year, the Vanguard fund has outpaced its iShares rival by 230 basis points.

Small-cap REITs are also worth considering. The IndexIQ Small-Cap Real Estate ETF (NYSEArca: ROOF) has surged 20.4% in the past year and has a trailing 12-month yield of 4.61%.

Vanguard REIT Index ETF

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.