Real estate performance continues to rise.

U.S. REITs are outpacing most other equity indexes in early 2015, according to the latest figures from the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

In the first quarter, for instance, the FTSE NAREIT All REITs Index, had a total return of about 4.2%, and the FTSE NAREIT All Equity REITs Index delivered returns of 4% in the three-month period.

That beat the S&P 500’s nearly 1% total return, as well as the 0.3% return of the Dow Jones industrial average and the 3.5% return of the Nasdaq. It didn’t, however, top the Russell 2000’s total return of 4.3%.

U.S. REITs’ dividend yield also outperformed the dividend yield of the S&P 500 in the quarter: The FTSE NAREIT All REITs Index had a dividend yield of 3.8% vs. 2.0% for the S&P 500.

“REITs have a well-established track record of delivering competitive total return performance to their shareholders,” said NAREIT President and CEO Steven A. Wechsler, in a statement. “Their strong dividends are an important component of their total return performance. REIT dividend income has accounted for approximately 60% of total returns over longer holding periods.”

Year to date – including returns through Thursday — the FTSE NAREIT All REITs Index has total returns of roughly 2.5% vs. 2.1% for the S&P 500 and 0.8% for the Dow Jones. The Nasdaq, though, has risen about 5%. (Digital Realty Trust (DLR), for instance, traded up about 2% year to date on Friday.)

Sector Stats

Self-storage REITs were the top sector performer in Q1 with total returns of 9.2%. Manufactured homes weren’t too far behind with an 8.9% gain.

The residential REIT sector improved 7.9%, and apartments were up 7.8%

Office REITs delivered a 6.7% total return in the period. The retail sector increased 5.8%, with regional malls up 5.8% and shopping centers up 5.1%.

While diversified REITs ticked up 4%, health care REITs moved up 3%. On the downside, infrastructure, timber, and lodging & resorts REITs declined 0.4%, 3.9% and 4.4%, respectively, on a total-return basis.

Stock exchange listed REITs raised a total of $22.1 billion in public capital in the first quarter of 2015 vs. $11.2 billion a year ago.

The debt ratio (total debt divided by total market capitalization) of the FTSE NAREIT All REITs Index was 40.2%, while the debt ratio of the FTSE NAREIT All Equity REITs Index was 33.5%.

— Check out Have REITs Peaked? on ThinkAdvisor.