There's no doubt about it: real estate has taken a beating in the nation's latest economic crisis. Housing prices plunged and in some regions are continuing to slump. Malls across the country still sport a lot of plywood sheets where there used to be shiny plate glass windows. And, in some cities, like the insurance industry capital of Hartford, Conn., entire downtown office complexes are still standing empty.

Yet amid this economic and physical wreckage, many Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have managed to perform quite well, and in some cases have turned in stellar performances, particularly in the last two years.

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