In this Sept. 24, 2007 file photo, a "for rent" sign is posted outside a home in Denver. Real estate data firm Zillow reports on U.S. home rental prices in January 2015 on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
In this Sept. 24, 2007 file photo, a "for rent" sign is posted outside a home in Denver.  Real estate data firm Zillow reports on U.S. home rental prices in January 2015 on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
In this Sept. 24, 2007 file photo, a “for rent” sign is posted outside a home in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(CNN Money) – Real estate has been one of the best performing assets since President Obama took office.

No, we’re not talking about regular people’s homes. The biggest gains have come from so-called real estate investment trusts — REITs for short.

REITs are companies that own a lot of different properties. Some REITs specialize in just one type of real estate (think apartments in California) while others own a bunch of different kinds of property such as hospitals, office buildings and malls. They make their money much like any landlord does — by collecting rent.

Investors have gobbled up REITs since 2009 for three reasons:

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