The National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF) is a non-profit trade association for pension funds and other tax-exempt investors in real estate created to aggregate and report accurate, unbiased real estate return data.
One of the many data series they provide is the NCREIF Property Returns Index reporting quarterly performance in both property value and operating income for more than 6,800 commercial properties having a combined value in excess of $283 billion. A description of the index and the quarterly can be found here. This series is perhaps the best proxy for U.S. commercial real estate performance.
In the past 10 years, average annual return of the index was 7.73 percent, with a combined 13.56 percent total return (property value change and operating income) in 2011. While some of the properties are leveraged using debt, the index is calculated as if all properties were unlevered.
Commercial real estate was one of the top investment performers in 2011. In the past decade, the total return was more than 117 percent—a more than doubling of the original investment.
Click here for a look at all of the NCREIF data series (including timberland).