Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into lawthe REIT Act, creating a new approach to investing inincome-producing real estate that combined property investment withstock-based investment. The law was intended to make investment inreal estate accessible to a wide array of investors by allowingthem to acquire and sell liquid securities, rather than buyingproperties directly, which until then was the only way to invest inreal estate.

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On Sept 15, 1960, the day after the act was signed into law, theNational Association of Real Estate Investment Funds—now known asthe National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts—wasformed. Within that first year, a handful of REITs made theirmarket debut, including Bradley Real Estate Investors, ContinentalMortgage Investors, First Mortgage Investors, First Union RealEstate (now Winthrop Realty Trust), Pennsylvania REIT andWashington REIT. Within four years, one REIT—Continental MortgageInvestors—made it onto the New York Stock Exchange, and by 1969,the concept had gone global with REIT legislation being signed inEurope.

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Today, there are some 150 public REITs that trade on various USstock exchanges, 134 of which on the NYSE. Whereas the market wascomprised primarily of mortgage REITs in its early years, themajority of trusts today are equity based. Listed REITs in thenation today account for a $350-billion equity marketcapitalization, with an average daily trading volume of $3.3billion as of October. Unlisted REITs manage more than $70 billionand offshore REITs and listed property firms account for another$700 billion or more.

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If you weren’t keeping count, that’s a global REIT investmentuniverse of more than $1 trillion.

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Like the REIT universe itself, Washington, DC-based NAREIT hasgrown in size and evolved to represent much more than it did half acentury ago, yet without altering its mission to preserve andpromote the REIT approach to real estate investment. In providing aglobal voice to the REIT industry, the organization works to ensurethat policy makers “know and understand the benefits of REIT-basedreal estate investing and that the investment community betterunderstands the basis for investing in real estate through trusts,”says NAREIT’s president and chief executive officer, Steven A.Wechsler...

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