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Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the REIT Act, creating a new approach to investing in income-producing real estate that combined property investment with stock-based investment. The law was intended to make investment in real estate accessible to a wide array of investors by allowing them to acquire and sell liquid securities, rather than buying properties directly, which until then was the only way to invest in real estate.

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

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