William King, former partner with Goodwin Procter LLP, began his legal career shortly before President Eisenhower signed legislation creating REITs. Since then he has been one of the most instrumental industry professionals and received the NAREIT Industry Achievement Award in 1994 for his efforts.
King remembers that right from the industry's onset, NAREIT became involved in the regulatory, administrative and legislative changes that the industry needed in order to be able to adapt and grow.
"I think the major contribution that NAREIT has made to the industry is its source as an industry-wide voice for administrative, regulatory and legislative changes that have brought the industry to where it is today," King says.
King says that in the early years of REITs there were challenges surrounding how to operate within the parameters of the REIT rules.
Listed REITs have changed the real estate investment landscape by putting professional managers in charge of portfolios of properties that they knew very well, King says.
Having been witness to the industry's evolution over the past five decades it might seem difficult to narrow down the most significant milestones. Not for King, however.
"There are two most important events in the history of the REIT industry. The first was its formation 50 years later, and the second is that we are all here 50 years later," King says.
King adds that the role mortgage REITs have played in the industry's history has been underrated. In fact, King says the inclusion of mortgage REITs in the definition of what assets REITs can own factored in to the successful signing of the legislation in 1960.
"The industry today is best known for the ownership of hard assets, but certainly the industry's history is replete with examples of companies formed for collective investments in mortgages," King says.