About REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) were created in the 60s so that all investors would have access to income-producing real estate through the purchase and sale of liquid securities. Before REITs were created access to investment returns of commercial real estate equity was only available to institutions and wealthy individuals.
For over half a century, REITs have become an important part of the United States economy and investment markets. United States REITs have grown from ninety billion dollars to over three hundred billion dollars in the past decade and they have gained popularity all over the world.
During their early years, mortgage Real Estate Investment Trust dominated the industry, providing debt financing for commercial or residential properties through investments in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Interest in equity REITs which own and manage commercial properties was limited because of the requirements that ownership and management of assets remain separate. This restriction was lifted with the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 which allowed REITs to both own and manage properties. Now, more than 90% of publicly traded United States REITs are equity REITs that own and manage commercial real estate. Most of their income is derived from rents owned by companies across the nation.
There are certain guidelines and standards in place that must be followed in order for a company to qualify as a REIT in the US. The Internal Revenue Code requires at least seventy five percent of total assets be invested in real estate which realize at least seventy five percent of its gross income from rents from real property or interest from mortgages. They must also distribute at least ninety percent of taxable income to shareholders annually in the form of dividends.