Real Estate Industry: Overview, Types & Examples

Real Estate Indiustry

The real estate industry is a thriving building enterprise. This industry encompasses a wide range of property-related activities, including commercial, residential, agricultural, and industrial property development, leasing, appraisal, marketing, and management. The commercial real estate industry varies with the economy but remains steady since individuals always need homes and businesses always require commercial space.
Here is an overview of the real estate industry.

What is Real Estate?

Real estate is land and improvements such as buildings, furnishings, roads, structures, and utility systems that comprise the real property. Property rights confer ownership of land, improvements, and natural resources such as minerals, plants, animals, water, and so on.

There are many ways a person can go about the different types of properties, and a real estate investment strategy will be the key to their success. Someone interested in buying or selling a property should discuss their options with a knowledgeable, reputable real estate agent.

Types of Real Estate

There are various forms of real estate, each having its own function and utility. The primary categories are as follows:

  • Land
  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial

The descriptions below will be a valuable reference for anyone trying to learn how the industry operates and what each of the major categories represents. All of these have specific rules and regulations that an investor would have to follow, so without this information, they may struggle to grasp the finer details about that particular type.

#1. Land

Land serves as the foundation for all other sorts of real estate. Undeveloped property and vacant ground are commonly referred to as “land.” Developers buy land, combine it with other properties (called assembly), then rezone it in order to improve density and property value.

Rezoning is essential in the process as the developers and owners will have to register the finished project as residential, commercial, or industrial. Developers will approach the local authorities, who will have to approve the planned project and the type before construction can start. Not all land will fall under one specific category, and municipalities will regulate the kind according to the surrounding zones.

#2. Residential

Individuals, families, and groups of people can live in residential real estate. So, this is the most prevalent sort of estate and the asset class with which the majority of people are familiar. Residential living arrangements include single-family homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and other forms of living arrangements.

#3. Commercial

Land and structures utilized by businesses to carry out their operations are referred to as commercial property. So, shopping malls, individual stores, office buildings, parking lots, medical clinics, and hotels are all examples.

#4. Industrial

Industrial real estate includes land and buildings used by industrial businesses for activities such as factories, mechanical manufacturing, research and development, construction, transportation, logistics, and warehousing.

Real Estate Industry

The real estate industry includes the development, appraisal, marketing, selling, leasing, and management of commercial, industrial, residential, and agricultural properties. The real estate industry fluctuates depending on national and local economies, but it remains somewhat consistent because people always need homes, and businesses always need office space.

Some areas could develop rapidly, although this rate could drop as new residents or businesses occupy the space. When the need for more development arises, developers can step in and start a new project to complement the existing infrastructure.

Overview of the Real Estate Industry in the United States

real estate industry
Real Estate Industry Overview Image Credit: Finance Monthly

After the Revolutionary War, when the United States was no longer subject to the rule of England, the federal government sold and granted land to private owners for their own use. This practice was carried on as the country moved westward, most notably with the Homestead Act of 1862, which authorized individual ownership of U.S. land in exchange for maintaining and developing the land for at least five years. Through the Homestead Act, the United States government distributed more than 300 million acres of public land to private landowners, laying the groundwork for the real estate market.

Several shifts happened during the Industrial Revolution’s transformation. For one thing, urban centers grew as people relocated to cities to work in industries. Furthermore, as the United States’ wealth increased through industry, banks and other financial institutions stopped lending only to the wealthy.

As cities grew in size, so did the demand for real estate transactions. Soon, urban sprawl would necessitate the development of suburbs, as well as more housing, town centers, and, eventually, businesses.

So, the real estate industry offers a wide range of careers. Brokers and agents are those that lease and sell real estate. Real estate developers purchase land, construct a property on it, and then sell it to interested parties. Before a property can be sold, its value must be determined by an appraiser. Support personnel, office managers, real estate attorneys, loan officers, and others are also important players in every real estate transaction.

How the Real industry Works

Now that you’ve learned about the various types of real estate, let’s look at how the real estate industry works and what major jobs and careers are available. The industry is divided into six sectors.

#1. Development

Real estate development is the process of purchasing raw land, rezoning, renovation, and construction of buildings, as well as sale or lease of finished products to end-users. Real estate developers end profit by adding value to the land such as creating buildings or improvements or rezoning and taking a risk in financing a project.

#2. Sales and Marketing

Firms that specialize in sales and marketing collaborate with developers to sell the buildings and units that they construct. These companies receive commissions for developing all marketing materials and deploying sales representatives to sell completed units. Firms specializing in sales and marketing place a greater emphasis on new products.

#3. Brokerage

A brokerage is a company that employs a group of real estate brokers or realtors. Real estate agents assist in the facilitation of property transactions between buyers and sellers. One of their responsibilities is to represent either party and assist them in completing the purchase or sale with the finest possible team.

#4. Real Estate Financing

Banks, commercial lenders, credit unions, and government agencies are all examples of lenders. They play a significant role in the commercial real estate industry because all properties and developments rely on debt to fund their operations.

#5. Property Administration

Property management companies assist real estate owners in renting out the flats in their structures. Their responsibilities include collecting rent, correcting faults, conducting repairs, exhibiting units, and managing tenants. They charge property owners a fee that is a proportion of the rent.

People will always require shelter and places to work, and real estate specialists are the ones who assist them in locating homes, commercial spaces, and other properties. There will always be more competition for real estate positions, but there will never be a shortage of opportunities in the commercial real estate industry.

How to Make Money in the Commercial Real Estate Industry

There are a variety of strategies to invest in the commercial real estate industry. Some of the most prevalent ways to invest directly are as follows:

  • Homeownership
  • Property for rent
  • Flipping houses

When you buy physical property (e.g., rental properties or house flipping), you can make money in two ways: revenue from rent or leases and appreciation in the value of the real estate. Unlike other investments, the location of real estate has a significant impact on its value.

Employment rates, the local economy, crime rates, transportation facilities, school quality, municipal services, and property taxes can all influence real estate prices. The best thing a potential investor could do is to evaluate the surrounding areas to see the impact of these factors on other real estate. From there, they can make a more informed decision on whether to invest in a property. They should also weigh the following pros and cons of their investments:


  • Provides a consistent source of income
  • Provides capital appreciation
  • Portfolio diversification
  • Can be purchased with leverage


  • Is typically illiquid
  • Highly local factors have an impact.
  • It necessitates a significant initial investment.
  • Active management and expertise may be required.

You can also invest in real estate indirectly. One of the most popular ways to do so is through a real estate investment trust (REIT)—a company that holds a portfolio of income-producing real estate. REITs are classified into three types: equity, mortgage, and hybrid REITs. REITs are further classified according to how their shares are purchased and sold:

  • Publicly traded REITs
  • Non-traded public REITs
  • Private real estate investment trusts

The most common way to invest in a REIT is to purchase publicly traded shares on an exchange. REITs are particularly liquid and transparent since their shares trade like any other security listed on an exchange (think equities).

REITs, like many stocks, generate income through dividend payments and share appreciation. Aside from individual REITs, you can also invest in real estate mutual funds and real estate exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Mortgage-backed securities

Mortgage-backed securities are another way to invest in real estate (MBS). Because of their role in the mortgage meltdown that triggered a global financial crisis in 2007-08, these received a lot of bad press. MBS, on the other hand, is still in existence and traded.

ETFs are the most accessible way for the average investor to invest in these products. These products, like all investments, carry some level of risk. They may, however, provide portfolio diversification. Investors should look into the holdings to ensure that the funds specialize in investment-grade mortgage-backed securities rather than the subprime variety that played a role in the crisis.

Real Estate Industry FAQ’s

Is real estate the biggest industry?

Yes, Real estate, renting, and leasing is the largest sector of the US economy, accounting for 13% of national GDP with a GDP value-added of $1.898 trillion.

Why is it called real estate?

Real estate became a legal phrase to refer to a royal grant of estate land. The phrase “real estate” was first mentioned in the 1660s, therefore its etymological roots are in Early Modern English. The term “real” is derived from Latin and means “being, actual, or genuine.”

Is there fake estate?

There is no such thing as a “fake estate,” and the only other sort of property that exists is personal property. Anything that is not tied to land is considered personal property, such as a car, a watch, or a slice of pizza.

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