The Three Different Property Categories in Real Estate Investing

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One of the more common myths about real estate investing is that for the average investor, it’s largely lopsided in the way potential investors view their options in the real estate market. While real estate is the world’s largest asset class, most novice investors, who make up the majority of the real estate investing class, largely favor investing in the residential real estate segment. In other words, they do not fully appreciate multiple real estate investment categories.

“One of the questions that generally first arises is: Exactly what sorts of property can be invested in? Is real estate investment just about flipping houses?”

Topouzis & Associates, P.C., 2022

No, it’s not. Real estate investment is about a lot more than merely “flipping houses”. Real estate investment, in today’s day and age, is about portfolio diversification, hedging risk, purchasing REITs, leasing several adjoined units and becoming the Airbnb property manager, etc. There are plenty of ways real estate investors can earn a positive ROI outside of “buying low, selling high”. Historically and still commonly today, real estate investing has been segregated into three primary categories.

1. Residential Real Estate

Flipping houses is undoubtedly considered to be under the residential real estate umbrella. However, there is far more to it than that. Other types of property included in this category are condos, townhouses, and free-standing homes (Topouzis & Associates, P.C., 2022). Fundamentally, this is where people want to live, rather than work. Here’s an undoubtably interesting fact for real estate investors. If you have a rental property extend beyond four units in size – which causes it to be considered apartments – at which point the property becomes classified as Commercial Real Estate (CRE).

2. Commercial Real Estate (CRE)

In essence, this is the type of property where businesses are located. These locations are generally in large metropolitan areas, or places where potential customers can frequent. Commercial Real Estate (CRE), up until COVID at bare minimum, has seen a rapid acceleration of investment. Furthermore, multifamily residential units that have 4 plus units are considered in the CRE sub-sector of real estate investing. When you factor in alternative, more complex ways investors get into the CRE market (PropTech, REIGs, REITs, etc.), you’ll notice there is a tremendous amount of room to make a profit.

3. Industrial Real Estate

This class of real estate can be described as the kind of property where industrial “behind the scenes” elements of business get done. These locations are usually not “open” to customers in the conventional sense. Though generally there’s no prohibition against the occasional customer visitation. This third and final category of real estate investment includes areas such as warehouses, plants, factories, and shipment facilities.

It’s critical to understand that each category will have a different investing approach. As an example, at times the residential real estate market was doing well, the CRE market plummeted. Novice real estate investors are best starting off here, at the first point of understanding the three different categories. Which category do you want to invest in? Why? Have you thought about the alternatives? Make sure you not only understand what real estate class is for you, but make sure you review the broad array of financial instruments available in each of those categories.