Real estate investing comes in many shapes and forms. If you are getting started in real estate, it's helpful to understand the different types of real estate investments so you can determine which type of real estate is best for you. This article will help you understand the three types of real estate and the most common ways to invest in them.
Residential real estate
Residential properties are one of the most popular types of real estate to invest in with multiple types of houses to be aware of. This includes any property that is used for residential purposes, including:
- Single-family homes
- Cooperative housing (a co-op)
- Individual mobile homes (not an entire mobile home park)
Residential real estate is a common starting point for aspiring real estate investors because it has a lower cost of entry and can be easier to obtain financing for than commercial real estate. Through government-assisted loan programs, like those from the FHA or VA, or by utilizing down-payment assistance programs, residential properties can be purchased with a down payment of as little as 3% to 10% of the property's purchase price, making it a more accessible investing option.
Ways to invest in residential real estate
There are a wide variety of methods for investing in residential real estate. Some choose to "fix and flip" the property -- treating it as a short-term investment in which they add value for a profit by renovating and selling it. Others choose to make long-term investments in residential real estate by buying a property for cash flow and holding it as a rental property.
Those are two of the more common methods, but there are other ways to invest in residential real estate, including vacation homes, wholesaling, crowdfunding, or mortgage notes.
While you can buy a residential property solely as an investment, there is also the option to turn your primary residence into an investment by renting out extra space such as a room or mother-in-law suite. Depending on the type of loan you have and how long you've resided in the property, you might be able to turn the entire home into a rental after moving into a new primary residence.
Commercial real estate (CRE)
Commercial real estate (CRE) is the second most common type of real estate to invest in. Commercial real estate is any property that is used primarily for business purposes and includes:
- Office space
- Hotel and lodging
- Self-storage or mini-storage
- Multifamily (e.g., apartment complexes) properties
- Retail (e.g., strip malls, shopping malls, or individual retail spaces) properties
- Industrial (e.g., warehouses, manufacturing buildings, or data centers) buildings
- Health care (e.g., hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, or senior care facilities) facilities
- Special purposes (e.g., church, car wash, or museum)
Oftentimes, commercial property is more expensive than residential real estate or vacant land. Most commercial lenders require a minimum of 20% down, although other types of CRE loans, such as a small business loan (SBA), provide financing with as little as 10% to 15% down.
For new real estate investors, the higher up-front cost can make it a less popular investment strategy. That said, there are ways to invest with less money up front, such as crowdfunding or real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Ways to invest in commercial real estate
Most investors purchase commercial real estate to generate cash flow by renting out the unit(s). Some CRE property types have multiple rental units available; for instance, multi-unit office buildings, self-storage facilities, retail strip malls, or multifamily apartment complexes. Others are single-unit rental properties such as an industrial building, a daycare, a single rental office, or a retail space.
Managing multiple rental units can be more complicated than owning and managing single ones. Below are some of the common ways investors can participate or invest in commercial real estate:
REITs and crowdfunding are more passive forms of CRE investment as they do not require the participating investor to manage or own the property themselves. For those who have more time or funds available, buying, managing, and owning your own commercial property might be an option.
Each type of commercial property is managed, leased, and analyzed in a slightly different manner. Pricing for properties differs depending on the income it produces, and some asset classes provide a higher return on investment than others. Before investing in CRE, do your own due diligence to understand both the property type and the intricacies of investing in that asset class.