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Investing in commercial real estate is a strategic move that can yield substantial profits. However, to make the most of this venture, it’s crucial to understand the different types of commercial properties available in the market.

This guide will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the eight main types of commercial real estate properties – their characteristics, advantages, and potential pitfalls, helping you make informed decisions that align with your investment goals. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just starting out, this comprehensive guide will equip you with valuable insights to navigate the dynamic world of commercial real estate.

Different types of commercial real estate

When it comes to investing in commercial real estate, diversity is the name of the game. Each property type not only offers a unique set of benefits and challenges but also serves a distinct segment of the market. Understanding these differences is key to identifying which opportunities align best with your investment strategy.

The following is an overview of each of the eight types of commercial real estate, including its unique characteristics and considerations for investors.

Office buildings and spaces

Office buildings and spaces come in a wide variety of forms, from large conference rooms to intimate meeting spaces. They can be classified into three categories – Class A, B, and C, based on factors like aesthetics, age, amenities, and infrastructure. The perfect suburban office space often includes elements such as open space, good lighting, heating/cooling systems, connectivity, and a kitchen/dining area.

Retail properties

Retail properties house businesses that sell goods and services directly to consumers. These can range from small neighborhood shopping centers to large regional malls. Location, size, and the quality of the tenant mix are key factors that determine the value and performance of retail properties.

Industrial properties

Industrial properties are used for manufacturing, production, distribution, and storage of goods. They can include everything from warehouses and distribution centers to factories and assembly plants. These properties are typically located outside of urban areas, close to major transportation routes.

Multifamily properties

Multifamily properties consist of buildings designed to house multiple families in separate housing units. These can include apartments, condos, townhouses, and other residential complexes. The value of multifamily properties is largely driven by the rental income they generate.

Hospitality and hotel properties

These properties are in the business of providing accommodations, meals, and other services to travelers. They include hotels, motels, resorts, and bed-and-breakfasts. The performance of hospitality properties is closely tied to the health of the travel and tourism industry.

Healthcare and medical facilities

Healthcare and medical facilities include hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, and specialized medical centers. These properties are characterized by their high-tech infrastructure and strict regulatory requirements.

Special purpose

Special purpose properties are uniquely designed for a specific use that is not easily convertible to other uses. These can include churches, schools, and government buildings. The value of these properties is largely determined by the specific demand for their unique use.


Land refers to undeveloped property or vacant land. The value of land is influenced by its location, size, topography, and potential for development or agricultural use.

Emerging commercial real estate properties and trends

As we navigate through 2023 and into 2024, several emerging trends are reshaping the commercial real estate landscape. From the significant decrease in commercial real estate investment to the growing incorporation of technology, the sector is undergoing a transformation driven by evolving business practices and consumer behaviors.

These shifts are creating new opportunities while also presenting unique challenges for investors. Let’s delve into some key trends and their implications for different types of commercial properties:

Embracing sustainable and green properties

The trend towards sustainability and climate change mitigation is increasingly influencing the commercial real estate sector. Developers and investors are prioritizing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria, leading to an upsurge in green buildings that incorporate energy-efficient technologies, renewable materials, and sustainable designs. These properties help reduce environmental impact and offer financial benefits such as cost savings, enhanced tenant appeal, and potential tax credits.

Rise of self-storage spaces

Amid fluctuating market conditions, self-storage spaces have emerged as a resilient and profitable commercial real estate market segment. Their demand has surged due to factors like urbanization, downsizing, and the rise of e-commerce. Investors are attracted to their low overhead costs, steady cash flows, and resilience during economic downturns.

Technology’s impact on commercial real estate

Technology is revolutionizing the commercial real estate industry, from how properties are bought and sold to how they’re managed. Proptech solutions are streamlining transactions, improving operational efficiency, and enhancing customer experience. Meanwhile, trends like remote work and e-commerce are driving demand for digital infrastructure, including data centers and logistics facilities.

How do investors make money in commercial real estate?

Investing in commercial real estate can be a lucrative venture if done correctly. The potential to generate substantial returns, diversify your portfolio, and hedge against inflation are just a few reasons why many seasoned investors are drawn to this asset class. But how exactly do investors make money in commercial real estate? The answer lies in two primary avenues – rental income and capital appreciation.

Rental income

This is the most straightforward way to earn from a commercial property. As an investor, you lease your property to businesses and collect rent. The amount you charge will depend on various factors, including the type and location of the property, current market rates, and the terms of the lease agreement. It’s important to note that, unlike residential leases, commercial leases often span several years, providing a steady, long-term income stream.

Capital appreciation

This refers to the increase in the property’s value over time. Several factors can contribute to capital appreciation, such as property improvements, local real estate market changes, or broader economic trends. When you sell the property for more than you paid, the difference is your profit. However, it’s crucial to remember that while property values can increase, they can also decrease due to various factors.

Investing in commercial real estate: Pros and cons

Commercial real estate investment is a venture that offers numerous benefits but also poses certain risks. This dual nature of commercial real estate investment necessitates a comprehensive understanding of its pros and cons to make sound and profitable decisions.

Pros Cons
Higher Potential Income: Commercial properties generally offer a higher return on investment compared to residential properties, given their lengthier lease terms and higher rent per square foot. Higher Initial Costs: Commercial properties usually have a higher purchase price and maintenance costs compared to residential properties.
Reliable Tenants: Businesses as tenants tend to be more professional and less transient than residential tenants, providing a stable income stream. Vacancy Risks: During economic downturns, when businesses are likely to fail or downsize, commercial properties face a higher risk of vacancies.
Diversified Income Streams: Owning commercial real estate can add another source of income, thereby diversifying an investor’s portfolio. Less Liquid Market: The market for commercial properties is more limited, which can make buying and selling these properties more challenging.

Despite the potential high returns, investing in commercial real estate comes with substantial challenges. It’s vital to weigh these pros and cons carefully, conduct thorough due diligence, and consider your financial goals and risk tolerance.

How to make a purpose-driven investment in commercial real estate

Purpose-driven investing in commercial real estate involves aligning your investment strategy with your personal and professional goals. It’s about making strategic decisions that generate financial returns and contribute to broader objectives, whether environmental, social, or related to your personal development.

Investing with a purpose can also involve incorporating ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) principles into your strategy. By fostering a resilient, responsible, and purpose-driven business ecosystem, you can contribute to positive societal change while enhancing your portfolio’s value. Diversification across property types is another crucial aspect of purpose-driven investing. This strategy can help reduce overall portfolio risk and enhance returns.

Goal-based investing is another facet of purpose-driven investing. This approach involves setting clear, specific investment goals and tailoring your strategy to achieve them. Whether you aim to generate passive income streams, diversify your portfolio via syndicated commercial real estate, or create true wealth through assets that produce cash flow, goal-based investing can provide a clear roadmap for your journey.

Illustration on how to make a purpose-driven investment in commercial real estate.

Keep location as a key factor

In commercial real estate, location is everything. It influences property values, rental income potential, and overall investment performance. Therefore, it’s critical to consider location when making purpose-driven investments. A well-located property can attract reliable tenants, offer robust growth potential, and contribute to your investment goals.

Evaluate funding options that work for you

Different funding options suit different investors, depending on their financial situation, risk tolerance, and investment goals. There are numerous ways to finance commercial real estate investments, from traditional bank loans and private equity firms to real estate investment trusts (REITs). Evaluating these options and choosing the one that aligns with your purpose can optimize your investment performance.

Balance risk and return

Balancing risk and return is a fundamental principle of investing. While higher-risk investments can offer higher returns, they also pose a more significant potential for loss. Therefore, it’s important to assess each investment opportunity’s potential risks and returns and ensure they align with your risk tolerance and financial goals.

Engage with local experts and real estate professionals

Commercial real estate is a complex field that requires specialized knowledge and expertise. Engaging with local experts and real estate professionals can provide valuable insights, help you navigate the market, and make informed, purpose-driven investment decisions.


The commercial real estate sector is a diverse and dynamic field with a wide array of property types. From multifamily and office spaces to community retail centers, industrial, hotel, mixed-use, special purpose properties, and land, each type caters to different investment goals, risk profiles, and market dynamics.

Your understanding of the different types of commercial real estate is essential to making informed investment decisions. By understanding the unique characteristics, potential returns, and risks associated with each property type, you can choose the right asset class that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance, which will help you optimize your investment strategy and achieve your financial objectives.

Modified Date & Time : 29 Feb 2024, 02:56 pm


Jamie Stadtmauer is the Vice President of Business Development at Agora and has over 20 years of experience in commercial real estate investing.


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