Split image showing commercial and residential real estate properties

Commercial or Residential Real Estate: Which is Right for You?

By Erin Coursey, iHire

When searching for real estate jobs, it is important to know whether you want to work in the commercial or residential sector. Each has potential benefits and drawbacks as well as different qualifications that will support your success and make you attractive to future employers. The guide below can help you choose which type of property is right for your career.


Focus: Commercial real estate careers require attention to statistics and profitability. Properties should be adjusted and discussed in alignment with data retrieved regarding the property’s history and revenue. Because property appreciation in this sector is based largely on prior profit and not comparisons to surrounding properties, these professionals must be well-informed regarding the relevant market and influences affecting past and current income.

Major Differences: Commercial properties tend to experience lower tenant turnover and longer lease/ownership periods compared to residential sites. Combined with the limited population actively looking to acquire commercial space, these factors lead to less frequent demand for real estate professionals involved in listing and obtaining property and greater stability for those involved in property management and upkeep. However, potential realty losses may be offset because commercial real estate is often higher priced and involves greater commissions.

Factors for Success: Because commercial properties require a strong understanding of the market as a whole, as well as the range of factors influencing property management and sales in a particular region, it may be helpful to move into this area after a number of years in residential real estate. This will allow you to establish a breadth of experience in real estate and apply that knowledge to commercial transactions. After some time in general commercial real estate, you may choose to specialize even further, developing a focus in such areas as office or retail spaces.


Focus: This sector is closely tied to clients’ day-to-day lives. It is important that residential real estate professionals understand the surrounding area they are serving as it pertains to their specific role. Realtors, for example, should be well-versed in the local school districts, surrounding businesses/shops, and available public transportation. Property managers should be aware of the appropriate associations’ rules and laws regarding property care in their area.

Major Differences: Residential properties tend to experience higher tenant turnover rates than commercial options, leading to a greater market for real estate agents and other professionals involved in the listing and selling processes. They also require more frequent and involved hands-on maintenance while under lease or ownership.

Factors for Success: Working in residential real estate places you in close contact with others’ personal lives. It is important to understand and be respectful of the emotional investment your potential and/or current tenants have in their homes. A career in this area requires strong customer service skills and the flexibility to plan around clients’ schedules.

Because of the more personal nature of residential real estate, it is best to engage with clients in a way that suits their needs and interests. Whether you are a property manager giving your cell phone number to a millennial renter so that they may text you to discuss potential issues rather than make a phone call or a realtor placing a county newspaper ad to recruit local interest, matching your means of communication to the population you serve will work to ensure a smooth working relationship.



  • More hands-on
  • Larger market
  • Flexible schedule necessary
  • Access to various modes of communication may prove useful
  • Focus on day-to-day life, such as demographics, local shops, transportation, etc.


  • Low turnover
  • Greater investment
  • Professionalism is a must
  • Prior real estate experience is valuable
  • Focus on data and revenue



Khary Reynolds— 3 Reasons Why You Should be Investing in Commercial Real Estate

Middle Gate Funding— Commercial vs. Residential Real Estate

Nellie Day— What to Consider Before Becoming a Commercial Real Estate Agent

Wall Street Oasis— The 5 Things that Determine Your Success as a Commercial Real Estate Broker

James Kimmons— Is a Commercial Real Estate Career for You?

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