Are Apartment Buildings Considered Commercial Real Estate?

Are apartment buildings considered commercial real estate? It might be difficult to distinguish between residential or commercial property. Property owners, investors, and even tenants frequently disagree on the classification of apartment complexes. It’s crucial to understand apartment building classification since it affects a number of legal-related issues and financial consequences. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the difference between residential and commercial property. We’ll also clear up the confusion about apartment buildings considered commercial real estate.

Residential Real Estate vs. Commercial Real Estate: What’s the Difference?

Real estate is the safest and most dependable type of investment, and the market for it is now experiencing a boom. Residential and commercial real estate make up the two main divisions of the real estate industry.

Before deciding on your next course of action, it is important to understand the differences between investing in residential and commercial real estate. These differences highlight the unique characteristics and considerations associated with investing in, owning, and managing residential versus commercial real estate properties.

  • Purpose of Use —- Residential real estate is primarily designed for individuals or families to reside in. These properties include single-family homes, condominiums, apartments, and townhouses. Commercial real estate, on the other hand, is intended for business purposes. These properties are used for commerce, such as office buildings, retail stores, industrial warehouses, and hotels.
  • Income Generation —- Residential real estate typically generates income through rental payments from tenants. Homeowners may also derive income from renting out rooms or properties. Commercial real estate generates income through leases or rental agreements with businesses. These leases are often longer-term and may involve higher rental rates compared to residential properties.
  • Lease Terms —- Residential leases are usually shorter in duration, typically ranging from six months to a year. They may be renewable but often offer more flexibility for tenants to move out. Commercial leases tend to have longer terms, ranging from several years to decades, depending on the type of commercial property and the agreement between the landlord and tenant.
  • Regulations —- Residential real estate is subject to housing laws and regulations that govern tenant-landlord relationships, rent control, habitability standards, and eviction procedures. Commercial real estate is subject to different regulations, including zoning laws, building codes, environmental regulations, and business licensing requirements. Commercial properties may also involve compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations for accessibility.
  • Investment Characteristics —- Residential real estate is often considered a more stable and less volatile investment compared to commercial real estate. It tends to be influenced more by local housing market trends and demographic factors. Commercial real estate can offer higher potential returns but also carries higher risks due to factors such as economic cycles, changes in market demand, and tenant turnover.

Is an Apartment Building Residential or Commercial Real Estate?

Did you know that more than 30 million Americans call apartments home? The classification of an apartment building considered commercial real estate depends on factors such as its intended use, local zoning laws, and how it is operated by the owner or property manager.

When deciding which kind of real estate to invest in, there are a number of significant distinctions between residential and commercial properties.

  • Residential Use —- If the apartment building is primarily intended for individuals or families to reside in, it is considered residential real estate. In this case, the units within the building are rented out to tenants for residential purposes, and the building is subject to residential zoning laws and regulations.

Residential apartment buildings are commonly found in neighborhoods or areas designated for housing, and they are subject to residential lease terms, tenant-landlord laws, and other regulations specific to residential properties.

  • Commercial Use —- In some cases, an apartment building may be used for commercial purposes, especially if it is operated more like a hotel or extended-stay accommodation. Additionally, if the building has commercial spaces on the ground floor, such as retail shops or offices, along with residential units above, it could also be classified as mixed-use commercial real estate.

For example, if an apartment building is marketed and operated as short-term rental units for travelers or tourists, it may be considered commercial real estate. In this scenario, the building could be subject to different zoning laws, tax implications, and regulations compared to traditional residential apartment buildings.

Apartment Buildings Considered Commercial Real Estate

Apartment Buildings Considered Commercial Real Estate FAQs

What factors determine whether an apartment building is residential or commercial?

The key factors include the duration of leases (short-term vs. long-term), the nature of tenant occupancy (permanent residents vs. transient guests), and whether the building is subject to residential or commercial zoning laws. Additionally, the presence of commercial spaces within the building can influence its classification.

Are there any legal or regulatory implications based on whether an apartment building is residential or commercial?

Yes, there can be significant legal and regulatory implications. Residential buildings are subject to tenant-landlord laws, residential lease terms, and regulations specific to housing, while commercial properties may have different zoning requirements, tax considerations, and business licensing obligations.

Can an apartment building be both residential and commercial real estate?

Yes, an apartment building can be classified as mixed-use commercial real estate if it contains both residential units and commercial spaces, such as retail shops or offices. In such cases, different portions of the building may be subject to different regulations and lease terms.

How does the classification of an apartment building affect investment and financing options?

The classification can impact investment strategies, financing terms, and potential returns. Residential real estate investments may have different risk profiles and financing options compared to commercial properties. Understanding the classification can help investors make informed decisions about their investment objectives and risk tolerance.


Are apartment buildings considered commercial real estate? There are significant distinctions between residential and commercial real estate, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. If you need help or insights into finding the right investment property that suits your goals, our expert real estate broker can guide you. Contact us today.

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