Real Estate definitions – a guide to residential housing and commercial building types

Dec 2, 2020

real estate definitions

Real estate definitions differ across the globe which can sometimes cause confusion. To help you understand the differences, we scoured several websites and found commonly used descriptions for an extensive range of property types.

The list that follows is by no means an exhaustive list of real estate. It is of course open to interpretation depending on the country you’re in. But you should find in it a useful guide to how properties are typically defined globally.

Table of Contents

  1. Residential property types
  2. Commercial property types
  3. Unusual homes
  4. Qobrix Real Estate software

Residential property types

The residential property market is comprised of many different types of houses and homes. In this blog, we have included twelve real estate definitions of housing that the residential market is traditionally known for.

Apartment (or flat)

The terms flat and apartment are often used interchangeably. Apartment is used more often in the US, whereas flat is a British term. An apartment (or flat) is specifically a single, residential housing unit among many within an apartment building or block of flats.


A bungalow is typically a low, one-storey home with an open-floor plan, multiple windows, and a large front porch. Interestingly, the structure has its origins in India, adapted from the single-storey huts that were commonplace there in the 19th century.


Usually a rural dwelling, a cabin is more rustic than a cottage. It is traditionally built from logs and is minimalistic by design.


Unlike a condominium where you own a single unit within a building, in a co-op everyone owns the building together.


Condo for short, a condominium is a single unit (home) among many in one building or community. Prevalent in the US and Canada, similar concepts do exist in other countries like New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. A duplex condo is one whereby two units are renovated to become a larger single unit (or built this way from the start). A triplex condo is the same as a duplex but with 3 levels.


This term originates from the UK. Considered more of a vacation home today, cottages were once used as a primary place of residence. They are characterised by thick walls, high thatched roof, and a single room. Cottages have undergone transformation in recent years, with luxury cottages oftentimes resembling large mansions.

Manufactured home

A manufactured home is typically a house assembled in a factory and then taken to the site where it will be lived in.

Mobile home

A mobile home is either singlewide or doublewide and placed in one location for permanent living. It is usually built in a factory and transported to a site by trailer or by being towed.

Modular home

Like a prefab home, it is a home that is constructed off-site and then transported in pieces with a truck to its end destination. It is placed on a permanent foundation.

Prefabricated home

Manufactured in pieces in a factory, a prefab home is then shipped and assembled on-site elsewhere. The property may or may not be placed on a permanent foundation.

Single family home

Usually a standalone house built for one family on a single lot. This means it isn’t attached to any other home, i.e. there is no shared wall. Single family homes often come with an attached or detached garage.


A townhouse (or townhome) is an attached home, often with multiple floors, with one or two shared walls. Townhouses can be arranged in a line or even in clusters.

Commercial property types

Here, we bring you three real estate definitions (split by category) that the commercial property market is typically renowned for.

Industrial buildings

Usually found outside of heavily populated city centres, industrial buildings are typically used for activities like manufacturing, data centres, cold storage, distribution, research, and development.

Office buildings

One of the most common types of commercial real estate, office buildings can be one or two floors offices to skyscrapers many meters high. Office space differs from building to building, the design of which is usually contingent on the type of work to be conducted within that space. This article gives some insights on some of the more popular types of offices.

Retail buildings

Retail properties are incredibly varied and come in many forms. This includes malls, shopping centres, retail shops, restaurants, factory outlets, lifestyle centres, speciality stores, chemists, dry cleaners, etc.

Unusual homes

Container home

Relatively new to the market, a container home is constructed using one or multiple containers, depending on the size of the home required. They are offered in several configurations, with some incredible designs like these that are simply out of this world.


A home on water, a houseboat is ideal for someone looking for an inexpensive, smaller living space, but with close proximity to a city. Houseboats typically offer a more flexible, nomadic lifestyle due to their obvious mobility. They can be driven like a boat.

Floating home

Unlike a houseboat, a floating home cannot be moved, it is permanently anchored in one location. They are usually built on top of a buoyant base, for e.g. logs, Styrofoam, etc. Floating homes are often a more affordable option and are said to offer a greater sense of community.

Motorhome (or RV)

This home on wheels can be easily moved, making it popular among people looking for a way to go from place to place at their own convenience.

Tiny home

A tiny home is a small home that can be mobile or stationary. Layout and design are optimised so that all space is functional (has a purpose). Tiny homes have become more popular in recent years because of people looking to downsize and/or reduce mortgage costs.


Although not usually utilised as a home, shows like Treehouse Masters have highlighted the merits of constructing a treehouse. It is usually built around or among the branches of a tree, and used for recreation, as a workspace or sometimes even to live in.


A yurt is a round structure with a wall and roof made from fabric that’s waterproof. Once used primarily by Mongols in Mongolia as a primary housing structure, today yurts have become more popular in North America too. Some people live in them all year-round whereas others use them as holiday homes. Usually rustic, yurts can be customised to offer modern day amenities as well.

Qobrix Real Estate software

If you are a real estate professional, you want a software solution that will help you manage all your property listings easily and efficiently. No matter what types of properties your sell, the software needs to give you the ability to manage your real estate in a way that meets your needs. Qobrix software has been built for the real estate industry. With it, you can choose any property type in the CRM when adding a new property.  As your collection of property types expand, these can be added to the CRM accordingly.

Qobrix software can also help you optimise your business, processes and procedures to boost client acquisition and sales. It offers a robust, multi-tiered CRM system, advanced client and agent portals, a unique bulk website generator and enhanced web presence. It provides advanced tools to assist you capture and monitor leads, nurture client and partner relationships, and automate critical sales and marketing activities. Experience the power of Qobrix through a 15 day free trial.

Blog sources:
Home Stratosphere 
Design Everest 
NuWire Investor
Aquila Commercial

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