Getting into Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is a non-stop, exhilarating, evolving, dynamic industry — miss a beat and you’re left in the dust.

By definition, commercial real estate is any property owned to produce income. It includes office, industrial, retail, mixed-use, medical office, entertainment and educational facilities, but not residential housing. It also includes vacant land that will eventually be leased or developed.

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Introduction to the Real Estate Industry

Commercial real estate is any property owned to produce income, including office, industrial, retail, mixed-use, medical office, entertainment and educational facilities, but not residential housing. It also includes vacant land that will eventually be leased or developed.

Visit the NAIOP Terms and Definitions Glossary for detailed descriptions of property types, development terms, building material definitions, lease and transaction terminology and more.

Industry Careers and Definitions

Commercial real estate comprises a variety of professionals and expertise. Below is a sampling of careers in the industry.


An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings, that have as their principal purpose human occupancy or use.

Professionally, an architect's decisions affect public safety, and thus an architect must undergo specialized training consisting of advanced education and a practicum (or internship) for practical experience to earn a license to practice architecture. The practical, technical, and academic requirements for becoming an architect vary by jurisdiction.

Source: Wikipedia, March 2012

Asset Manager

Real estate asset managers, also known as property or real estate managers, focus on maximizing real estate profit for businesses and investors. Unlike on-site property managers, real estate asset managers focus on buying and selling properties, rather than handling the day-to-day operations. These professionals help owners manage real estate assets such as apartment complexes, office buildings, shopping malls, factories and warehouses.

A real estate asset manager's primary function is to research different strategies for investing in and developing residential and commercial real estate. The asset manager evaluates zoning and tax laws, demographics, property values and traffic patterns to determine whether a property is a good investment for his clients. He also negotiates the terms and conditions for real estate contracts. The asset manager works closely with property managers, lenders and other third-party groups to track and maximize his clients' profit by periodically reviewing leasing contracts, business plans, budgets and forecasts.

Source: eHow, March 2012


Real estate development is a multifaceted business, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease of existing buildings to the purchase of raw land and the sale of improved land or parcels to others.

Developers are the coordinators of the activities, converting ideas on paper into real property. Real estate development is different from construction, although many developers also construct.

Developers buy land, finance real estate deals, build or have builders build projects, create, imagine, control and orchestrate the process of development from the beginning to end.  Developers usually take the greatest risk in the creation or renovation of real estate—and receive the greatest rewards. Typically, developers purchase a tract of land, determine the marketing of the property, develop the building program and design, obtain the necessary public approval and financing, build the structure, and lease, manage, and ultimately sell it.

Developers work with many different counterparts along each step of this process, including architects, city planners, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, contractors, leasing agents and more.

Source: Wikipedia, March 2012

Land Planner

A land planner is a professional who works in the field of urban planning/land use planning for the purpose of optimizing the effectiveness of a community's land use and infrastructure. They formulate plans for the development and management of urban and suburban areas, typically analyzing land use compatibility as well as economic, environmental and social trends. In developing their plan for a community (whether commercial, residential, agricultural, natural or recreational), urban planners must also consider a wide array of issues such as sustainability, air pollution, traffic congestion, crime, land values, legislation and zoning codes.

Planners are usually hired by developers, private property owners, private planning firms and local/regional governments to assist in the large-scale planning of communal and commercial developments, as well as public facilities and transportation systems. Urban planners in the public role often assist the public and serve as valued technical advisors in the myriad web of the community's political environment. Related disciplines include regional, city, environmental, transportation, housing and community planning.

Source: Wikipedia, March 2012

Introduction to Developing Leaders

Developing Connections. Developing Leaders.

NAIOP's Developing Leaders program is the catalyst young commercial real estate professionals need to propel their careers to the next level. NAIOP provide the tools, networking and resources needed to gain that competitive edge. If you're a commercial real estate professional who's 35 or under, your DL community can take you from where you are now, to where you want to be!

Get Connected

Ready to engage? NAIOP’s dedicated Developing Leaders section for details on News and Connections, DL Events and Awards, and how your local NAIOP chapter can grow its DL program.

Learn More

Visit Developing Leaders for more for information!