You may be familiar with the basic types of commercial real estate, like office, retail, and industrial. But in reality, there is so much more. I’ve broken out the most common.


Office buildings can range from single story to highrise buildings and can have one tenant, or multiple tenants. Typical tenants would be business, medical or dental professionals. Executive suites and coworking spaces also fall into this category. Office buildings are further broken down into Class A, B, or C.

Class A buildings are the newest, offer the best amenities, are in the most desirable location, and have the highest rents. They can even be separated into A+, A, and A-.
Class B buildings are a little older, may be due for some renovations, may be in a nice location, and have little to no amenities.
Class C buildings are the oldest, least maintained, are in the least desirable location, and will have the cheapest rents in the market.


Industrial properties have several categories that are broken down based on their specific use.

  • Flex: includes a mix of office and warehouse space. Typically includes a dock high or drive-in door.
  • Heavy Manufacturing: a special use property that is customized with heavy-duty machinery for a specific end user.
  • Light Assembly: a special use property that is customized with machinery (that is smaller than a heavy manufacturer) for a specific end user.
  • Warehouse: very large spaces often used for storage or as a distribution center. The layout tends to be open space with high ceilings. Typically located near freeways/highways.


Retail properties come in many forms and are broken down into subcategories. Although they can be broken down further, these are the most common types:

  • Mall: an enclosed shopping center with tenants that include department stores, clothing retailers, a food court, full-service restaurants, and maybe a movie theater.
  • Neighborhood or Community Center: can also be called a plaza or strip mall and can vary in size. These are most often anchored by a pharmacy or grocery store. Small stores and restaurants fill out the rest of the space.
  • Power Center: these outdoor centers are home to multiple big box stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, or Home Depot. It usually includes smaller retailers and restaurants surrounded by a shared parking lot.


Multi-family residential buildings include apartment buildings, condos, and townhomes. Generally, anything residential that is larger than a fourplex is considered a commercial property.

Mixed Use

Mixed-use properties can be a combination of any of the types of properties mentioned above. The most common form is retail/restaurant on the first floor with office and/or residential in space above. But really it could be a combo of just about anything.

Special Use

There are some properties that just don’t fit into any of the above property types. This catch-all category includes self-storage, hotels, medical, and anything else not defined in any of the above categories.


This is undeveloped and raw land to be used for future development. City zoning codes will determine the type of commercial property that can be built here.

I hope this helps shed some light on the vast range of commercial property definitions. Every tenant is unique and has specific needs—a local tenant rep broker can help you determine the best space that will meet your needs.

Brian Smith, SIOR, CCIM, owns Regent Commercial Real Estate and has over 10 years of experience in the Charlotte metro area.