In general use, esp. North American, 'real estate' is taken to mean "Property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals, or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this; (also) an item of real property; (more generally) buildings or housing in general. Also: the business of real estate; the profession of buying, selling, or renting land, buildings, or housing."
It is a legal term in some jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, United States of America, Dubai, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and The Bahamas. 'Real Estate Law' is the body of regulations and legal codes which pertain to such matters under a particular jurisdiction and include things such as commercial and residential property ownership, development and transactions. Real estate is often considered synonymous with real property (sometimes called realty), in contrast with personal property (sometimes called 'chattels' or 'personalty' under 'chattel law' or 'personal property law'). The terms 'real estate' and 'real property' are used primarily in common law, while civil law jurisdictions refer instead to immovable property. However, in some situations the term 'real estate' refers to the land and fixtures thereon together, as distinguished from 'real property', referring to the ownership of land and its appurtenances, including anything of a permanent nature such as structures, trees, minerals, and the interest, benefits, and inherent rights thereof. Real property is typically considered to be immovable property.
Market sector value
According to The Economist, "developed economies'" assets at the end of 2002 were the following:
Residential property: $48 trillion;
Commercial property: $14 trillion;
Equities: $20 trillion;
Government bonds: $20 trillion;
Corporate bonds: $13 trillion;
Total: $115 trillion.
That makes real estate assets 54% and financial assets 46% of total stocks, bonds, and real estate assets. Assets not counted here are bank deposits, insurance "reserve" assets, natural resources, and human assets. It is not clear if all debt and equity investments are counted in the categories equities and bond.
Mortgages in real estate
In recent years, many economists have recognized that the lack of effective real estate laws can be a significant barrier to investment in many developing countries. In most societies, rich and poor, a significant fraction of the total wealth is in the form of land and buildings.
In most advanced economies, the main source of capital used by individuals and small companies to purchase and improve land and buildings is mortgage loans (or other instruments). These are loans for which the real property itself constitutes collateral. Banks are willing to make such loans at favorable rates in large part because, if the borrower does not make payments, the lender can foreclose by filing a court action which allows them to take back the property and sell it to get their money back. For investors, profitability can be enhanced by using an off plan or pre-construction strategy to purchase at a lower price which is often the case in the pre-construction phase of development.
But in many developing countries there is no effective means by which a lender could foreclose, so the mortgage loan industry, as such, either does not exist at all or is only available to members of privileged social classes.