The real estate industry encompasses the many facets of property, including development, appraisal, marketing, selling, leasing, and management of commercial, industrial, residential, and agricultural properties. This industry can fluctuate depending on the national and local economies, although it remains somewhat consistent due to the fact that people always need homes and businesses always need office space.
In the United States, real estate has a long history. After the Revolutionary War, no longer under England's thumb, the federal government sold and granted land to private owners for their own use. This practice continued as the country expanded westward, most notably starting in 1862 with the Homestead Act, which allowed private ownership of U.S. land in exchange for improving and developing the land for at least five years. The U.S. government distributed more than 300 million acres of public property to private landowners through the Homestead Act, creating the basis for the real estate market.
The real estate industry evolved as the United States evolved from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Several shifts occurred during the transformation of the Industrial Revolution. For one, urban centers swelled as people moved to cities to work in factories. These workers needed places to live, and they had money to spend. In addition, as the United States increased its wealth through industry, banks and other financial institutions stopped their practice of lending only to the wealthy. Suddenly, the middle class and blue-collar workers were able to secure mortgages. Home ownership became more common.
As cities developed, the need for real estate transactions increased. Office buildings, retail centers, hotels and restaurants, and residential housing boomed, and someone was needed to develop, sell, and manage it all. Soon, urban sprawl would create the need for suburbs, and with that more housing, town centers, and eventually, bu...