Policy Issues

Commercial Real Estate by the Numbers

  • CRE Market Value and Leverage

    CRE Market Value and Leverage
    • $14.4 trillion - $17 trillion: total value of America’s commercial real estate (at end of 2018) (includes multifamily residential).1

    » To put that in perspective, the value of U.S. commercial real estate is more than half of the market capitalization of all U.S. publicly traded companies.2

    » Roughly two-thirds of commercial real estate debt relates to non-residential property with the remainder financing multifamily residential rental property (five or more units).

    • $4.7 trillion: Amount of mortgage debt that finances U.S. commercial real estate (at end of Q2 2020).3

    » U.S. commercial real estate is conservatively leveraged with 71% equity and 29% debt (assumes aggregate value of $16 trillion).

    » Largest holders of CRE debt are banks (51%), followed by government-sponsored enterprises and GSE-backed mortgage pools (16%), life insurance companies and pension funds (13%), commercial mortgage-backed securities (9%), and REITs (4%).

    1.  Nareit®, Estimating the Size of the Commercial Real Estate Market (July 2019) (ground-up estimate using CoStar data). Approximately one-third of CRE value is located in the seven “gateway” markets, half is in the next largest 47 markets, and the balance is in other markets.
    2.  The total market capitalization of U.S.-based public companies traded on the NYSE, NASDAQ, and OTC markets was $30.1 trillion at the end of 2018. Siblis Research Limited (2020), available here.

    3. Federal Reserve, Financial Accounts of the United States (June 2020) (Table L.217 Total Mortgages; addition of Line 3 (“Multifamily residential”) plus Line 4 (“Commercial”).

  • Real Estate's Contribution to GDP

    • $1.728 trillion: Aggregate contribution of CRE (office, retail, industrial warehouse, apartments, hotels) to overall GDP.

    » Operations of existing retail, office, and industrial/warehouse buildings, combined with new commercial construction, contributed an estimated $1.14 trillion to GDP and $396 billion in personal earnings in 2019.4

    » The multifamily industry, which provides shelter to 44 million residential renters5, contributes an additional $400 billion to GDP through apartment construction, improvements, and operational expenditures.6

    » The operation of America’s hotels, along with hotel construction and capital investment, generate an additional $314 billion in direct economic output.7

    » These numbers do not include the enormous indirect benefits that flow from real estate activity such as the revenue generated by retail tenants and further induced guest, employee, and supplier spending in the case of hotels.

    4.  Stephen Fuller, Ph.D., Economic Impacts of Commercial Real Estate (NAIOP Research Foundation 2020).
    5. Renter statistic through 2019, from Harvard University, Joint Center for Housing Studies, State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 at p. 29).
    6. Hoyt Advisory Services, The Contribution of Multifamily Housing to the U.S. Economy (National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council, 2019).
    7. Oxford Economics, Economic Impact of the U.S. Hotel Industry (Aug. 2019).


  • Real Estate, Jobs, and the Workforce

    • 13.6 million: U.S. jobs directly supported by real estate.

    » These include jobs in construction, planning, architecture, building maintenance, hotel operations, management, leasing, brokerage, cleaning, security, and other activities.8

    » In addition, real estate employs millions more indirectly in fields such as mortgage lending, accounting, legal services, investment advising, and environmental consulting.

    • Real Estate Depends Heavily on Foreign-Born Labor.9

    » Over 2.5 million workers in “construction and extraction” jobs are foreign-born (9.1% of the U.S. foreign-born workforce)

    » Almost 2.1 million workers in “building and grounds cleaning and maintenance” jobs are foreign-born (6.7% of the U.S. foreign-born workforce)

    » Immigrants account for 30% of all workers in construction trades (carpenters, laborers, painters, plumbers, roofers, drywall installers, floor installers, etc.)10

    » Immigrants account for 1 in 3 workers in the U.S. hotel and accommodation industry.11

    8. Real estate-related “occupation codes” selected from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (May 2019). Estimate for self-employed real estate agents provided by National Association of REALTORS® monthly membership report, available at: https://www.nar.realtor/membership/monthly-report. See Appendix for full jobs analysis.
    9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics – 2019, Table 4 (May 15, 2020).
    10. Natalia Siniavskaia, Immigrant Workers in the Construction Labor Force, National Assn of Home Builders Economic and Housing Policy Group, (March 3, 2020).
    11. New American Economy Research Fund, Immigrant Workers in the Hardest-Hit Industries (Aug. 20, 2020).

  • Real Estate's Contribution to the Tax Base

    • $547 billion: Property taxes paid to state and local governments.12

    » 31% of state and local government tax revenue derives from property taxes.

    • $509 billion: Property taxes paid to local governments.13

    » 72% of local government tax revenue derives from property taxes.

    » Local property taxes provide more than a third of all money used to finance public education.14


    • $297 billion: State and local property taxes paid by businesses.15
    » An average commercial property pays 1.724 times more in taxes compared to taxes

    associated with a home.16

    » A typical large U.S. city imposes an average annual tax of 1.92% on the value of commercial

    properties (land and building, combined).17

    12. U.S. Census Bureau, Annual State and Local Government Finances Summary: 2018 (Oct. 1, 2020) 
    13. Tax Policy Center, Urban Inst. and Brookings Inst., Local General Revenue, by Source (2017 data) (April, 27, 2020)
    14. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, The Future of U.S Public School Revenue from the Property Tax (July 2017).
    15. Ernst & Young LLP, Total State and Local Business Taxes: State-by-State Estimates for FY18 at p. 10 (Oct. 2019)
    16. Tax Foundation, State and Local Property Taxes Target Commercial and Industrial Property (Nov. 21, 2012).
    17. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy & Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, 50-State Property Tax Comparison Study (June 2020).

  • Real Estate’s Contribution to Americans’ Retirement Savings

    • $800 billion: Amount invested by pension funds, educational endowments, and charitable foundations in real estate.18

    » Real estate investments can be found in 87 percent of all public and 73 percent of all private sector pension funds.19 

    » An estimated 68 percent of insurance companies -- another critical source of retirement savings and survivor benefits – are actively invested in real estate.


    • $600 billion: Amount of pension investments managed by America’s building trades unions.20
    » $16 billion: Funding in more than 500 real estate projects provided by the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (Ullico), organized labor’s group insurance provider, since its inception in 1977.21


    18. Meredith Despins, The Role of Real Estate in Pension Funds, Nareit Developments (Aug. 2019).
    19. Preqin, Pension Funds Investing in Real Estate, Real Estate Spotlight (Sept. 2016).
    20. North American Building Trades Unions, NABTU Real Estate Manager Report Card (Jan. 2020).
    21. Ullico Bulletin, J for Jobs Adds Projects in Chicago and New Jersey (2018).

  • Physical Characteristics of U.S. Commercial Real Estate Infrastructure

    • 5.9 million: Number of nonresidential buildings in the U.S. Includes:

    » 1 million warehouse and storage buildings

    » 972,000 office buildings

    » 518,000 retail buildings (malls plus non-malls)

    » 214,000 hotels and commercial lodging buildings

    » 137,000 health care buildings (inpatient plus outpatient)

    • 97 billion ft2: Total U.S. commercial floorspace
    • 36 years old: Median age of U.S. commercial buildings

    » 25% have been built since 2000

    » 54% were built between 1960 and 1999

    » 21% were built before 1960

    » More than 75% of U.S. buildings were built before 2004, the year that the first “modern” commercial building energy standard was published (ASHRAE 90.1 2004).23

    • Buildings by size:

    » Over 500K ft2: 9,000 buildings

    » 201K ft2 to 500K ft2: 40,000 buildings

    » 100.1K ft2 to 200K ft2: 93,000 buildings

    » 100K ft2 or smaller: Over 97% of the U.S. commercial building stock

    • Growth in building size continues to outpace increases in the absolute number of U.S. buildings.

    » Since 2012, the number of buildings has grown by 6% and floorspace by 11%

    » Number of commercial buildings has increased 55% from 1979-2018 (3.8 million buildings to 5.9 million buildings)

    » Amount of commercial floorspace has increased 90% from 1979-2018 (51 billion ft2 to 97 billion ft2

    » Buildings larger than 100,000 ft2 account for less than 3% of commercial buildings, but 34% of commercial floorspace

    22. Table 1 and slides from U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (preliminary data released Nov. 18, 2020). Figures do not include multifamily residential.
    23. U.S. Department of Energy, Building Energy Codes – An Introduction (May 2010) at slide 9.

  • U.S. Real Estate and Energy Consumption

    • 28%: Amount of U.S. energy consumption attributable to building owners, tenants, occupants, and guests

    » 16% attributed to the residential sector (11.9 quadrillion Btus)

    » 12% attributable to the commercial sector (9.4 quadrillion Btus)

    • What fuels power U.S. real estate?
    Power SourceCommercialResidential
    Retail Electricity Sales49%41%
    Natural Gas39%44%
    Renewable Energy3%7%
    • Renewable energy mix for the commercial and residential sectors:25

    » 61%: biomass (wood/waste [59%] plus biofuels [2%])

    » 33%: solar

    » 6%: geothermal

    » <1%: wind

    » <1%: hydropower

    24. U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2019. See also explanation on EIA 2018 updated chart.
    25. U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Primary Renewable Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2019


  • Commercial Real Estate and Energy Efficiency

    • $150 billion: Cumulative energy cost savings by U.S. ENERGY STAR certified buildings (since program inception in 1992)

    » $10 billion: Energy cost savings in 2016 alone

    • 36,000: Number of ENERGY STAR certified buildings

    » 5,700 buildings: Number of ENERGY STAR certified buildings in 2019 alone

    • 260,000: Number of buildings that use EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark, measure and track energy use, water use, and waste and materials

    » 24 billion ft2: Amount of commercial floorspace covered by Portfolio Manager (about 25% of all U.S. commercial floorspace)

    26. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR Facts and Stats

CRE by the Numbers


CRE by the Numbers photo


Staff Contact
DD-Oct2019 - contact Duane J. Desiderio 
 Senior Vice President & Counsel
CER - Oct2019 - contact Clifton (Chip) E. Rodgers, Jr. 
 Senior Vice President
RM-Oct2019 - contact Ryan P. McCormick
 Senior Vice President & Counsel