Real estate investment is changing annually to meet the demands of modern market trends — and it has seen recent surges in popularity thanks to newfound interest in house flipping — but it is by no means an exclusively modern concept. The industry dates back as far as pre-Revolutionary War times, and many of its basic principles have endured up to this point in its existence.

Here is a brief look at the history of real estate investment.


Early concepts

There are some who suggest real estate investment dates all the way back to early man, with historians verifying that ancient currency may have been exchanged for shelter, thus creating the first property-based investments. In terms of clearly recorded history, however, the industry found its major beginnings through the development of property rights for land — namely the concept of “defensible property.” This moment was a significant one for real estate investment, as it defined the process of selling or renting property for another person’s exclusive ownership or use.

This concept was complemented by the introduction of titles and deeds — mainly during the Middle Ages, when property ownership was commonly associated with wealth or power. In fact, ownership was regarded as a primary way for “the wealthy to ensure their assets.” European colonists eventually brought this system to the United States, where it was quickly recognized as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to create and maximize wealth.


Other significant developments

The invention of mortgages was another huge step in shaping real estate investment as we know it today. Originally, a mortgage was given exclusively those belonging to nobility, but after the industrial revolution, more and more banks were able to open themselves to “‘higher risk’ mortgage loans — those made to common people.” This development gave anyone the ability to exclusively own a home and become a landlord, if desired.

With the broad components of property ownership finally in place, the real estate investment industry began to flourish as the progressive entity it is now. Widespread popularity of home improvement and home flipping became increasingly known during the 1980s, when programs like “This Old House” gave various industry facets exposure to a much larger audience. Today, popular media outlets like HGTV have centered themselves on the industry’s undeniable prevalence in modern society, sparking interest in aspiring investors buyers alike.