Real and personal property

We explain what real and personal property is. In addition, we discuss their main characteristics and provide examples.

bienes muebles e inmuebles
Property refers to things that can be owned and valued in the market.

What is personal and real property?

In law, personal or movable property is any type of property that can be moved (e.g. a table, a book, a car), whereas real or immovable property has a fixed location and cannot be moved (e.g. a house, a building).

In law, property refers to both tangible or intangible assets of patrimonial right, i.e. things that can be owned and, depending on their value, must be registered in a property register in the name of an individual or organization.

The set of assets makes up the wealth or equity of an individual or organization. Assets may have one or several owners and may be exchanged for money or other properties, depending on their valuation on the stock market.

Etymology: The word “movable” comes from Latin mobilis, meaning “that can be moved”. The word “immovable” derives from Latin immobilis, meaning “that cannot be moved”.

Other types of properties

In addition to personal and real, property may be:

  • Tangible assets. This is property that has a physical existence, i.e. anything can be touched. For example: a house.
  • Intangible assets. This is property that cannot be touched but rather represent something. For example: a company’s shares.

In economic terms, properties are goods or items that can be traded for profit.

They can be classified into:

  • Capital or semi-finished goods. These are raw materials which have undergone some process and are used to produce finished consumption goods. They are manufactured by industries in the primary sector of the economy.
  • Consumer goods. These are finished goods for consumption. They are manufactured by industries and companies in the secondary sector of the economy.


  • Personal property is that which can be moved, whereas real property has a fixed location and cannot be moved.
  • In addition to personal and real property which are tangible, there are intangible assets, which cannot be touched but nonetheless have economic value, such as patents, trademarks or intellectual property rights.
  • A person’s total assets is equivalent to their wealth or equity, which is subject to economic value.

Personal property

Bienes muebles e inmuebles
Personal property can be moved from one place to another, for instance a ring.

Personal property are those goods owned by a person or organization which can be moved from one place to another without losing their physical integrity.

Examples of personal property

  • TV set
  • Car
  • Cell phone
  • Ceramic sculpture
  • Refrigerator
  • Aircraft
  • Lamp
  • Necklace
  • Backpack
  • Drill

Real property

Real property, also known as real estate, are things that are attached to the ground and have a specific location; therefore, they cannot be moved.

These are assets that can be owned by a person, organization or State entity, in which the status of ownership or proprietorship is only valid before the law if the asset is registered in the property register and shows proof of the corresponding tax payment to the tax authority.

Examples of real property

  • Building
  • House
  • Securities
  • Plot of land
  • Built-in wardrobe
  • Commercial property
  • Trust fund
  • Public square
  • Farm
  • Factory

Types of real estate

Real estate can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Residential real estate. It encompasses houses and undeveloped land.
  • Commercial real estate. It encompasses constructions, commercial premises or buildings intended for activities in the tertiary sector of the economy.
  • Industrial real estate.  It encompasses buildings and vast plots of land used for primary and secondary sector activities.

Property ownership registration

Most movable assets are the property of the manufacturer or the buyer, and may be freely exchanged in the market.

However, some movable assets of great value, such as a car or a boat, must be registered in a property register with a governmental entity in order to circulate or legally operate in the market. The same applies to real property, such as a house or a plot of land.

In addition, property owners must pay taxes to the corresponding tax authority of each country.


  • Real Academia Española (2022). Diccionario panhispánico del español jurídico: bien. RAE.
  • Conceptos jurídicos (2022). Bien inmueble. ConceptosJuridicos.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica (2022). Movable and inmovable. Britannica.

Related articles:

How to cite

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To cite properly, we recommend doing so according to APA standards, which are international standard guidelines followed by leading academic and research institutions worldwide.

DE AZKUE, Inés. "Real and personal property".
Encyclopedia of Humanities. 19 January, 2024,

About the author

Author: Inés de Azkue

Bachelor of Arts in advertising (University of Morón)

Translated by: Marilina Gary

Degree in English Language Teaching (Juan XXIII Institute of Higher Education, Bahía Blanca, Argentina).

Updated on: 19 January, 2024
Posted on: 28 September, 2023

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