Many people buy residential homes and rent them out, either on a short-term or long-term basis. But doing so requires a fair amount of capital in the form of a down payment.

Similarly, owning a piece of commercial real estate generally means having to put down a large chunk of money. And if you don't have thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars to your name, you might assume that investing in commercial real estate is pretty much off the table.

But actually, there is a way you can invest in commercial real estate on a budget -- even if you have less than $100 to work with. And best of all, it's super easy to get started.

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Get ready to make money with REITs

Buying a commercial property requires a lot of money. Investing in companies that own commercial properties requires a lot less.

That's why it pays to look at REITs, or real estate investment trusts, if you're short on funds but still want to branch out into commercial real estate. When you buy REITs, what you're doing is scooping up shares of companies that make money by operating different types of properties.

Within the context of REITs, there are different sectors you can choose to focus on. You may decide to look at industrial REITs, which are companies that operate warehouses and distribution centers. The massive shift to e-commerce that's occurred over the past two years makes these specific REITs a good bet.

Another option to look at is data center REITs. With so many companies now allowing workers to do their jobs partially from home, partially from an office, it's become more important than ever to have a way to safely share and store data. That makes the case for data center REITs being a solid buy.

Finally, you may want to look at healthcare REITs, namely because healthcare is considered a recession-proof industry that's not dependent on trends for growth the same way industrial or data center REITs might be. Healthcare REITs operate properties such as hospitals, nursing facilities, and urgent care centers.

There's a lot of upside

Owning REITs could allow you to diversify your portfolio if you don't currently have any money in real estate. And not only might you benefit financially if your REIT shares gain value over time, but you can also expect generous dividend payments along the way.

REITs are actually required to pay 90% of their taxable income as dividends to shareholders. So that's money you'll have the option to cash out or reinvest to expand your portfolio -- the choice is yours.

Either way, you should know that it doesn't take a ton of money to begin investing in commercial real estate. If you have a brokerage account, you already have access to a wide range of publicly traded REITs whose shares you buy and sell the same way you would an ordinary stock. And the sooner you begin investing in REITs, the more money you have the potential to make -- even if you're starting out with just a small sum.