Real estate development professionals, either working for themselves or their employer, create new places for people to live, work, shop, and play. This person typically is involved with the transaction from land sourcing through lease-up and is depended on by a host of stakeholders to insure the outcome of the project is a successful one.
Not for the faint of heart – development can be stressful, risky, and laden with hurdles – the capable and experience-hardened developer commands arguably the highest compensation in the industry. It’s very much a high risk, high reward career.
When working for others, jobs titles generally include Development: Analyst, Senior Analyst, Associate , Senior Associate, Director, Vice President, Executive Director, Managing Director and so forth; similar to titles in acquisitions and asset management. When working for themselves, the real estate development professional is known as a Developer.
Where They Work
These professionals most often work at firms acting as the general partner (sponsor) of ground-up development projects. Some public equity, but mostly private equity and family offices have this type of investment platform. Less common but still applicable, large limited partners such as life insurance companies, endowments, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other large institutional investors will hire development professionals to vet and track investments.
General Duties and Responsibilities
While the exact duties and responsibilities vary by firm and job level, here is what developers typically are required to do:
- Source and analyze new investment opportunities,
- Negotiate land purchase contracts,
- Lead due diligence process,
- Work with land-use planners, architects, engineers, consultants, and others to design a project to the property’s highest and best use,
- Manages entitlement process, the process by which development approvals are obtained from governing bodies,
- Seek out construction team (general contractor, etc) and negotiate construction contracts ,
- Coordinates with internal team to acquire construction and permanent financing,
- Works with asset manager to plan and execute leasing strategy,
- Review and coordinate approval of bank draws, closing documentation and support financing and re-financing activity,
- Prepare project schedules, annual budget, and strategic plan for assets and initiatives under their responsibility.
Development professionals above the analyst level typically have some combination of graduate education and development experience. Firms that work with large institutions typically expect their developers to have an MBA or Masters in Real Estate while smaller firms generally care more about relevant local market experience. A strong understanding of real estate principals, ability to quantitatively analyze investments using tools such as Excel, and strong relationships in the industry are paramount.
How Much do Real Estate Development Professionals Make?
See our section on salaries in real estate for more information.
Keys to Success
Individuals who succeed in real estate development are those with deep real estate and market knowledge. They are especially apt at confronting and overcoming challenges; as the development process is topsy turvy, unpredictable, and risky. Real estate is highly cyclical and so those who wish to pursue this tract must be willing to adapt to the changing markets and be willing to go without a job or project on occasion. Those who succeed at this role often go out on their own and earn great sums of money for themselves and their investor partners.