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How to Become a Real Estate Developer

real estate developer on the job site looking at blueprints with construction manager

What Does a Real Estate Developer Do?

Real estate development can be thought of as the engine that propels growth in the real estate industry. Real estate developers acquire property upon which they plan to develop their real estate projects, whether for commercial or residential purposes.

These two broad categories encompass everything from retail, office and industrial development to single- and multi-family homes. The options are as endless as your imagination, but your experience and education will help you grow and succeed in this sometimes volatile and always challenging industry.

Education To Become a Real Estate Developer

Since those in real estate development come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines—such as real estate agents and brokers, construction professionals, lenders, architects and lawyers—it's safe to say there is no methodical, set course for entering the real estate development industry.

A bachelor's degree, however, is typically ideal for anyone in the real estate field, especially for those who wish to specialize their career. Fields like architecture, planning and law each have their own degree programs but other potential development professionals may pursue a graduate degree in real estate to break into the field, such as a Master of Science in Real Estate, a Master of Real Estate Development or an MBA with a real estate concentration.

MBAs offer the ability to get a broad exposure to different aspects of real estate with courses such as Real Estate Development, Real Estate Capital Markets and Urban Systems. With a graduate degree, you can expect to grow your business acumen and make potential networking connections that may prove beneficial down the line.

Real Estate Development Professional Career Path Options

An aspiring real estate developer can start out in many different fields. Some start as real estate agents who, after buying and improving properties, succeed in selling them for a profit. After a period of time, they may raise the capital necessary to work with an urban or regional planner, architect and builder to develop, build and market a project, such as a new condominium development.

Others begin their careers in construction, contracting to build homes or commercial property in existing developments and eventually taking on partners such as architects and financial asset managers who can assist them in developing their own projects.

Although some may go into real estate development as entrepreneurs, such as in the examples above, most will end up working for real estate development companies that focus on specific types of real estate, such as retail or resort development. There is also the option of working for a development consultancy that gets hired to help clients develop their own projects.

Necessary Skills for a Real Estate Developer

Every development professional needs to be well-rounded, as real estate development is extremely complex and requires analytical, financialmarketing, interpersonal and organizational skills. This is especially true with financial skills—developers need these in order to make the right choices when purchasing, financing, developing, and then selling or leasing properties.

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