I want to be a real estate developer

I’ve been in the real estate industry for a few years. I was a commercial leasing agent (didn’t do so well, mostly because I had a crappy boss introducing me to the industry, but even more mostly because I didn’t apply myself). I spent a few years as a leasing paralegal. Now I do property tax appeals, mostly for owner-occupants and landlords of industrial property, and multi-family landlords.

But I’m starting to realize (at the ripening age of my mid-30s) that I want to (and I think have always wanted to) be in development.

I’ve little in the way of assets, having spent the last few years pissing away everything I earned and having a good time. So I don’t really have any capital. I don’t have good credit, because of a few lean years where I tried working for myself or for commissions, and ended up not being able to pay all of my bills on time (they all ended up paid, mind you, but it wreaked havoc on my credit rating).

But I want to develop, damnit! I love real estate. I love buildings. I love the idea of becoming deeply involved in a project and seeing it through to completion, before starting all over again with a new piece of raw land. I like putting deals together. I love being creative and innovative and finding solutions and having ideas that either nobody has had or nobody has acted upon (even in my tax appeal job, I’ve come up with a couple of ways to reduce taxes that my boss, a seasoned member of the industry, says nobody has ever tried before, but which he’s quite excited about). I like to communicate and interact and get things done.

And I want to build buildings. Condos and multi-use are the kinds of buildings that attract me most.

Are there any developers here that can share with me the best way to get into the business? I’d ideally like to not have to take a huge pay cut to get into that part of the industry (currently earning about $55K - 70K, depending upon how profit sharing works outat the end of my first year).

By the way, if it matters, I have an undergrad in Finance, but finished it about 9 years ago and haven’t done smack with it since finishing school. Would take me a few months to get back up to speed on all my financial theory.

Well, going to a school that offers classes in Commercial Real Estate Development would be a good start… Failing that, getting a job working for one is a good idea.

The one thing that a developer needs (IMO) is capital. As long as you have that, there’s no stopping some people. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with some…

Consider that the developer is ultimately responsible for every single cost on the project from buying the land, to architect fees to the contractor’s costs. Plus, you’re not going to see a return on your cash until you sell the damn thing which could be two or more years after you start.

What exactly would you be developing?

Start Here


Astro - CCIM

Thanks for the replies, Chairman Pow and astro. That’s twice the replies I was expecting!

I guess for me, the deal is that I’d like to go to work for a developer (rather than be a developer – right now that is – given the lack of capital), but (a) I don’t know any that I can exploit for information and contacts, (b) I’ve never seen help wanted ads for any developers, © I don’t know if I have anything to offer them (no direct experience), and (d) I don’t know where to begin.

What is a reasonable route to take? If I want to get into condo development, should I simply drop myself in as a showhome rep and get my foot in the door? Should I see if I can get all my finance degree knowledge back and try to get in as an analyst?

Ultimately, I want to be “the developer” – or at least part of the small team that is “the developer”. I want to be involved from concept to completion. But again, without the capital behind me, I don’t know how to get there from here.

Any further advice?

Umm… the job of commerical sales leasing agent (where you were) is one of the main entree’s into the business. Start with small stand alone deals around 100K-200K of your own or so and work up.

Geez, must you point out the painfully obvious? No, I kid. The reason I say that is that I suppose I knew that, but needed someone to point it out to me. I harbour some fear about getting back into that part of the business, given my dismal failure at it my first go-around. But like I said, the combination of a horrible work environment and a lack of desire, on my part, to succeed (fear, lack of understanding, lethargy – they all played their part) can be blamed, and not a general ineptness.

So yes, thank you for pointing out the obvious. Sometimes it’s exactly what we need.