Everything You Need to Know Before Becoming a Real Estate Developer


Becoming a Real Estate Developer 2

Real estate has always been and always will be one of the most potentially lucrative investments anyone can make. There are numerous ways to get involved—from investing in small-scale rental properties to becoming a real estate developer, there have never been so many real estate investment opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Several platforms even allow individuals to fractionally invest in real estate projects, allowing them to be part of the development process without needing to put down tens of thousands in capital. Real estate development is difficult; there are many pieces to the puzzle, and each must be properly managed for the project to succeed. This article gives you everything you need to know before jumping in.

What Does a Real Estate Developer Do?

At its core, a real estate developer’s job is to take a piece of land and turn it into something valuable. This could mean building single-family homes, developing commercial projects like shopping centers or office buildings, or flipping houses.

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The process involves securing funding, identifying potential buyers and tenants, obtaining permits from the local government, and managing the entire construction process. The real estate development process is complicated, requiring knowledge of local zoning regulations, financing options, legal contracts and more. It also requires an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for finding opportunities in the market that others may have missed.

Skills Needed to Be a Successful Developer

In order to be successful, a real estate developer needs to have several key skills. These include:

  • Knowledge of local zoning regulations and development rules
  • Ability to obtain financing for projects
  • Negotiation skills for dealing with potential buyers, tenants and other stakeholders
  • Understanding of construction processes and the ability to manage contractors
  • Awareness of local compliance regulations (e.g., Water Board Permitting & Compliance)
  • Strong business acumen, including marketing, budgeting, and financial planning
  • Ability to identify potential land acquisitions (or investments) in the market

By having these skills, a real estate developer can create value from an otherwise piece of unloved land.

Startup Costs for Real Estate Development

Real estate development is capital-intensive. Startup costs can quickly add up, so it’s important to budget and plan ahead. It’s also a good idea to factor in an additional 10% to 20% of the total cost as a contingency fund—just in case something unexpected happens during the project. These costs depend on the scale of the project but generally include the following:

1. Land acquisition fees

There are many costs associated with buying land. These include closing costs, title insurance, and other legal fees, appraisal fees (if needed), and any taxes or transfer duties associated with the purchase.

2. Permit and zoning fees

All projects must adhere to local zoning laws. This means obtaining the necessary permits, which can be expensive. Fees depend on the location and scope of the project, but it’s wise to factor in these costs from the beginning.

3. Financing costs

Many real estate investors and developers turn to private lenders or banks to finance their projects. Depending on the size of the loan, interest payments can be substantial.

4. Construction material and labor costs

Construction materials like steel, concrete, and lumber need to be purchased to build the project. Labor costs include paying engineers, architects, contractors, and other workers who will actually do the building.

5. Fees for legal services, surveyors and other professional consultations

Legal services are essential for any real estate project. In the US, developers must work with a real estate lawyer to draft sale contracts and other documents, consult with government agencies on zoning matters, and handle title searches. Additionally, surveyors need to be hired to map out a potential site.

6. Taxes and insurance premiums associated with the project

Property taxes and insurance premiums need to be paid throughout the project. These include taxes on land, buildings, and income earned from sales. They also include insurance policies to cover the property in case of damage or theft.

7. Marketing and advertising expenses (if applicable)

If a developer is selling their project or plans to turn it into a fully operational business, they may need to invest in marketing and advertising. This involves creating brochures, websites, videos, and other promotional content to draw attention to the property.

How to Get Started in Real Estate Development

Most people who get involved in real estate development do so in one of three ways:

  1. Their family (or a family member) helps them get started from a young age
  2. They study real estate development, attend school, and work for a firm
  3. They make enough money elsewhere to invest in real estate development themselves

The first and third options are unlikely—the majority of new real estate developers get their start by studying and working for a firm. In fact, most people get started this way regardless of their background or experience.

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By working for a firm, you can learn the ins and outs of real estate development, gain valuable experience in the field, and make important connections with other developers. This is often the best way to get started in real estate development. If you want to get hired by a real estate development firm, there are a few ways you can go about doing so:

  • Attend college or university and major in real estate. Many reputable firms host career fairs for real estate majors. They also recruit directly from campuses. If you want to take it a step further, you could also join extracurricular real estate clubs or organizations to make yourself even more attractive to potential employers.
  • Grow your professional network in the real estate industry. Attend events, join professional organizations, and get to know people who can help you find opportunities. This can be especially effective if you’ve already worked in related fields like residential or commercial real estate brokerage.
  • Take a course in real estate development and obtain certifications. Doing this will give you the knowledge and skills employers are looking for. It can also open up more doors for you as you progress in the industry.

Ultimately, becoming a successful real estate developer takes dedication and hard work. It’s important to be aware of all the different aspects of the job before taking the plunge. Once you have a strong understanding of the skills needed to succeed, it will be easier.


Real estate development is a rewarding but difficult job. It requires knowledge of the industry and its specific regulations, as well as skills in finance, marketing, and much more. Before you get started, it’s important to understand the costs associated with the project, how you will find financing, and what professional help you may need along the way. With the right knowledge and experience, you can become a successful real estate developer. 

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