Real estate development

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The Solidere development of the Beirut seafront
In the Netherlands virtually all housing is developed and built through property developers, including in more upmarket segments.

Real estate development, or property development, is a multifaceted business, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease of existing buildings to the purchase of raw land and the sale of improved land or parcels to others. Developers are the coordinators of the activities, converting ideas on paper into real property.[1] Real estate development is different from construction, although many developers also construct.

Developers buy land, finance real estate deals, build or have builders build projects, create, imagine, control and orchestrate the process of development from the beginning to end.[2] Developers usually take the greatest risk in the creation or renovation of real estate—and receive the greatest rewards. Typically, developers purchase a tract of land, determine the marketing of the property, develop the building program and design, obtain the necessary public approval and financing, build the structures, and rent out, manage, and ultimately sell it.[1] Sometimes property developers will only undertake part of the process. For example some developers source a property get the plans and permits approved before on selling the property with the plans and permits to a builder at a premium price. Alternatively, a developer that is also a builder may purchase a property with the plans and permits in place so that they do not have the risk of failing to obtain planning approval and can start construction on the development immediately. Developers work with many different counterparts along each step of this process, including architects, city planners, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, contractors, leasing agents and more. In the Town and Country Planning context in the United Kingdom, 'development' is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s55.

Statutory definition of development in the United Kingdom[edit]

'Development' is defined by statute in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s55(1), as 'the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land'. This definition is clarified by the remainder of s55 and the inclusion of the Generally Permitted Development Order 1995 and the Use Classes Order 1987. In favour of ststement

Paths for entering the development field[edit]

No single path leads automatically to success in real estate development. Developers come from a variety of disciplines— construction, urban planning, lending, architecture, law and accounting, among others. Recent specialized programs that award a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) degree are also available. The graduate programs in real estate development are the most comprehensive education in the industry. Other formal education includes a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE), or an MBA.

Organizing for development[edit]

A development team can be put together in one of several ways. At one extreme, a large company might include many services, from architecture to engineering. At the other end of the spectrum, a development company might consist of one principal and a few staff who hire or contract with other companies and professionals for each service as needed.

Assembling a team of professionals to address the environmental, economic, physical and political issues inherent in a complex development project is critical. A developer's success depends on the ability to coordinate the completion of a series of interrelated activities efficiently and at the appropriate time.

Development process requires skills of many professionals: architects, landscape architects, civil engineers and site planners to address project design; market consultants to determine demand and a project's economics; attorneys to handle agreements and government approvals; environmental consultants and soils engineers to analyze a site's physical limitations and environmental impacts; surveyors and title companies to provide legal descriptions of a property; and lenders to provide financing. General and sub contractors create the visual results of development.

Land development[edit]

Further information: Land development

Purchasing unused land for a potential development is sometimes called speculative development.

Subdivision of land is the principal mechanism by which communities are developed. Technically, subdivision describes the legal and physical steps a developer must take to convert raw land into developed land. Subdivision is a vital part of a community's growth, determining its appearance, the mix of its land uses, and its infrastructure, including roads, drainage systems, water, sewerage, and public utilities.

In general, land development is the riskiest but most profitable technique as it is so dependent on the public sector for approvals and infrastructure and because it involves a long investment period with no positive cash flow.

After subdivision is complete, the developer usually markets the land to a home builder or other end user, for such uses as a warehouse or shopping center. In any case, use of spatial intelligence tools mitigate the risk of these developers by modeling the population trends and demographic make-up of the sort of customers a home builder or retailer would like to have surrounding their new development.

Top real estate development companies by market capitalization[edit]

The top companies by market capitalization in the real estate development industry, as of 29 April 2009, are given below.[3][unreliable source?]

Company Exchange Ticker Cap ($)
DLF Universal BSE DLF 2.24B
Inversiones y Representaciones Sociedad Anónima (IRSA) NYSE IRS 226M
Consolidated-Tomoka Land AMEX CTO 199M
Stratus Properties NASDAQ STRS 74M
Bluegreen NYSE BXG 67M


  1. ^ a b Frej, Anne B & Peiser, Richard B. Professional Real Estate Development, Second Edition: The ULI Guide to the Business. Urban Land Institute, 2003. p. 3.
  2. ^ New York Times, March 16, 1963, "Personality Boom is Loud for Louis Lesser"
  3. ^ Real estate development Industry Page, Wikinvest