Real estate development can be a scary and complicated beast. It draws upon so many disciplines and pulls one in so many different directions.
What’s the day-to-day life like for a developer with a green-lit project? A mentor of mine always describes the role of the developer as a cat herder.
Architects, lenders, equity partners, brokers, lawyers, engineers, consultants, general contractors (sub contractors), alder-people, public officials, zoning boards, tenants (the list goes on and on). The developer, in most cases, interacts with them all.
Why the reason for this complexity?
The nature of the business requires the developer to be the expert. If they want that building built, acquired, or sold, they have to understand how it all fits together–literally, operationally, politically, and financially. If they are not the expert (many cases this is also true), they need to understand who is and how to collaborate with them.
In an entrepreneurial sense, despite the complexity and opaque-nature of the business, every successful developer starts somewhere. If you’re itching to get into the business or are looking for resources to sharpen your skills, here are a few worth their weight in real estate development gold: (quick note, no affiliate partnerships here, just resources I’m jazzed about)
REFM: The financial model is probably the number one tool in the developer’s tool kit. Like your golf game, it can always be sharpened and perfected to the Nth degree. Real Estate Financial Modeling (GetREFM.com) is the go-to source for gaining and sharpening your financial modeling skills. The best part: it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned analyst at Goldman Sachs or you don’t have the slightest clue how to build a quality financial model, REFM’s resources cover it all.
Books: Search Amazon for “real estate” and you’re bound to get pages after pages of real estate investing books to choose from. If you’re just starting out, here are a few that provide solid, honest advice:
What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow…and 36 Other Key Financial Measures by Frank Gallinelli is a great source for understanding the mechanics of analyzing a real estate deal.
Ditto for The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decision-making and Investment by William J. Poorvu .
There are many quality books available, but these two books do a tremendous job at clearly explaining the nuts and bolts of sound real estate investing and development.
Quick tip: Because of the assortment of real estate books available, it’s very easy to read up on shoddy and misguided content. If you find a book with a flashy title and the words “get rich quick” written all over its description, turn the other way. Real estate development is a detail-oriented and long-term game.
Text Books: They aren’t always the most entertaining Saturday-morning reads but, pound for pound, text books contain the most specific information and knowledge available.
Real Estate Finance and Investments by William Brueggeman and Jeffrey Fisher is the book I reach for when I need to get clarity on an issue that only a text book can provide. Text books can be very expensive, but this is one I know I’ll have on my desk for years to come (unless a Kindle version becomes available, of course).
Urban Land Institute: ULI is a real estate organization focused on the education and research of responsible land use. It’s also one of the largest organizations for real estate developers, investors, and professionals. Most major cities in the US and abroad have chapters that routinely promote and organize real estate-specific networking events, seminars, tours, and workshops. The organization is made up of a diverse group of real estate professionals–highly recommended.
Websites and blogs: Here is an amazing list of websites and blogs dedicated to real estate development, investing, and brokerage.
Curbed (both national and major city)
Twitter: Yes, even Twitter can be a fantastic resource for market research and information. There is an strong community of real estate professionals on Twitter that dish out important industry news and information everyday. If you want to better understand the pulse of the market, here are a few real estate professionals, companies, and organizations to follow:
Joe Stampone. @JoeStampone1
Duke Long. @dukelong
Michael Lagazo. @Michael_MBA
Barbi Reuter. @BarbiReuter
Ken Ashley. @KenAshley
Chris McLaughlin. @mclaughlinchris
Real Estate HQ. @RealEstateHQ
Wall Street Journal Real Estate. @WSJRealEstate
For a more exhaustive list (actually much more exhaustive) check out Duke Long’s list here.
So there you have it. These are tried and true resources for many real estate developers and investors. What’s the moral of the story? Real estate development is a complex game, but the resources above help immensely in breaking it apart.