Getting into development

I know this question has been posed in it’s variations, so here’s another:

I’d like to eventually become a developer, probably partnering with someone. That’s down the road. I need experience, knowledge, a reputation, and contacts. So that’s what I’m working on and have been set up a little more quickly than anticipated.

I met with a high-profile developer this morning who does commercial and condos, to discuss his projects, the business, just talk basically. I felt ill-prepared because I didn’t know what to tell him I wanted to do, and what I was immediately looking for. I basically want to get in the business, learn as much as I can, from the operational and financial sides to working with the GCs and everything in between. I wound up just showing an interest in project management, just to not come off as a total idiot. I have some (very little, but more than the general public for sure) experience with developing through past businesses, relatives who were developers, and have sold residential real estate, and stay as on top of local development issues as much as I can. I’m learning as much as I can on my own, but that’s not going to put me on track, nor put food on the table. I’m presently looking to do this as a career.

He is going to introduce me to one of, if not the most, high-profile and oldest developers in this part of my state, as well as the owner of the largest and highest-end real estate firm (I don’t want to sell again, but they do a lot of deals and projects) in this part of the state, as well as a few other influential people in the business here. It’s a huge opportunity. I don’t want to blow it.

I really need to be able to explain what I want to do and what they can do for me. I need a path and to be able to explain in no uncertain terms where one of them may be able to place me to give me a shot. I’ll do anything from making copies and going to pick up plans to getting coffee, but realistically, I need something a little more concrete and to show I have a plan and how I can fit into their life.

Can anyone suggest what might be some good “point A”'s, to get me to “point Z?” Project management? Commercial sales? Errand boy? Where did you start and learn the biz? If you were/are in these people’s shoes I’m going to meet, what would impress you, who would be someone you would take on, and in what capacity? What is/are good positions to start the wheels turning? I’m 37 and have owned my own business and have degrees in Business and English, but am also brand new to the city I live in and have scarce contacts. This is a total career change. I’m learning as much as I can about how the development/zoning/annexation/etc…procedures work around here as well as any project being done and who’s doing them. I just really don’t want to blow a HUGE opportunity like this.

Any suggestions and advice are greatly appreciated.
Thanks! :biggrin

Unless you have a tract of land or deep pockets there’s not a lot you can do with these guys except suck up their knowledge.

If it were me, I would try to establish myself as a lending partner and bring them awesome financing. I have a friend who is a residential developer of very high end luxury homes and she is always stumped on the financing end. I recently wrote a proposal offering my services as a dedicated financing consultant. I offered her a substantial discount IF she agreed to bring me all of her business. We’ll see how that goes.

There is a guy named Colm Dillon that has an e-book about residential development. It is ok but he is in Australia and I’ve found many of the concepts just don’t translate well here in the US.

Good luck!

Thanks for replying. I do want to hoover up as much knowledge as possible, but convincing them to take me on as a protege or give me a job in some capacity is the challenge. The subchallenge is deciding on where they can place me, and how to begin this path. I’ve looked into the sales side, and am trying to find out how one can become a project manager. I’m just exploring options and trying to narrow down what might be appealing to both them and me and see if there’s a fit anywhere.


I think your plan is excellent. By working for a developer you can learn the ropes and avoid some expensive mistakes when you start out on your own.

You should soak up the knowledge, ask questions about their business and how they got started, then listen. Explain to them what you’d like to do and why. Also outline your qualifications and experience. Explain that you’ll be willing to work for less than you are worth because you’ll be learning the business that you want to make your career. Be honest and open. It will be a breath of fresh air for these guys

Good luck.

You also need to start getting funds together if you’re ever going to develop anything. While you are learning you can rehab, wholesale, etc residential properties.

To help you out in your endeavors. Here is info:
Construction Package
Items required in a Preliminary Package

  1. Project description (which includes number of units, proposed pricing of units, total costs, per plan costs, profits, proposed equity and proposed loan amount, any subordinated debt)
  2. Project cash flow
  3. Location map
  4. Cost breakdown
  5. Market study - if available (an internal or third party study)
  6. Sequence list (including lot number, plan number, base price, proposed premiums)
  7. Biography or resume of key management
  8. Authorization/Release for Business and Principal
  9. Borrower’s Certificate of Past Credit Relationships
  10. Banking references and two sub-contractor or supplier references (attached)
  11. List of all current projects (location, price range, size range, sales rate, JV partner, lender)
  12. Financial Statements for borrowing entity and guarantor(s) (attached)
    a) Current financial statements, indicate book value or market value basis
    b) Statements must accurately report all assets and all liabilities (include contingencies)
    c) Statements must be signed and dated
    d) Signed tax returns for past two years (please include all K1’s)
  13. Financial Statement Certification
  14. Tax Return Certification
  15. Tract map and entitlement status and timing
  16. Environmental Questionnaire
  17. Executed Broker Loan Fee Agreement, if applicable

Additional items required to approve, document and fund the loan

  1. Appraisal Report by an approved appraiser
  2. Formation documents of the Borrowing Entity (LP1) and Tax I.D. number
  3. History of property ownership if purchased from a related party
  4. Closing Statement for the property (or proforma closing statement if under contract)
  5. Joint Venture agreement (if any)
  6. Preliminary Title Report with underlying documents
  7. Geotechnical Soils Report
  8. Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment
  9. Site plan (with units plotted)
  10. Grading Plan
  11. Architectural drawings with specifications
  12. Architectural agreement (if any)
  13. Engineering agreement (if any)
  14. Construction Contract (if any)
  15. Insurance broker’s name, address, and phone number (builders all-risk, general liability)
  16. Independent cost review may be required
  17. Related Debt Certification (Loans To One Borrower)
    Notice of Right to Receive a Copy of the Appraisal Report