I would love to learn more about the career path many real estate developers have taken. Would any real estate developers be interested in grabbing some coffee and talking shop?
Most likely, you're looking at a degree in civil engineering or business / management. And that may be needed to get you the right job that helps you get the experience you need.
"As a developer in training, you want a job that exposes you to the maximum amount of the development cycle with the maximum possible learning velocity (time and speed). You will need to learn all of these components of a development deal: land acquisition, site selection and sourcing, zoning and entitlements, architectural design management, deal underwriting, financing, construction, leasing, property management, and sale or asset management.
I would suggest working for companies that already develop the types of projects that you are ambitious to build in the future. Search for companies in your local area: google search, look for ads that are selling or renting new projects and identify the developer, read news of company announcements, and most importantly, build your networks. Networks could be: local builders exchange, local and regional homebuilders association, search on websites for NAHB, NMHC, ULI, attend real estate meet-ups, attend real estate conferences.
Your likely job title will be: assistant project manager, analyst, development associate.Whatever it is, you will be working for a more seasoned project manager or senior project manager. Know this: that person is worth their weight in gold, and can be the primary person that you run things past or ask questions as you move through your day.
An alternative could be that you intern for a small development company, with the express purpose of gaining development experience, or at least that's how you should communicate it to them. You may have to work for free or at low cost to the small company, as they will be very sensitive to cash flow and costs.
The development business is one of the most complicated businesses that I know of combined with risk in land markets, underwriting, financing, and construction. While each component part is not overly hard to understand, there's a ton of steps, and each step has risk embedded in it AND you are dealing with people all along the way: brokers, land sellers, planners, politicians, bankers, construction folks, renters, property managers, and buyers. So your ability to both understand the process better than anyone else AND to convince other people to go your way, agree to allow you to do your project, or support your project with investment, is of paramount importance."
Best of luck in Phoenix! If I can be of any further help just let me know!
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