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. 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. 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 structure, and lease, manage, and ultimately sell it. Developers work with many different counterparts along each step of this process, including architects, city planners, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, contractors, leasing agents and more.
The 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 soil 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. In depth knowledge of how each functions and prices their work is critical to control costs and create a quality project. A prominent developer once described a real estate developer as follows "a real estate developer is a person who is not an architect, engineer, plumber, iron worker, attorney, appraiser, or any of the dozens of other professionals involved in the real estate development process. It is however someone that knows what each one of them does in detail so as to get exactly what he or she wants from each of them. No single path leads automatically to success in real estate development. Developers come from a variety of disciplines— construction, lending, architecture, law and accounting, among others. Recent specialized programs that award a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) degree are also available.