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Real estate development, or property development, is a multifaceted business process, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease of existing buildings to the purchase of raw land and the sale of developed land or parcels to others. Real estate developers are the people and companies who coordinate all of these activities, converting ideas from paper to real property. Real estate development is different from construction, although many developers also manage the construction process.
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 structures, and rent out, manage, and ultimately sell it.
Sometimes property developers will only undertake part of the process. For example, some developers source a property and get the plans and permits approved before 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, lawyers, leasing agents, etc. In the Town and Country Planning context in the United Kingdom, 'development' is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s55.
There is no specific credential required, nor license necessary, for a person or company to call himself a real estate developer. A real estate developer is not a professional designation, there are no schools or associations who recognize or protect the term as a trademark. Some real estate developers, often those involved in marketing properties through traditional real estate channels, choose to join business associations such as SIOR. Many aspects of the real estate development process require local or state licensing, such as acting as a real estate broker or sales agent along with filing title work and/or construction and/or engineering, etc. Licensed contractors who follow blueprints designed by licensed architects and licensed engineers.
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