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5 Top Tips: How to become a property developer

5 Top Tips: How to become a property developer

September 21, 2022

If your interests lie in pursuing a potentially lucrative career, altering the very environment in which society operates, and leaving a lasting legacy in fixed buildings or developed land, then a career in property development is for you.

From purchasing land to building and developing facilities, from high rise buildings to roads and parks, property development involves a wide range of processes and activities.

As ICMS property lecturer Steven Boyd notes: “A property developer facilitates a change in our built environment. They have a great responsibility creating the places we work, live and play. And their decisions can have an enduring impact on our society and natural environment.”

It’s a satisfying career for a specific type of individual – a calculated risk taker with an entrepreneurial streak. Property developers do their homework, and have the patience to overcome obstacles in the long run.

Done right, property development benefits all who live in the area and is a satisfying and lucrative career that will get better over time.

So how do you become a property developer?

We share our 5 Top Tips:

  1. Start small to snowball later

Resist the temptation to borrow to the hilt or overcapitalise on your property investments, particularly at the start of your career.

When first venturing out into property development, only spend or borrow what you can afford to lose. History is littered with failed developments; as lucrative as the industry can be when done right is as bankruptcy-prone it can be when something unforeseen goes wrong.

Thoroughly research areas and financing before embarking on your first property development project – to make sure it is not your last!

  1. Buy with your head, not your heart

A clear business plan – taking into account zoning permissions, available finances, whether or not a development is likely to make a profit – is critical to the success of any potential property development.

If you buy with your heart, your emotions may sway you into pouring your capital into a black hole, and may end up with you going broke like many less careful property developers before you.

Be steadfast in your pursuit of property development, leaning on strategists and people who have gone before you to help you make the wisest decisions with the most amount of information possible.

“Successful and responsible property developers need to listen to stakeholders and navigate a complex system of planning and approvals to find the highest and best use for the land they intend to develop,” Boyd recommended.

“Perhaps most importantly they need a dynamic understanding of the market, feasibility and finance, especially time value of money. While they need to plan, they will also need to make quick but informed decisions as they face the unexpected.”

  1. Location, location, location

There is an element of risk involved with any property development, but you can mitigate this by learning as much as possible about the location where you would like to either develop an existing building, or create something new.

Location matters – not only for the views, but also for where it is in the boom or slump cycle.

You may be tempted to squeeze into an area that’s booming presently, but may find then that your slice of the pie is smallest.

You may buy in an area that you reckon is desirable, but it may not be fit for purpose. For example, developing swish luxury apartments or a nightclub in a family-friendly suburb may not bode well for the success of your project. On the other hand, choosing to build single story apartments in an area where there is a cluster of aged residents makes sense.

You may get more for your money in a less desirable location, but if you spend a bit more and hit the right location, you could make greater profits over time. Here’s where advice from local stakeholders, contemporaries and mentors can be the difference between make or break.

  1. Lean on the experts

Property development is something of a team sport. From conception to finalising the end of a project, you will need to work with architects, investors, construction managers and crews, lawyers, town planners and your local council to ensure your property development reaches its full potential.

You also need to make sure your venture is legally compliant with permits and permissions in hand before embarking your project.

Network and connect with highly skilled people who will advise you, work for you and work with you to reach your development goal.

  1. Study your craft

“The best way to develop the skills and knowledge to be a successful developer is to learn and reflect. Studying a bachelor of property can fast track a career as a successful and responsible property developer,” Boyd said.

As part of the comprehensive ICMS Bachelor of Property (Development, Investment and Valuations) degree, you can choose electives alongside core business and property subjects.

Property developers generally have an entrepreneurial mindset, always looking for avenues of expansion or opportunities for growth.

Electives such as Entrepreneurship Foundations and Mindset (ENTA) stand alongside more traditional property subjects that would be useful to the would-be property developer, such as Introduction to the Property Industry (PRO120A) and Property Development (PRO134A).

More in depth subjects include Property Planning and Construction (PRO201A), which looks the use of emerging technologies in sustainable design, building construction and retrofits of existing buildings in sustainable urban development. Subjects such as these extend your understanding of simple, single residential dwelling developments to building construction techniques used in more complex to high-rise construction developments, ensuring they meet the National Construction Codes.

As a property developer, you need to have a good understanding of best practice procedures and legislative policy control, and have an appreciation of associated issues including measurement, contract procurement and control, depreciation and obsolescence, and life cycle analysis.

The ICMS Bachelor of Property (Development, Investment and Valuation) includes a minimum of 600 hours industry training as part of the degree. The ICMS Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program ensures you get hands-on, real world experience in the property industry before you even graduate.

To find out more about the ICMS Bachelor of Property (Development, Investment and Valuation), click here.



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