The school you sit in and the house you live in are the work of developers.
At one time, there was no building where you are, only a forest or grass.
The land was purchased, zoned and parceled out into lots. Then it was designed,
developed and sold to individuals.
The person responsible is the land developer. Along with planners, they
decide the best use for land and develop it appropriately.
Daren Fluke is a development consultant in Idaho. Once an investor buys
land, that investor approaches him. Fluke is responsible for the regulatory
and design side of the project. A developer can't just buy and build. Laws
must be adhered to, and the community must be heard.
"I interact with the regulatory agencies on [developers'] behalf, represent
the project at public hearings and deal with angry neighbors. I also design
projects such as subdivision layouts, apartment complexes or shopping centers,"
These are all tasks of developers. Just about the only thing keeping Fluke
from being a full-blown land developer is that he doesn't put up the cash
to buy the land.
Developers scour the land, says Fluke, looking for good deals. It's not
just a matter of finding land, but getting it at a price where you can make
money. After regulatory approval is received, which may mean many public hearings
with the community, the design stage and then layout begins. Street widths
and the size of the lots are decided. Lighting and sewer systems are laid
down, he says.
Some developers will oversee all of this from start to finish. Others will
walk to the next project once the construction of infrastructure begins.
"It depends on the developer as to how they spend their waking moments,"
says Fluke. Some will try not to do hands-on stuff, like construction. "Some
will want to be around when the bulldozers break ground. It depends on the
Many start out in real estate, or like Fluke, in a consulting or planning
Jim Siepmann is a land developer in Wisconsin. He warns anyone looking
to get involved in this field that it can be tough. "It's a very difficult
business to be in. It takes a lot of capital to get involved with it. It has
a lot of risk attached to it. You have to first find the land, and it is becoming
more difficult to find developable land," he says.
He says government regulations and zoning requirements are time-consuming
hurdles as well.
Hazel Christy works in a small city office. "Much of what this small city
planning department does revolves around land development, short and long
term," she says. Her job entails development, resources management, community
development and social planning, she says.
Land developers spend time working outside in the field or on site at one
of their projects. They may also spend time in an office negotiating contracts.
Many nights are passed in school auditoriums or other government buildings
where public hearings are held.
Sometimes the developer must defend his or her project to the community.
"As you build confidences in communities," says Siepmann, "if you do a
lot of work in that community and do it well and do 150 percent of what you
promise them, above and beyond what you promised, then the community will
help you through the process."
Holdups can come if a developer begins a project in a new community. Then,
the neighborhood needs to get to know you.
Depending on the variables -- whether a community knows you, what regulation
hurdles there are -- a residential project can take from six months to three
years to get off the ground. The whole time, says Siepmann, a developer's
money is tied up in a project. Plus, they are spending money daily to put
in street lights, lay roads and make the area more livable.
And if there is any natural enemy to the developer, it is water, says Siepmann.
Managing water can be a nightmare -- controlling it and building the sewer
systems, for example. Plus, if it rains regularly, construction comes to a
standstill. You can lose days and money because of it.