What’s the best way to get started in property development? I’m just out of High School, and I would like to get involved in property development. I am willing to go to school, but honestly academics is not my strong point. Where do you suggest I begin?

You begin by going to school. The basics are most important. You need to learn about real estate and property management. You need to take business classes and finance classes. You can’t learn all you need to know to be successful just by mentoring with a local developer and learning all he/she teaches you, although post-graduation (with at least a four-year degree) that is exactly what you should do.

Consider investing four years (at least) in educating yourself about your chosen field. If you don’t, there will be gaps in your knowledge that could make the difference between success and failure. Remember that developing is like any other business venture: it is extremely, financially dangerous if you have not availed yourself of every possible resource to achieve success. And an education is a very important resource.

What is discounted cash flow analysis? What is a low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and how does it work? How do you figure a debt service coverage ratio? What is a non-cash expense? What are systems development charges how does Bancrofting figure into the payment of those? What is the difference between a capital lease and an operating lease?

If you can, right now, answer all of those questions without exception, then I have dozens more that you need to know before you can set one foot in that arena. If you could answer them all, then maybe you’d be ready to proceed with seeking an internship with an experienced developer. If you can’t answer these questions (plus the dozens more I could ask), don’t even consider moving ahead without completing a four-year college degree.

Remember that a developer is a combination of an economist, banker, builder, financier, financial analyst, real estate broker, business entrepreneur, investor, land use planner, CEO, seer and wizard (I am certainly not a developer). Even then, many do not survive.

Lastly, there are many types of developments: single family, multi-family, retail, commercial, resorts, planned-unit developments, senior housing, assisted living, for-profit, non profit, and on and on. It is very much a niche industry. Choose your niche wisely.

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