Finding Opportunities for Real Estate Development

People often think that in order to be a real estate developer you have to stick a shovel in the ground. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What land developers do is make some change to the real estate that will increase its value. Real estate development potential exists where the parcel can be transformed in some way so that it will appeal to more types of buyers. Two of the cardinal rules in the land development business are that the value of land is always relative to how (or if) the property can be used, and the value of the land parcel increases when the property can be used by either more buyers or additional categories of buyers.

In reality, opportunities for real estate development are all around you because there are several ways of developing land that don’t involve building. It is true that sometimes development through change involves building, such as modifying an existing structure or demolishing it and building a new one. But many more real estate development opportunities exist where the change to the property is invisible.

For example, suppose you find a residential property located on a street that takes a lot of traffic. The appeal (and therefore, the value) of the parcel is limited because the only potential buyers are people who wouldn’t object to living in a house on a busy street. Chances are, the highest and best use of this property is something other than straight residential. So you would want to determine if there were alternative uses possible to expand the market for this property and increase its value. How would you find this out?

The first thing you should do is determine what uses of the property are allowed under the current zoning by reviewing the zoning map and ordinance available at the municipal office. Once you locate the property on the zoning map, you will see what zoning district the property is in. Then you would read the provisions in the zoning ordinance for that district. These would deal with several issues: uses permitted “by right” (meaning that no use approval is necessary), special uses permitted only when approval is given by a municipal board, and dimensional requirements, such as the minimum lot size and width, building setbacks and the height of structures. (You should review the entire ordinance because there may be other provisions elsewhere in the book that would also apply to the property.)

The particular zoning classification might permit single-family detached houses on the specified lot size by right. But it might also allow the property to be used as a school, church, or day care facility when authorized by the municipality so long as the property satisfied some specific conditions. These might require that the total land area of the parcel be a certain minimum size (e.g., at least 10 acres), the property be serviced by public utilities, or that the building and paved areas not exceed a certain percentage of the total land square footage of the parcel.

Next you would review the municipality’s comprehensive or master land use plan. This document might say, for instance, that the local government wanted to encourage professional office uses in the area where your property was located. This would indicate that the municipality might be open to either a change of the zoning classification for the property or allow it to be used for professional office by granting a “use variance.” A variance does not change the underlying zoning classification of a property, but essentially permits the property to “violate” some provision of the zoning. In this case, a use variance would allow the property to be used for something other than a single family detached home, church, school or day care. However, the municipality would likely impose some conditions and restrictions in exchange for the variance, such as preservation of the existing structure or limitations on the total amount of building square footage that could be built.

If you could develop this property by getting a change of use approved, the property would certainly be worth more than as a home. You could then sell it to buyers who wanted to construct an office building to either lease out the space or sell the property once the office facility was completed.

How Property Fund Investors Can Fare Better Than Real Estate Developers

Are real estate developers disadvantaged relative to property fund investors?

Most real assets are performing better than the volatile stock market. But for some, property funds hold greater attraction over developed real estate.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, investors have soured on traditional investments due to factors of poor performance. Instead, they’re turning toward alternatives that include land investments and property funds. The reasons for this are easily understood: The growing housing shortage in the UK portends good near- and mid-term value growth for all aspects of residential real estate, particularly in light of robust (7 per cent since 2001) population growth.

Of course, not all real estate is the same for investors. Within real estate are two distinctly different types of investments, built properties and raw land. Some investors choose built properties or to invest in the developer who is managing the construction and sale of homes and commercial structures. An option to that is raw land, ripe for plan rezoning from, say, agricultural to residential-designated land.

Both have their merits, of course. But land investment might hold the advantage for at least three reasons:

• Adaptability to market needs – Raw land can be converted (pending approval of Local Planning Authority approvals, of course) to the use that is most critical to the local economy. This flexibility allows the land investment fund to prepare parcels for what will be needed in a relatively short period of time. On already-built property, investors have only what is there unless circumstances allow for the extraordinary expense of demolition and rebuilding – which only rarely makes sense from an asset growth perspective.

• Less investment in development (and associated risks) – The boom-bust cycles of the past several decades remind us of how a billion Pounds can be squandered rather quickly when a large property comes online at the precise moment when no one wants it. See “Canary Wharf, Olympia & York” for a spectacular illustration of how badly property investments can fail.

• More liquidity (but still not volatile) – Perhaps the Achilles Heel of real land assets is the illiquidity of land, with or without property. But land investments that at most involve the light infrastructure required of residential neighbourhoods (roads, sewers and other utilities) are much more easily sold than property involving structures. While that pales in comparison to real estate investment trusts for liquidity, real property is not nearly as subject to market fluctuations as are REITs.

To be sure, both investors in property funds and land investments tend to achieve asset growth in well-managed situations. But from land to property development, the path is quicker. With a seasoned team of land investment professionals, a joint venture partnership can identify and manage properties for maximum value appreciation and resale between 18 months and five years after acquisition.

All investments carry risk and should be considered in relation to one’s full portfolio of financial instruments. Be sure to contact a personal financial consultant before embarking on any investment.

How to Take Your Real Estate Business to the Next Level

Taking your real estate business to the next level is not as hard as it may seem. Actually, it is quite simple. In order to really move your business to new heights there are a couple of things you need to do. In this article I will briefly explain how to take your real estate business into orbit.

Outsourcing: If you ask me, the only way to take your business to the next level is to outsource your business. Outsourcing is hiring people or companies to take care of certain parts of your business for you. A lot of real estate investors are control freaks over their business and that is a big mistake. They think that they can do everything on their own. To be honest, no one can do everything on their own. In order for you to break new barriers in your real estate business you must hire people to help you.

Phone Services: One way that you can outsource is to hire call answering services. Most services like these will screen all of your calls and you can even give them a script. Once they have screened your calls they will email you. At that point you can pick and choose who you want to call back. If the deal is good, you can tell the answering company to put urgent in the email subject heading.

Direct Mail Services: Another way to outsource your business is to hire a direct mailing company. Make sure you research companies that specialize in the type of leads you need. Most direct mailing companies will automatically advertise for you on a monthly basis according to your budget. This is an easy way to stop procrastination when it comes to spending advertising dollars. This is also a good way to save time with putting labels on post cards and other forms of mail.

Other: You don’t always need to hire a company to outsource your business. You can hire people to do certain things for you that you cannot do on your own, or just don’t have enough time in the day for. College students are great for doing paperwork for you. They are also good for running errands and things of that nature. You can hire people and teach them how to do things the way you want it to be done. If they can do it half as good as you and you hire 2 or 3 people to do the same thing, then your doing good.

Hiring people and companies is definitely the way to go if you want to hit that next level in your real estate investment business. When your budget is right you should consider doing so. Think about it, if you’re worth $200 an hour, why would you be doing a job worth $10 an hour. Hire someone to do that job for you. When you do this you can focus on what your good at which is bringing in more business.