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  #1  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 3:38 PM
ChiTownCity ChiTownCity is offline
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Guide: How to Become a Developer

Exactly what are some of the ways to become a developer? Would majoring in architecture be a good way to get into this field or would it be best to major in a strictly business field?

Last edited by ChiTownCity; Dec 12, 2010 at 12:57 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 4:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownCity View Post
Exactly what are some of the ways to become a developer? Would majoring in architecture be a good way to get into this field or would it be best to major in a strictly business field?
I don't think an architecture education would be overly helpful. I would definitely recommend a business education, ruthlessness, and maybe an inheritance of a few million.
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 4:21 PM
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^just for houses not highrises
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 5:15 PM
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I don't think an architecture education would be overly helpful. I would definitely recommend a business education, ruthlessness, and maybe an inheritance of a few million.
Having a keen eye for an opportunity is a must. Seeing value and potential where other may not (yet). This 'vision' will give a developer an edge over the others. You just have to be careful not to make the wrong bet or you'll find yourself and your company bankrupt.

Developer wish list:

1) great taste in architecture

2) not a greedy a*hole

3) won't cheapen out on the materials that often make or break a development

4) doesn't settle for the path of least resistance. Sticks with their vision and convinces the unconvincible

5) not evil

6) has a thorough understand of what is good urban design and bad urban design, even if those of authority don't

7) passionate not just about doubling or tripling their investment, but genuinely wants to improve the public sphere and the standards of the business

8) not a greedy a*hole

9) not a greedy a*hole

10) not a greedy a*hole
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 5:32 PM
ChiTownCity ChiTownCity is offline
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Having a keen eye for an opportunity is a must. Seeing value and potential where other may not (yet). This 'vision' will give a developer an edge over the others. You just have to be careful not to make the wrong bet or you'll find yourself and your company bankrupt.

Developer wish list:

1) great taste in architecture

2) not a greedy a*hole

3) won't cheapen out on the materials that often make or break a development

4) doesn't settle for the path of least resistance. Sticks with their vision and convinces the unconvincible

5) not evil

6) has a thorough understand of what is good urban design and bad urban design, even if those of authority don't

7) passionate not just about doubling or tripling their investment, but genuinely wants to improve the public sphere and the standards of the business

8) not a greedy a*hole

9) not a greedy a*hole

10) not a greedy a*hole
well that sounds like me . I know that it would make more sense to get a business major but I was thinking that if I major in architecture then I'll have a better understanding about what it is that I'm actually trying to build (better knowledge about materials and all that stuff). I'm definitely not trying to get into this field for money. Also if I had experience as an architect then wouldn't it be possible for me to design some of my own projects? or would that be too much? Thanks for the response in advance, sorry for taking this thread off topic...
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 6:21 PM
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Architect - developers is kind of the final frontier. Unfortunately I think both fields are resistant to it, because it dilutes their "mission," especially the architecture. But I say the hell with it. I'm a huge supporter of the concept - especially in housing development where the design could be developed and managed by an individual or very small firm, unlike a complex commercial development that requires an entire firm 2 years to carry out a design program.
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 7:14 PM
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as an architecture & urban design graduate, I'd suggest you get a business degree, with a minor in urban studies. Then you can choose to do grad school in architecture or in real estate. Architecture is much more art oriented in undergraduate, & becomes more technical in grad school.

Focus on getting educated in:
understanding housing markets
community development
complex financing
transit oriented development
marketing
management

then get yourself a creative partner for your developments, & act as the ying to their yang
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  #8  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2010, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownCity View Post
well that sounds like me . I know that it would make more sense to get a business major but I was thinking that if I major in architecture then I'll have a better understanding about what it is that I'm actually trying to build (better knowledge about materials and all that stuff). I'm definitely not trying to get into this field for money. Also if I had experience as an architect then wouldn't it be possible for me to design some of my own projects? or would that be too much? Thanks for the response in advance, sorry for taking this thread off topic...

If you are wanting to just build houses, that actually would make you a home builder, not a developer. At least at the beginning anyway, because you would likely buy lots from existing land developers or just finding empty lots. Developing is buying land, dividing it, and going though all the processes of getting a project approved. An expensive process that requires very deep pockets. Not for a beginner.

I am working on entering the development/ home building business myself. I am doing it via being a realtor. A college degree doesn't count for much in the real estate business especially if you are working for yourself. Being in the business of real estate will give you a far better sense of where you could build a real business, no school can do that.

As of this point I won't be a developer for a long time. I will do one house at a time for the time being. Building individuals houses and land developing really are different things, but moving from house building to more and bigger projects is the way to go. Experience counts for a lot.
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  #9  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 3:07 AM
ChiTownCity ChiTownCity is offline
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Thanks Busy Bee, A Chicago Bearcat, & Richb. That will definitely come in handy. I'm currently finishing up getting my credits to transfer (finals next week) and definitely needed to get a good idea on where to go to first. I know becoming an actual developer would be decades down the road for me.

My plan is to start on individual homes and lots and basically gradually move up from there to the point where I can purchase lots in prime areas. Seeing the developmental patterns that have been going on for quite a while now in this city (from an architectural standpoint ie whole blocks of prairie fields where beautiful rowhomes once stood) really made me concerned for the city as a whole and I would like to reverse the direction its currently heading in (aside from more affluent neighborhoods).

I currently have a connection to a small architect firm and not sure how long that would last that's why I was thinking getting the bachelors in architecture first would be good .

Well after I finish this semester I'll be able to transfer to a four year school, got all summer to figure out exactly each step from here. Getting a business degree first won't exactly put me in the playing field though opposed to working on an internship in a firm where I can ask questions and get credible answers... Idk Thanks for the responses once again....

Last edited by ChiTownCity; Jan 4, 2011 at 4:44 AM.
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  #10  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 3:35 AM
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I knew alot of people who intend to become developers / working for developers at the moment. Actually all of them don't have architecture degrees. They went into an urban studies program, took real estate development courses, some cross disciplinary law courses (not really necessary), and some business classes. If you are not in it for the money I wouldn't go that route....because each of these professions is so particularly focused on what they do. Money and cost vs high quality design. Heck certainly, I'd love the role of architect and developer, but I think I'd end up broke trying to make my vision reality. Point is, don't spread your interests too thin. On one hand it's great having alot of academic experience in different areas, but it can also be hassle when employers want someone very focused in their career.

Sorry I got off topic as well. Actually this discussion would make a really great new thread if the mods are interested in relocating the posts.
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  #11  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 3:35 AM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownCity View Post
Exactly what are some of the ways to become a developer? Would majoring in architecture be a good way to get into this field or would it be best to major in a strictly business field?
Do business and take as many courses on real estate that they offer. I am currently working on this myself. I got myself a good job during college working at a Real Estate Law Firm that taught me a ton and worked there for two plus years. Worked for a while at a tech start up which was a complete distraction from my real passion for real estate. I recently moved over to doing a combination of brokerage and consulting on corporate accounts. I am now in the process of buying my first building which is a two flat. I intend to live downtstairs and rent the top while I save up to rennovate the whole thing and sell it. Given the fact that its selling for about $150k in a market where a renovated two flat went for $500k to $750 three years ago, that should give me enough capital to really get going and either use it as collateral on other loans or just sell it to an investor and leverage the capital on other deals. Its going to take time and a lot of work, but I'm so close I can taste it.

Its funny, I was asking the exact same question on here four years ago so the advice I have for you works. Remember the following:

1. Be prepared to work your ass off
2. Be willing to take a risk. You have nothing to lose.
3. NETWORK at all possible opportunities. Real Estate is all about who you know
4. LEARN. Get yourself an internship or job at a real estate law firm, consultant, developer, or brokerage. Reference point one here. If you can't find a paying position or get a job through a connection, then approach local real estate people and offer to work for three. You can't do points 1-3 without number four. Most of Real Estate is something you can't learn in school, its good to have a education that gives you chops with numbers, but you need to have hands on experience.
5. Get your brokers license and do it as fast as possible. Its impressive to people if you have a license and a college degree at a young age. It also proves that you aren't just another business student groping everywhere they can looking for just another job to hold them over. It also only costs $600, but you can get the Illinois Realtors Association scholarship for college students who are interested in real estate.


If you do points 1-5 you will find yourself knowing what steps you have to take to become a developer in a couple years. I can't tell you how to become one because everyone does it differently, but I can tell you that if you do the above, you will figure it out yourself if you really have a passion for it.



PS: I double majored in Economics and Finance and graduated in 3.5 years so I could get a jump start on my goal.

PSS: The only developers that I know of who have an architecture degree are David Hovey and Antonvich. Architecture is a very uncommon way to get into the business.

To be honest if you are young, be aggressive and just throw yourself out there for every developer, consultant, REIT, and real estate law firm in the city and be willing to work your ass off for little to nothing. You will never have another opportunity in your life again where you won't need a fully paying job and there are a lot of REITS and developers right now that are ramping up their operation and running lean and mean in this environment. Getting a some college kid to do their admin work and pick up their lunch so they can work all day without stopping will be extremely tempting to them.

Also its not necessarily decades off, I will be officially a small time developer as soon as this deal closes in January meaning I went from punk ass college kid to "developer" (albeit small scale right now) in less than 5 years. And I'm still only 23...
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  #12  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 3:43 PM
ChiTownCity ChiTownCity is offline
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^ Thanks NowhereMan now that'll definitely help me out! I work much more aggressively when I get clear descriptions. I currently know a couple people personally that work in the real estate department (not sure exactly what do they do but I'll ask). I also currently own a property (not mines but my mom's and we were renovating it but started accumulating too much debt. Currently renting out another one), so I'll have 1 property to work on when I get this ball rolling. Do you have any recommendations for schools that may be a good choice? Where did you graduate from? I would still like to head to NY for school, but now it doesn't seem like that'll be a good idea...
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  #13  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 4:36 PM
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^ I'd advise being VERY careful accumulating any student loan debt. $50-100k in student loans (both the debt on your credit report and the monthly payments from your budget) will be a substantial hindrance when you're trying to get loans for multi-unit buildings, put down cash to pick up a vacant lot, and so on.

In general, I think the advice has been sound: start small, building a portfolio of smaller rental properties. These act as collateral and as cash flow to support you gradually moving to bigger and bigger projects.

Balance your "free work" (which youre doing for fun and your own advancement) with the fact that you will actually need some income to get in the game --- you'll need some cash for those vacant lots, and as a down payment on that first three-flat.

Last edited by VivaLFuego; Dec 7, 2010 at 4:48 PM.
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  #14  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 4:42 PM
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PSS: The only developers that I know of who have an architecture degree are David Hovey and Antonvich. Architecture is a very uncommon way to get into the business.
Roszak, although that's more of a cautionary tale.
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  #15  
Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 7:17 PM
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^ Also, Lowenberg of Magellan (he's an MIT grad).
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Old Posted Dec 7, 2010, 9:37 PM
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As to the background to prepare for becoming a developer, I would advise working for a contractor for maybe two or three years, so that you get an understanding of how jobs get contracted out, and how costs come together.

I can't tell you how silly some of the numbers are that some developers think they can build things for. The biggest reason I've seen for so many foreclosed/stalled projects (Staybridge), or projects that just didn't go (Mondrian), is that the developer had a ludicrously low construction budget and either ran out of money after starting, or just never got started because the original deal was predicated on a fictional construction number.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2010, 2:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownCity View Post
^ Thanks NowhereMan now that'll definitely help me out! I work much more aggressively when I get clear descriptions. I currently know a couple people personally that work in the real estate department (not sure exactly what do they do but I'll ask). I also currently own a property (not mines but my mom's and we were renovating it but started oppurtunitiesaccumulating too much debt. Currently renting out another one), so I'll have 1 property to work on when I get this ball rolling. Do you have any recommendations for schools that may be a good choice? Where did you graduate from? I would still like to head to NY for school, but now it doesn't seem like that'll be a good idea...
Good, be careful using too much debt to renovate properties. Do as much of the labor as you can by yourself on your first properties. Spend the money you save on better finishes, it will pay off.

I graduated from Loyola University Chicago. Don't go there unless you can get a lot of scholarship. I had about 2/3 scholarship and still ended up with $40k in debt. How old are you now? You should look at schools in an around Chicago simply because you will have the best networking opportunities there (business school is more about networking than learning). Look at UIC (virtually free for Illinois residents) and IIT (can be pricey). See if you can get scholarships at Loyola and DePaul, but don't got there unless you do. Another excellent alternative is to look at University of Wisconsin - Madison. The only problem is that their business program is extremely hard to get into. Same goes for University of Illinois...

Going to school in NYC will be expensive, but have slightly better networking opportunities than Chicago. Then again, Chicago is a much more affordable market to start in.

Again, the entire time you are in school you should be thinking "are you going to be a useful contact in the future" every time you meet someone. This includes professors, family friends, friends, and random people at parties. When you meet someone who impresses you, befriend them and it will pay dividends.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2010, 3:51 PM
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^ Well I know I can get into UIC (I was accepted but decided not to go because of NY. and my sister works there so I might be able to get some kind of... or maybe not). I just made 19 back in October and I currently have a 2.8 gpa (should easily be a 3 point something after finals... still not trying as hard as I know I can). I know I can't get financial aid and as far as scholarships go, I doubt I would be able to land one now that I'm out of high school....

I do know a couple contractors aic4ever so I'll see if they'll let me tag along. I think I have the basis to really get started now, Thanks once again!! (too bad i won't be able to live in new york any time soon... oh well)

Last edited by ChiTownCity; Dec 12, 2010 at 5:01 AM.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2010, 7:32 PM
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Chitowncity, you have finally prompted me to get an account on SSP...I've been lurking these forums daily since about 2004 when I was about 14, but never registered since I really have no pertinent info to share. For years I've learned alot about development and real estate on this website listening to the guys like SpyGuy, Bvic, Tup, etc. and I have to say thanks to every1 on Chicago's page for sharing their opinions and knowledge about developments, etc. as its helped me over the years to decide and begin reaching my goals. You guys have really helped me focus on TOD, projects' density, how to fight nimbys in a positive way, storefront retail. etc. and overall what makes a good development.

Since I was a kid I wanted to be an architect and I left high school with the intention of getting an architecture degree at Siu-c. I basically spent my first 1.5 years there as a premajor, then basically through this website I learned a developer arguably can have a much greater impact on architecture than the architect himself. (and im not artistic/tedious enough for it neway) So now Im a jr n my major is finance specializing in real estate with a double minor in management and accounting.

As I'm finishing my undergrad I'm really starting to search for networking and job opportunities like shadowing, internships, etc. I am going to probably start trying to network by volunteering with CAF (chicago arch. foundation). Then I would LOVE to get an MRED for grad school and Im just starting to learn about that program. If anybody has any info on that it'd be much appreciated. Also I'd like to begin to build my capital and rep by starting at a major development company in Chicago. I was wondering if I could get some SSP'ers opinion on what they think are some of the best and most promising development companies in/around Chicago.

I'd love to start a thread for this but being new not really sure how to do much. I'm just a college kid hoping to gain some more knowledge so I can hopefully some day have an impact on development in the greatest city in the world. Someday I hope I can listen to ur guys demands (And get rid of those DAMN surface lots, n keep as many old buildings standing as possible)
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Old Posted Dec 9, 2010, 4:29 PM
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Good, be careful using too much debt to renovate properties. Do as much of the labor as you can by yourself on your first properties. Spend the money you save on better finishes, it will pay off.

I graduated from Loyola University Chicago. Don't go there unless you can get a lot of scholarship. I had about 2/3 scholarship and still ended up with $40k in debt. How old are you now? You should look at schools in an around Chicago simply because you will have the best networking opportunities there (business school is more about networking than learning). Look at UIC (virtually free for Illinois residents) and IIT (can be pricey). See if you can get scholarships at Loyola and DePaul, but don't got there unless you do. Another excellent alternative is to look at University of Wisconsin - Madison. The only problem is that their business program is extremely hard to get into. Same goes for University of Illinois...

Going to school in NYC will be expensive, but have slightly better networking opportunities than Chicago. Then again, Chicago is a much more affordable market to start in.

Again, the entire time you are in school you should be thinking "are you going to be a useful contact in the future" every time you meet someone. This includes professors, family friends, friends, and random people at parties. When you meet someone who impresses you, befriend them and it will pay dividends.
IIT was a great engineering background for me...got my undergrad in Architectural Engineering (basically Civil/Structural) and my masters there in Const. Mgmt...As far as CM, they are a bit lacking in practical applications of what they teach. Very strong on theory, but by the time I finished my masters, taken part time while working, I felt like I was teaching my profs more about the practical side of the business of construction than what they were teaching me. I felt this was a good thing, though. Meaning that I did the right thing by working before starting the masters program. Most of what I was taught would have been useless to me had I gone straight through and then started working as it would have been very difficult to recognize how to practically apply some of the advanced stuff being taught.

The engineering side of things was fantastic all around, but tough sledding though. I knew a LOT of pretty smart people that couldn't hack it there so if you're wavering on your work ethic, IIT is not the place for you. If you have what it takes, though, it's definitely worth the $20K+ a year it's running now. Preferably you'd get scholarships and grants to cover a bunch of that.
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