What defines a successful property developer? HoldenCAPITAL

Perhaps more importantly, the question should be what defines a bankable property developer?

The truth is, there are all types of property developers out there, from the opportunistic once off family affairs to the long-term specialist, the small one-man band operator to the listed behemoths, from the successful partnership to the passive investment fund. But the important thing that defines them all is whether or not they achieve their objectives and how the successful ones go about it? 

Most would respond that having the financial wherewithal and the skills to turn a sound profit represent the benchmarks but they are just a single solution one measure of success. But a big balance sheet is not always available and a lot of factors outside of the control of the developer can influence the ultimate profit, which of itself is not always the key measure of success.

What is critical is an ability to control or positively influence the various processes involved in the process and to cope with unforeseen problems positively in order to reach the desired outcome. As a property developer, your primary role is to “manage risk” and that is the true measure of your ability as a developer and ultimately leads to ‘bankability”.

Hopefully you will get a reward for taking that risk and in most instances that is reflected as profit. You invest $1M to buy a site, borrow another $4M to build some concrete boxes and hopefully you sell them for $7M so that after paying the associated GST and selling fees you realise a profit of $1M.

You have risked $5M and 15 months of your life to make $1M in profit. Sounds simple and sometimes it can be but there are many obstacles that can thwart that outcome. What defines you as both a successful and bankable developer is how prepared and able you are to deal with those potentially unforeseen obstacles.

Many developers serve an apprenticeship working for a major corporate developer, an architectural practice or in real estate, where as a single cog in the big machine they learn one or two key roles, get promoted into another specific area of responsibility and progressively develop many of the skills involved in the total process. After a while they build up enough experience and decide its time to go it alone. But more often than not they have not been exposed to all the processes involved and have relied on others with the requisite skills to deal with the issues in those areas.

So, however it is that you find yourself in the role of developer, the key skill required for success is actually the ability to identify and manage ALL the risks associated with the process, especially those where you are not the expert. Importantly, the ability to identify where you don’t have the requisite skills and to then secure the right resources required to deal with those issues is what really defines a successful and as a result, bankable developer.

There are many ways to solve the problems such as contracting the right consultants or employing the right people to deal with the process but the skill is actually knowing when you will need help and securing it before it becomes an issue and in the best way to protect your investment in the project. You don’t need to be the expert in every facet of the process, but you do need to be able to identify how, where and when to bring one in to efficiently deal with a problem BEFORE it becomes one, not after the fact.

When you are able to demonstrate to a banker that you understand all of the risks involved in the development process, have carefully assessed how they may influence your project outcome and how you can deal with them if they arise, you are well down the road towards getting the kind of funding you want and more importantly, on the terms that you want.