Construction Industry/Land Development Job

Advertisement


Question
Hi Roger,

Glad to see you are still volunteering on All Experts! We are lucky to have you.

I will be graduating university in a few short months with an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering.  In my senior year, I have mainly focused on learning the characteristics of energy-efficient, durable buildings, aka green buildings and ways to increase building performance (air quality, energy, water) in sustainable ways. This includes LEED and Passive House and fundamental building science courses.  I've also taken a few business courses in finance and a building a (mock) sustainable real estate development company.

Upon graduation, I'm very keen on starting a career in residential real-estate development.  I would like to development energy-efficient, durable and beautiful homes for people.

So far, I have considered three potential routes to get into this industry:

1) Work as junior project manager for a large property developer.
2) Work for work as junior project manager for a small property developer.
3) Work as a junior project manager for a large general contractor (homebuilder)

Long story short, I'd like to learn in a few short years, everything I need to know in order to start real estate developing on my own.  Which option from the above should I choose or is there a better option that I haven't considered?

Mike
Toronto, Canada

Answer
Hello Mike,

I applaud your ambitions.  So many developers I have known are only interested in the financial rewards.  My career began as an architect (which I still dabble in - I'm currently designing a home for my daughter and renovating a home for my son) - but the rewards were poor.  Seldom does one ask "Who designed that building?" but rather they ask "who was the builder?"  I have never built a house myself - that is - using hammer and nails, but I know how a building goes together and that is a very important aspect of building and developing. Upon moving to Florida I became a developer/builder.  I bought vacant land and created a subdivision or Planned Urban Development - and the rewards were very good.  I also contracted with owners and developers to build homes, apartments, hi-rise condominiums, warehouses, shopping centers, etc.  I've had a very diverse career.  Frankly, I doubt that you could hire on a a Project Manager.  Most builders/developers want an experienced person in control of critical path, coordinating subcontractors, etc.  Your education is a big plus and you probably could get employment as a Supervisor, reporting to a Project Mgr.

As a builder/developer you must be proficient in financing, negotiations, design, budgeting, sales, marketing, public relations, etc. and applicable building codes.  I had several good fortunes come my way during my career, including landing a very profitable contract with Borg-Warner, being hired as a Branch Manager of a major Florida builder, designing a Florida P.U.D. for a major Canadian developer, being selected as the American agent for the largest home builder/developer of France (the company was later bought by an American developer) and being hired by G.E. Credit to coordinate construction of three large projects.

I retired at 55 but kept my license active and qualified a small building company.  I knew that more money was to be made in land deals than in building, so, after a couple years of R & R, I organized a development company and bought 102 acres in S.E. Florida and went back to work.  It was a successful venture.

I wish I had better advice for you.  I have had my share of disappointments too.  Not every project is a success. I am interested in "green" buildings and am currently consulting with a company that installs solar energy systems.  The prospects look favorable - especially with our constant sunshine here in Florida.

Let me know what you decide and I wish you the very best in your vocation.

I hope this was helpful.

Roger Zona
Ask The Contractor  

Construction Industry

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Roger Zona

Expertise

I am experienced in all types of construction: residential, industrial and commercial; single family, multi-family, mid-rise and high rise buildings (16 story office building) as well as remodeling, additions and tenant improvements. I can field most any question that relates to general construction. I have consulted with infrastructure (utility) contractors also and have a good general knowledge of underground utility construction for subdivisions and commercial projects.

Experience

After college, I began my career in the construction industry. I chose to become an apprentice Architect and 4 yrs later I opened my own architectural design firm. Six years later I moved to Florida to buy & develop land and build. I became a State of Florida Certified General Contractor and operated my business for 45 years. I built all types of residential and commercial buildings including warehouses, shopping centers, high rise apartments and office buildings and developed sites for other contractors. I retired and became a consultant to the construction industry. I maintain my license and continuing education requirements, operate a small construction company and write a weekly newspaper column for the Palm Beach Post (a Cox publication) with the byline "Ask The Contractor". I am the "technical editor" for a publisher of books that relate to home maintenance.

Organizations
Previously - NAHA Currently - FLCA (Florida Licensed Contractors Assoc.)

Publications
Palm Beach Post newspaper - weekly Q & A column Happy Herald monthly real estate publication - monthly column

Education/Credentials
Michigan State University University of Detroit BS in Engineering

Past/Present Clients
I built a home in Palm Beach for a member of the Pulitzer Family. I was responsible for the completion of a twin hi-rise condominium project for G.E. Credit. I was a partner in the successful development of a P.U.D. (Planned Urban Development) subdivision. I represented the largest home builder from France (Bati Service, S.A.) in the development of a subdivision and the design and construction of the homes.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.