4 Traits of a Successful Real Estate Developer

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As a commercial real estate professional in Gainesville, I have had many opportunities to speak with students at the University of Florida about their future careers in real estate. I am on the advisory board for the Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies, and in that capacity, I have the privilege of mentoring students. Many are interested in real estate development, and they all seem to ask the same question: “How can I become a developer?”

I’ve developed some small projects myself, but prior to starting Front Street, I worked for a large commercial developer. I’ve also represented and consulted for many clients who are commercial real estate developers. Here are the top four traits I see most often in successful developers.

1. Relationships: Relationships are an absolute must, and they take time to develop. A developer must have relationships with bankers, attorneys, tenants, equity sources, general contractors, civil engineers, architects, brokers, appraisers and others. My grandfather used to say that a developer is like a movie producer who brings a successful team together to create a successful project — it takes amazing relationships to pull it off.

2. Risk Tolerance: Some individuals find it very difficult to take risks. I always ask students interested in development how well they think they could sleep at night if they knew their entire net worth (or more) was riding on the success or failure of a project. Prudent developers take calculated and measured risks, and they constantly look for ways to mitigate risk. Nevertheless, development is a risky business that some are just not cut out for.

3. Problem Solving: Developing a successful project takes tremendous skill to navigate through all the speed bumps and roadblocks along the way. Developers know how to solve problems, and they seem to understand that there is usually more than one solution to a problem. Creative site planning, finding solutions to zoning issues, dealing with adjacent land owners and finding ways to come in both on time and under budget are all examples of the problem-solving skills a developer must have.

4. Creativity: Every development project starts with an idea, either for a particular use on a site or a vision for what a community might need. Developers are creative individuals who seem to always be looking ahead at what demand might exist in the future. Successful developers push the envelope with exciting designs, new building materials and cutting-edge construction methods. This creativity is what brought us skyscrapers, town centers and all the places we now call work and home.

Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group located in Gainesville, Fla. Front Street offers brokerage, management and mortgage banking services to its commercial real estate clients. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he now serves as an advisory board member to the Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. He is vice chairman of the board for United Way of North Central Florida and serves on the board of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. 

This article appeared in the June 2014 issue of Business in the Heart of Florida.

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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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