Developers

The sign read "Direct from Developer." It was an obvious play on the notion of buying straight from the factory, which is supposed to save consumers money by eliminating the middleman. But in this case, the middleman is the guy who actually builds the house. Developers develop and builders build. That is, a developer takes raw land, obtains the necessary permits, creates building lots, and puts in the sewers, the water and electric lines, the streets and curbs. Then the builder comes in and erects the house. A builder also can be a developer. In fact, many are. But building and developing are two distinct and different tasks. And nowadays, most of the larger housing companies buy "finished" lots, or "pads," from someone else.

A property developer needs:

• good leadership skills.
• to be able to work without supervision.
• to enjoy problem-solving.
• good communication and negotiation skills.
• an aptitude for mathematics.
• thorough research, judgement and analytical skills.
• neat appearance.

"In the old days, everybody was a vertical builder,"

"They did everything. They bought the land, obtained the approvals, put in the improvements and did the building and selling themselves.

"Today, builders want to be manufacturers," Grebow continues. "It's what they do best. And they want to employ all the principles of just-in-time inventories. That means owning the lots for as short a period as possible."

Because it takes so long to win practically any jurisdiction's blessings to move forward, a builder would have to carry land on his books for years if he also wanted to be a developer. Which is why they tend to take options on lots rather than develop them themselves.