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March 10, 2009


If you develop it, they will come

Take a quick look at your surroundings. Where are you reading this guide? In a school or a library? At home? In a shopping mall? In an office? Is it a public space, a private place or a mixed-use zone? Now, think about who owns the building you are occupying. Who decided to build it, how did they decide how large to make it, and who owns the land on which it sits? Who is responsible for security, cleaning and utilities?

All of these areas, and the litany of decisions that go into making choices about land use and development, are handled by the property industry. The property industry encompasses a wide swath of connected and overlapping fields including real estate, land development, commercial property ownership, building and facilities leasing and management, property valuation and analysis, and shopping centre development. The industry deals with both commercial property as well as residential property. Nearly every structure on the planet (aside from your cousin Andrew's three-metre-tall tower of beer cans) was, or is, handled by someone working in the property industry. Because the property business is so multi-faceted, the industry also works in league with other major sectors including construction, government, engineering, and architecture.

Large property developers often have deals and operations in multiple countries and continents. For example, a Russian development company might be responsible for the construction, leasing, operation and maintenance of a shopping mall in Paris and an apartment complex in Brazil.

For real!

Real estate is tangible. It's a piece of land and any buildings or structures on it, as well as the air above and the ground below. Everyone comes into direct contact with real estate; the places where we live, work, vacation, shop and exercise are all assets to be bought, sold and rented. The property industry is usually considered one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy -- people may sell their stocks, but they always need a place to buy groceries and somewhere to sleep.

The industry depends on a vast number of factors, and is impacted greatly by economic circumstances. Small shifts in an economy can turn trends significantly in the industry. A building's development and success might depend on things as varied as crime rates in a given area, interest rate fluctuations, pollution, environmental factors, zoning restrictions, demographic trends, and even the whims of neighbours. Because of these innumerable and evolving factors, it can sometimes be hard to judge the probable success of a planned development. Some working in the industry find this unpredictable nature to be exciting, while others find it unnerving.

Those who work specifically in the real estate sector (i.e. real estate agents) often enjoy greater flexibility in job responsibilities than people in other industries. Drawbacks include low-paying entry-level positions, competitive co-workers and long, irregular hours when starting out. Furthermore, once established in an area, relocation can be detrimental to your career -- success in a new place requires a solid base of geographically-specific knowledge, such as the quality of local schools, business zoning issues, community concerns and so on.


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