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Three-legged stool

A good friend of mine, who is also in the industry, once described real estate development as a three-legged stool. In order to develop, you really need three things: expertise, capital, and a site (i.e. land). This probably seems fairly obvious. I mean, you need to know what you’re doing, you need the money to do it, and then you actually need a place to build. But as simple and as obvious as this may seem, there are barriers to entry. Real estate is a capital intensive industry. And despite what the general public seems to believe about the pockets of developers, most are raising outside capital.

The thing about this three-legged stool is that you don’t necessarily need to have all of the legs at once, and in many cases you won’t. If you have two of them in place, it’s usually feasible to figure out and get the last one. For example, if you know what you’re doing (expertise) and you have a site (owned or “under control”), then presumably you have a development pro forma that makes some economic sense. And with those things, you generally should be able to find the capital that you need to execute on your project.

I’ve also met people who have managed to build this three-legged stool starting with only one leg. They didn’t have much development experience or capital connections, but they learned enough to figure out how to value development land. They then went out and started knocking on doors, eventually putting together a development assembly. They then took this assembly to developers (people with expertise) and the stool eventually got built. Starting with only one leg just means you’re going to have to work harder to fill in the others.

A one or two-legged stool won’t stay upright on its own. But hustle will hold it up temporarily while you figure out a creative way to attach the missing leg(s).

Photo by John Boatile on Unsplash

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