Reality check: What does it take to develop real estate?

imageDevelop Yourself to be a Real Estate Developer

Ever thought about development or want to learn how to pick a great developer? In our latest episode we spoke with internationally acclaimed real estate developer, Beth Clifford. She gives insight into the attributes needed to successfully develop real estate.

But first, a bit of background on forcing equity.

For many recent years you could buy properties at “below replacement cost.” The basic idea of “buy low, sell high” drew a lot of interest, and many people jumped on the flipping train. Now there are not many properties like that. So that leaves us with another opportunity: real estate development.

Development is the same thing – it’s just a bigger project.

You can take an asset of land and add to it capital (via labor, building materials, equipment, etc.) and increase market value. This is what we at The Real Estate Guys call “forcing equity.”

To force equity, you don’t have to be a general contractor, developer or real estate agent. You have to be an organizer. Be able to pencil it out, get the right team together, and have a plan that makes sense.






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Bring the Skills You Already Have

Talented Beth Clifford, who’s led more than $3 billion in real estate development projects. She started out in IT and switched careers in her mid-thirties. How did she pull that off?

“I knew how to create a process and get the right people into the right chairs,” said Beth. “It’s all about the right people, right place, right time, and right resources.”

She used the same skill set she’d honed in her previous field – a sharpened ability to execute with a team – and learned the real estate vernacular and business process.

“If you understand at the highest level the business problem you need to solve, you break it into the pieces,” said Beth. “Break those pieces down.”

Say you have a piece of land. You know you need to build a building, coordinate utilities, etc. Talk to professionals and chunk it into individual pieces.

We see it like being an executive producer of a movie. You don’t need to know all the details. All of those key people with expertise can help – you be the strategic thinker and visionary to pull off a project.


Know Your Audience – Remove Your Risk

Whatever you’re going to produce, it has to be something people are willing to pay for.

We discussed this with Beth – your definition of “Minimum Viable Product” or MVP. Define it, and test the proof of concept. For example, can you attract a buyer with renderings, before the physical product is complete? Seek for validation from your potential buyer early on.

To lessen risk for the developer, Beth advises shortening time frames and maximize value. You want very little time (she recommends hours!) between getting your product finished and it being used.

In her firm, the team looks at what’s working and not working in a market, and then considers what could be different. That’s where they want to fit.

For example, Beth shares about her project redeveloping historic multi-million dollar homes, market class A, in the D.C. area.

They researched.

They clearly understood their buyer: working CEO with a stay-at-home spouse, generally a highly social person. These were formal, gracious people. Much of the existing products in that space were big-box homes, “blow up with air” that offered no greater utility. Beth’s team created a different class, with private entertainment quarters. Those turned out to be the winning buildings.

They could sell them at a premium and turn them in less than a month.

Want to learn more about how you can know your market from Beth? She’ll share more success stories and useful tips in person at our Summit at Sea.


Never Race to the Bottom

One more thing Beth advises … watch out for the trap of becoming the “lost-cost option.”

Rather, she says, “I’m never involved where you’re racing to the bottom. The big production guys can’t be beat. They will always be able to come in under your cost.”

Instead, look where the current players are. What are they doing that works? What can be done better? Beth takes the mid-level market and increases the price of her product, with a clear idea of what the buyer is looking for.


More From The Real Estate Guys™…


The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

Creating Wealth for Generations


Creating Wealth for Generations is more than smart estate planning. The real key to generational wealth is raising capitalists who can build wealth and make smart investments.

It’s tragic when one generation leaves a fortune to the next and they squander it. Or some unforeseen event wipes out a family’s business or portfolio…and the heirs have no idea how to rebuild.

It’s one thing to build a fortune and another to raise a fortune builder.

In this episode we talk about building generational wealth by raising capitalists.

In the studio and behind the microphones for this father and son edition of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your son-of-a-Bob host, Robert Helms
  • His Sean daddy co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Co-host in training and budding Seantrepreneur, Sean Gray







Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

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Leave More Than Money…Pass on the Skills for Creating Wealth


We’ve all seen examples of someone rising from the dust to create enormous wealth. It’s a heroic feat. Tragically, sometimes when wealth is passed on, the next generation squanders it through greed, negligence or incompetence.

So we up the ante on the old adage, “Don’t give a man to fish, teach him to fish.”

Rather, we say, “It doesn’t stop with the second guy in the boat.” It’s a much bigger picture. The influence of one generation can impact hundreds, thousands of posterity.

Consider the wealthy, successful, brilliant people who founded the United States of America. They chose to stand up to the greatest armed forces in the world to create an environment of opportunity and prosperity for their families and the generations that would follow them.

Right now, at this time in history, it’s more important than ever to teach up-and-coming generations how to create prosperity through business and investing.

Want to do more just donate your wealth to you children? More than preserving money and protecting money, prepare your heirs to think and live like entrepreneurs.

In other words, show your children how to CREATE wealth.

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts.  We’re at that season in life where you start thinking beyond our own lifetime.  What’s our legacy going to be?

Probably like you, we care about our family’s future…even more than our own.   In this episode, “Creating Wealth for Generations” we bring in representatives and get perspectives from three generations to discuss ways to ensure the wealth-building mindset is passed on.


Seasoned Wisdom – Tips from the Godfather of Real Estate…


Robert’s dad, Bob Helms, our powerful mentor and the man we affectionately refer to as the “Godfather of Real Estate,” has been a real estate investor for six decades. Even in his 80’s, he’s still got contagious enthusiasm for investing.

“I’m still very excited about it. Being involved gives me access to people who are doing it today,” said Bob. “The reason I’m doing as well as I’m doing at my age is I’m involved.”

For those in your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, looking back at your time as a parent and grandparent, Bob recommends learning lessons from the past…but not dwelling on them.  Move on from there.  Bob made his own mistakes, and advises failing fast and moving on sooner.

As for Bob’s parenting advice: You can’t push your kids where you want them to go. You can’t force them along.

Instead, create environments which let kids experience possibilities. As hard as it can be sometimes, don’t give them all the answers. Let them learn at their own pace.

Introduce them to people doing what they want to do. Get them in places where they’ll be exposed to ideas which excite them. This is how you process life.


To Find Great Answers Ask Great Questions


Like most kids fresh out of college, Russ’ son, Sean Gray, felt unsure about his future. Yet, with a little guidance and his own go-getter ambition, at 24, Sean is now an active entrepreneur and investor.

When he was “22 without a clue,” and his shiny new college degree in hand, Sean was tempted to ask the same question as his fellow grads… “What can I do to make money?”  It’s what nearly every student entering college is preparing for and the primary thing they focus on when they finally finish school.

And it SEEMS like a a good question.  After all, isn’t the whole point of working to make money?

Maybe.  But maybe not…

The “What can I do to make money?” question makes money the end goal…with the requirement to do something to get it.

With a little guidance from his mentors, Sean re-framed the question.

Instead, Sean asked himself, “What can I build that will afford me the lifestyle I want to have?”  In other words, don’t live to get paid…get paid to live.

As Sean had seen from his mentors, this mindset requires more work in the beginning.  But it yields a very different…and arguably better…answer.

So Sean went after a lifestyle and focuses on building businesses and investments that fit.

Now in his mid-twenties, he says he feels retired because he does what he wants, when he wants…and gets paid to live.  He has so much freedom because he asked a better question and went to work on finding a better answer.

Sean’s living the advice of Thoreau, who said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Life the life you’ve imagined.”

No one else can determine what your dream life is or what your path should be – we each have to create that for ourselves.


Tips for Millennials from a Millennial…


For our younger readers and listeners, Sean offers three tips he’s using to get a Real World Masters

1. Change the way you think. Rather than sticking to the comfortable route, like the rest of the products of the school system, educate yourself about money and how to build it.

2. Get a mentor. Find whoever’s best at what you want to do. Learn from them.

3. Change the people you’re around. Spend time with people who have similar goals and aspirations…people who encourage and inspire you to push yourself towards your goals.


Prepare Your Heirs… So They Won’t Have to Repair Errors

During our last Summit at Sea, we heard from internationally recognized estate planning attorney, Jeffrey Verdon, who’s helped affluent families and business owners solve comprehensive estate planning problems for more than 30 years.

He saw up close that when wealthy individuals passed on their wealth, the next generation would far too frequently squander it.  He thought it was his job to prepare the heirs, but realized he need to solve a bigger problem…repair the errors of entitlement.

As the authors of “The Millionaire Next Door,” put it, avoid providing children with “economic outpatient care.”

Instead, if you want the next generation to think like an owner, let them own it!  Even more important, let them BUILD it.  Whatever “it” is for them.  Sometimes…often…their passion, purpose, mission, vision and values will be different than yours.

That’s okay.  It isn’t a business or portfolio your building.  It’s an entrepreneur and investor.  So WHAT you build is far less important, then WHO you build.

The key is to put your kids in environments where they can discover their potential and opportunities…and then go to work on developing their potential into abilities, achievements and assets.

Your role is to be their mentor…or one of them…and then help them find others as needed.

Where to find these mentors? We’re asked this a lot.

One option is to create your own group.  If you happen to run around with high achievers, it might be a good idea to look for opportunities to get everyone together.  Kind of a multi-generational mastermind group.

You can also attend topic live events where the right people are already all coming together.  You can attend lectures, workshops, networking events, etc.   We’re huge advocates for live events…both ours and others’…because they provide deeper focus, getting your away from your daily distractions, so you bump into a great idea or relationship.

For a young person…and really for anyone…one of the BEST places to start is our annual goal setting retreat.  After all, if it’s about building a lifestyle that pays you to live it, the first thing you need to do is figure our what you really, REALLY want.

It sounds easy.  But so many people have been on a pre-scripted track for so long, they’ve lost touch with many of their hopes and dreams.  But it’s never too late.

So listen into this inspirational and practical episode and consider how you might creating wealth and wealth creators…so you can leave both an big estate and a powerful legacy when it’s your time to move on to the next thing.


More From The Real Estate Guys™…


The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.