Real estate development, or Property Development, is a multifaceted business, encompassing activities that range from the renovation and re-lease of existing buildings to the purchase of raw land and the sale of improved land or parcels to others. Developers are the coordinators of the activities, converting ideas on paper into real property.
Real estate development is different from construction, although many developers also construct. Developer Louis Lesser drew the distinction in a 1963 New York Times article, "Developing is the key word. 'We don't build ourselves', Mr. Lesser stresses. 'We buy the land, finance the deal, and then we have the best builders build under bond at a fixed cost.'"
Developers buy land, finance real estate deals, build or have builders build projects, create, imagine, control and orchestrate the process of development from the beginning to end. Developers usually take the greatest risk in the creation or renovation of real estate—and receive the greatest rewards. Typically, developers purchase a tract of land, determine the marketing of the property, develop the building program and design, obtain the necessary public approval and financing, build the structure, and lease, manage, and ultimately sell it. Developers work with many different counterparts along each step of this process, including architects, city planners, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, contractors, leasing agents and more. In the Town and Country Planning context of the UK, 'development' is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s55.