Monthly Archives: June 2013

What is the Real Estate Industry?

So, how many times have you heard the phrase “the real estate industry” tossed around? In reality, the real estate industry is more than buying and selling real estate, renovating or constructing buildings, or renting versus owning property. It encompasses products and services that make a structure possible to be designed or located on a specific site, utilized or occupied for a specific purpose, or purchasable by an individual or entity. Products are not limited to raw materials which are combined to produce a structure. Services are not limited to listing, showing and transferring of property, or financing the acquisition of a property.

By definition, an industry is a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity. The real estate industry encompasses design (architecture, interior or landscaping), engineering, buying and selling of land and buildings, financing, insuring, property management and construction. Each of these components has subsets or specializations. There are so many different aspects that you are not limited to a single area if one of the components is of interest.

Designing a building includes architecture, specifically interior design or decorating, and engineering. Architecture is the style and method of design and construction of a building. Interior design or decorating is the art and process of setting up a room, including colors, layout and placement of furniture and decorations.  Engineering is the science and design associated with site layout (civil engineering), including site setup such as grading (slope of the land) and the need for utilities to reach the structure, as well as structural integrity (structural engineering) which is the skeleton of the building and its ability to support the load or weight of the structure and its use. Other types of engineering are also critical, such as mechanical, plumbing and electrical, each of which is responsible for systems specific to each type of service required by a building for its intended occupancy and use.

There is also much to learn about the financial side of the process. A purchase transaction is more than simply borrowing money to buy a property. It requires a clear title to the property, so you can legally transfer ownership and rights of a structure or lot to another individual or entity. Sometimes legal agreements are made through contracts so that the continued assume use can transfer with the property to  its next owner.  Financing can include a third party lending money, such as a bank or a private lender, someone with the cash available loan it to another for a predetermined interest rate, or someone who can buy the property outright with cash. More often than not, an independent appraisal is required to determine if the purchase price is at market rate for the value of the property. If not, then the third-party lender, or even private lender, may require additional cash contributions or collateral to the purchase. If a transaction is made possible by any means other than buying with the proposed owner’s cash, then insurance is required to guarantee that the value of the structure is maintained in the event of damage.

For each of the previously defined components of the real estate industry, the need for entitlements exists. This includes approvals for use of the land for the intended purpose, which may require zoning variance approvals; design approvals of the proposed development, which may require design review approval or urban design approval, depending on the jurisdiction; approvals for construction or installation of utilities in the public right of way, which may require a public works agreement approval or developer’s agreement approval; and most definitely building permits for construction if that is part of the process.

Architects, civil engineers, financing institutions, developers, builders, all need to have their part of the project reviewed and approved at some point during the transaction or development stage. These entitlement stages can be managed by each participant, or it can be taken care of by an individual known as an expeditor. This role requires the ability to logistically manage the flow of information as well to understand the high priority of providing and disseminating information in a way that keeps the project’s review moving forward, while responses are being provided or changes being incorporated.

As generic as your interest may currently be in real estate, you will find that there are multiple areas of opportunity for you to learn about and eventually pursue.  Starting in one area does not limit you in terms of your professional development. In fact, the pursuit of multiple areas of knowledge and experience will only strengthen your core understanding, and make you a stronger participant in this vital industry.

Lisa Junker is an alumna, advisory board member of UB’s Real Estate program and Vice President, Project Coordination at Colbert Matz Rosenfelt, Inc.