Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What is Land Development Consulting?

Many people ask what I do for a living when I meet them as I am sure happens to you. I tell them I am a land development consultant which results in a puzzled look followed by a "huh?".
I briefly explain my background in civil engineering, planning and development to them and I tell them that I use my experience to help those less familiar with the development process. This leads to a sigh of relief from my new friend and a comment such as "oh, so you are a builder?" or "oh, so you are an engineer?".
Okay, yes, I have done both of those things but I offer so much more! More time with your family, more money in the bank and more neighbors happy to see you. Let me explain it this way; my son loves to turn all of the lights on in our house but cannot remember to turn them off. We are trying to teach him to turn lights off when you are not in the room. Much of the time he forgets to turn the lights off even though we remind him all of the time. We have implemented a new strategy in our house to help him remember to turn the lights off - we charge him a quarter for every light he leaves on! We explained to him that electricity costs money and since we are getting charged, he is going to get charged. A few nights ago we took two crisp dollar bills from his piggy bank to pay for the eight lights he had left on up stairs. To say he was upset would be an understatement. He did not want to see his money leave his bank. I am sure it will happen again since he is only six years old, but let's just say he has not left a light on since then and he has even reminded us to shape up!
The purpose of sharing a personal story with you is to convey the point that until something costs YOU money, it really is not very important. A developer will hire an attorney, an engineer and a planner and assume these professionals will tell them all they need to know for a successful project. You have to admit it makes sense. The problem is there are many ways to spend money when developing a project. There are many ways to lose money on a project. Who does it hurt in the long run? The attorney? The engineer? The planner? NO! It is the developer that pays.
What is the incentive for any of these professionals to learn how to not cost you money? A very good (and rare) professional may advise you on a subject within their specific area of expertise such as a title issue, a drainage issue or a zoning issue, but which one is going to warn you (before it is to late) the neighbors will fight the project if you do or don't do something? Which one will tell you why you should avoid asking for too much density in a rezone case? Which one will explain how the timing of a project can mean huge savings?
A land development consultant has been "there" and has spent their own money on unnecessary issues at the direction of a "professional" They have had situations where they were told "don't worry about it" and it cost months of delay at a cost of $25,000 per month. A land development consultant has watched as one professional after another has said "they have to approve this" and then seen the project denied approval.
Can you imagine a football team without a quarterback? There is a lot of talent on the field but without a leader, someone to call the shots, the talent is misused or underutilized. At worst, a land development consultant is an extra layer of review and additional costs. What is so bad about an extra layer of review from within the team? While money is always tight, is an extra $30,000 in land development consulting fees on a $12 million project significant? If that $30,000 in "extra fees" saved you three months of interest carry would it be worth it? You bet. I am here to help those in the development industry and those serving the industry such as banks and investors. Are you unsure if you need my help? Give me a call or email and tell me what you are thinking of doing and I will give you an answer on the spot - no strings attached.
Why make mistakes that can be avoided?

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