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9 Best Books on Real Estate Development

Looking to kick off a career in real estate development? These nine books can set the stage.


[Updated: Feb 04, 2021] Oct 11, 2020 by Aly J. Yale
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There's no better way to develop new skills than to learn from those who came before you -- and that's certainly true in the complex world of real estate development.

Becoming a successful developer is no easy feat. It takes determination, unparalleled leadership skills, and, of course, plenty of capital. Fortunately, many experienced investors have paved the way for you with their advice.

Are you looking to get into real estate development? Want to build a strong foundation before you take that leap? Here are nine of the best books on real estate development to get you started.

Best educational real estate book: Professional Real Estate Development: The ULI Guide to the Business by Richard Peiser

This professional guidebook from seasoned investors at the Urban Land Institute covers it all: development basics, property-specific tips (office, retail, industrial, etc.), and real-life case studies you can learn from. One reviewer calls it "perfect for the beginner," saying it "provides concrete examples of what works." Another said it's "an outstanding review of the real estate development industry."

Best real-life inspiration: How Real Estate Developers Think: Design, Profits, and Community by Peter Hendee Brown and Build: How to Create Private Wealth as a Successful Property Developer by Jim Castagnet

Written by real-life architect and urban planner Peter Hendee Brown, How Real Estate Developers Think is an insightful inside look at the mind of successful developers, based on interviews with more than 100 experienced development professionals from across the country. It delves into the decisions, thought processes, and motivations that make these professionals successful. According to one reader, "Peeking into the minds of real estate developers turns out to be riveting."

Meanwhile, if you're making the switch from your old career into development, Build is for you. Across its 194 pages, author Jim Castagnet shares his story of trading a 20-year corporate career for life in real estate development -- and never looking back. He also covers topics like risk management, due diligence, site selection, choosing the right real estate market, financial modeling, and more.

Best book on leadership: Leading Through Uncertainty: Emotional Resilience and Human Connection in a Performance-Driven World by Jude Jennison

Written by leadership expert Jude Jennison, the book focuses on strengthening human connections -- and using them to build a stronger real estate business that can withstand uncertainty and flourish.

While this book is not specifically real estate investing-related, given the uncertain times we're in (hello, pandemic!), it's definitely worth the read. As one reviewer puts it: "An uncertain landscape has become the one certainty for business, and good leadership has become even more important. This book is for all those who want to ensure they can lead their organizations through these challenging times."

Best book for understanding the building cycle: The Birth of a Building by Ben Stevens

The Birth of a Building delves into the life cycle of development and the real estate industry as a whole. Author Ben Stevens is a project manager at a national real estate development firm. From financing and planning to engineering, construction, and inspections, the book breaks down the step-by-step process you can expect as a budding developer. One reviewer calls it "a concise, A-to-Z guide to real estate development," while another says Stevens' "expertise is abundantly clear." For a hopeful real estate entrepreneur, it's an absolute must-read.

Best book on real estate finance: Raising Private Capital: Building Your Real Estate Empire Using Other People's Money by Matt Faircloth

Raising capital is a big part of being a developer -- or any sort of real estate investor, for that matter. In this book, author Matt Faircloth breaks down his proven methods for drumming up cash and reveals untapped money sources you probably haven't thought of. He also talks about debt structuring, equity, exit strategies, and more. The book comes with largely glowing reviews and a 4.7-star rating on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Best for suburban developers: Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville by Witold Rybczynski

Interested in suburban development? Let Last Harvest serve as your inspiration. Written by award-winning writer and journalist Witold Rybczynski, the novel tells the tale of New Daleville, a Pennsylvania suburb born out of rural farmland in the early 2000s. Rybczynski followed the community's development from start to finish, from the initial land purchase down to the move-in of its first residents. This read serves as "a good primer for both the aspiring residential developer and the township board member," according to one reviewer.

Best book for investing basics: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

We can't have an investment reading list without this one. A well-known personal finance classic by Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a must-read for anyone considering a career in investing -- or even just a single real estate deal.. It busts common myths that can hold you back, while also diving into the old make-your-money-work-for-you strategy, a critical lesson for anyone seeking financial freedom. One reader calls it "a great foundation book for beginning to improve your financial intelligence."

Best all-around real estate investment book: Making It in Real Estate: Starting Out as a Developer by John McNellis

With a whopping 4.4 stars on Amazon, this book is a must for any newbie developer set on building an all-out real estate empire. John McNellis, founder of development firm McNellis Partners, delves into his 35-year career as a shopping center developer, sharing anecdotes, stories of failure, and actionable tips to guide hopeful developers on their way. It's pretty funny, too. As one reviewer puts it: "Put aside other real estate textbooks! John McNellis is a Picasso of storytelling, bringing the real estate process to life through humorous and compelling anecdotes and insights."

Need more help honing your skills as an investor? Not feeling confident enough to take on that first real estate project just yet? Try another real estate investing book recommended by our experts. We've rounded up your best book options on the following topics:

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of Bank CD rates’s board of directors. Aly Yale has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Bank CD rates owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon. Bank CD rates has a disclosure policy.