How to Break Ground With Developers: A YPN Breakfast Recap

On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, we hosted our monthly YPN breakfast “Breaking Ground With Developers” at our home base, Manny’s Deli. We were so excited to get together in person, connect with our peers and devour advice from local industry experts. You can stay up-to-date on upcoming YPN events by following the YPN Facebook page!



Our guest speakers Wayne Beals, EXIT Strategy Realty, Karen Biazar, North Clybourn Group, and Bonita Harrison, KBM Realty, shared their journeys in real estate development, including working with developers, managing capital and finding opportunities.


When you approach developers, how can you make a good impression? Information! Your value comes from what information, knowledge and expertise you can supply not only to the transaction but to your professional relationship. Karen explained that when your approach a developer, you need to understand what they want, their experience and how you can be a resource. Wayne approaches everything with the mindset that truly successful relationships with developers and builders are long-term. How can you make them successful long-term? Bonita agreed, recommending that brokers try to offer knowledge the builder might not know. Is there something about the property or land that’s historically significant or famous? What about the community deserves their attention and investment? “As real estate brokers, you do a lot. Outline everything you do and will do during the process to reaffirm the value you’re providing the whole time,” Bonita said. “Don’t keep it a secret or assume everyone knows!” What’s most important, the area or the profit margin? Everyone wants to make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only important part of a development that a builder may be looking for. Karen shared a story about the time her builder’s offer was selected among dozens because she created an intentional, personalized pitch to the seller that honed in on their desire to preserve and honor the history of the property. She paid attention to motivations and desires. Don’t limit your pitching power or expertise to being the highest offer or promising the most ROI. Bonita, who is both a licensed broker and a developer, personally values the area as much as the numbers. Her mission is rooted in creating noticeable change to South Side neighborhoods when it comes to affordable housing for and by people of color. Get to know the people you want to work with and take the time to understand them. This will help you hone in on how your knowledge adds value and could be the start of the next great relationship.


“Your goal should be to create a positive experience for everyone,” Karen said. “Use that motivation to create systems.” She creates material specifications, supplies marketing materials, identifies how she and her team will source things and so on. Bonita emphasized the importance of a timeline of expectations. “Don’t forget that period before you go to market. Your timeline should talk about the marketing you’ll be doing then.” One of Wayne’s first deals taught him several valuable lessons about systems, communication and timelines. He sold the property before they listed it but were dismayed when a very enthusiastic buyer seized control of the build. He admitted that he didn’t do the best job explaining the timeline to each party or the roles and responsibilities. He took too far of a step back. “Think of it like bumpers in bowling lanes,” he said. “You set those up with everybody. Who makes what decisions about what, and lean on your expertise when you’re communicating with the builder. You know what sells well and what resonates with your target buyers.” “Agreed!” Bonita said. “Be present throughout the whole process, through the plans, applying for the permits, et cetera. You know what buyers want.” Most of all, all three panelists emphasized curiosity as a transaction tool. Don’t assume you know what everyone wants or what they’re feeling!


How do you find builders? The answer is simple: everywhere. Wayne’s advice is to pay attention to distressed assets or properties. Study the market! Consider stopping by job sites in areas you work and ask to be introduced to the builder. Ask for a walk-through! Also, don’t hesitate to ask your existing contacts for introductions. Karen agreed and added that follow-ups are essential. All three panelists are active on social media as well. They’re posting content and reinforcing their presence as thought leaders and market experts. Builders and developers pay attention to social as much as everyone else. One of Karen’s first relationships with a builder began by accident. Her team was listing a property that took several months to sell, but the moment they hung the “under contract” sign, she got a call from someone who said they saw her marketing all over the neighborhood. “Be patient,” she advised. “You never know who you meet.” Builders often drop by at open houses, tour neighborhoods themselves to see who is working in the area and move in the same spaces we as REALTORS® do. Make sure your presence isn’t a secret, nor is your valuable knowledge.


Chicago REALTORS® · 2022 YPN March Breakfast: Breaking Ground With Developers

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