Behind the Build: Evaluating the Real Estate Development Team

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In this installment of our Real Estate Investment Due Diligence series, we take a look at assessing the project Development Team.

Recommended Reading -  Navigating the Numbers: Financial Projections in Real Estate Due Diligence

A real estate project’s Development Team is a key determinant of its potential success. These professionals, from project sponsors to architects and engineers, bring a diverse array of skills crucial for navigating the many phases of development.

 In this article, we’ll look at how to effectively evaluate a Development Team and understand their critical role in aligning with investment goals to ensure project success.

Evaluating the Project Sponsor

At the heart of the Development Team is the Project Sponsor—typically the lead investor or development company. Understanding their background and financial standing is paramount. A sponsor with a robust track record and solid financial health reassures investors of their capability to steer projects through challenges to successful completions. 

Key elements to look at when evaluating a Project Sponsor include:

Track Record: Look at the Sponsor’s history with similar projects, focusing on both successes and any encountered challenges.

Financial Strength: A Sponsor’s ability to fund projects and absorb unexpected costs is crucial, providing a buffer against potential financial pitfalls.

Reputation: A good reputation in the industry enhances a Sponsor's credibility and suggests a reliable commitment to quality and ethical standards.

Development Team Experience

A well-rounded Development Team includes professionals from various fields, each contributing their expertise to the project’s success. Assessing the qualifications and experience of architects, engineers, and project managers is essential.

Architectural Team: Evaluate the architect's portfolio, design approach, and ability to create a functional and aesthetically appealing project.

Construction Team: Assess the construction team's track record of delivering similar projects on time and within budget.

Project Manager: Evaluate the project manager's leadership skills, organizational ability, and experience in coordinating large-scale developments.

Alignment with Investment Goals

A cohesive and aligned Development Team is essential for ensuring that the investment goals are met and the project's vision is realized. Assessing whether the team shares the same vision and objectives as the investors helps avoid potential conflicts and ensures smooth project execution.

Key considerations include:

Project Vision: It’s vital that the team fully embraces and commits to the project’s long-term goals. Evaluate whether the Development Team understands and is committed to the project's overarching vision and goals.

Communication and Collaboration: Assess the team's ability to communicate effectively and collaborate to overcome challenges and achieve milestones.

Project Stakeholders and Partners

Beyond the immediate Development Team, it’s essential to consider the involvement of other stakeholders and partners in the project. These may include joint venture partners, lenders, consultants, and local government authorities.

Joint Venture Partners: Evaluate the track record and financial stability of joint venture partners, ensuring a shared commitment to the project's success.

Lenders and Financing Partners: Look at the relationships with lenders and financing partners, ensuring the availability of adequate funding for the project.

Consultants and Advisors: Understand the roles and qualifications of external consultants and advisors, such as legal, environmental, or engineering experts.

The strength and capabilities of the Development Team can make or break a real estate investment. By carefully evaluating their experience, alignment with investment goals, and collaboration capabilities, you can ensure that your project is in the hands of capable professionals.

Project Development Team Evaluation Checklist

1. Experience and Expertise: Review the qualifications and experience of the key members of the development team, including the developer, project manager, architects, and engineers. Look for individuals with a proven track record of successfully delivering similar projects.

2. Past Projects: Evaluate the development team's portfolio of past projects. Focus on projects that are comparable in scale and complexity to the current project. Assess their performance, quality, and whether they were completed within budget and on time.

3. Financial Stability: Ensure that the development team is financially stable and capable of funding the initial stages of the project before additional capital is raised or financing is secured. Financial instability can lead to delays or abandonment of the project.

4. Reputation and References: Seek feedback from previous clients, partners, and contractors who have worked with the development team. Look for any indications of unprofessional behavior, disputes, or legal issues.

5. Project Management Approach: Understand the development team's project management approach. Clear communication, efficient decision-making processes, and proper risk management are essential for successful project execution.

6. Local Knowledge: Evaluate whether the development team has local market knowledge and a strong understanding of the regulatory and permitting processes in the area. Local expertise can facilitate smoother project development.

7. Relationships with Local Authorities: Assess the development team's relationships with local authorities and their ability to navigate the permitting and approval processes. Strong relationships can expedite approvals and reduce potential roadblocks.

8. Subcontractor Relationships: Examine the development team's relationships with subcontractors and other professionals involved in the project. Reliable subcontractors are vital for timely and high-quality construction.

Red Flags to watch out for

Certain warning signs may suggest a Development Team might not meet the required standards. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Lack of experience in developing projects or a track record of unsuccessful projects.
  • Financial instability, debt problems, or a history of project delays due to funding issues.
  • Past or ongoing legal disputes with clients, partners, or contractors could indicate potential problems with project management or business practices.
  • Frequent changes in key team members may disrupt project continuity and indicate internal issues.
  • Insufficient understanding of the local market, regulations, and permitting processes can lead to project delays and increased costs.
  • Negative feedback from previous clients and investors, partners, or contractors about the development team's performance and professionalism.


The Development Team behind a real estate project is one of the most critical factors that can influence its performance. By rigorously assessing the Development team's experience, alignment with goals, and overall stability, investors can place their trust in the team's capability to deliver a successful project. 

The next article in our Real Estate Investing Due Diligence will cover the importance of Zoning and Regulatory compliance.