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Real Estate For Regular People

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

How incremental development can break the cycle of big development

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In the software world, the universal way to deliver value is by building small working features — an increment.


Whether you’re Eric Reis, Mike Cohn, or Jeff Sutherland the idea is that by building in the smallest possible increment we minimize investment costs, risk, and get feedback faster.


If we take this kind of thinking and apply it to the world of real estate, what might happen?


Think Different, Look Different

You may have observed that most new developments look the same. With the rise of 5:1 construction, developers are copying and pasting the same design across communities.


This effort to standardize manufacturing is helpful to the big developer (read: increased margins) but creates boring and unimaginative public spaces.


If you were to take a city block and have one developer do the whole thing, it will look one way. If you were to take that same city block and divide it across 10 owners, you’ll have 10 people thinking differently and creating 10 unique spaces.


Support Your Small Businesses

The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker don’t have the resources to lease with your biggest landlord. Nor do your big landlords have the patience to deal with your smallest businesses. They are not equals.


Big developers are looking for top-tier tenants. They want the guaranteed rent. They’ve got investors that demand a specific return that can only be guaranteed from Starbucks, Chipotle, and Panera. Your small businesses can’t compete with that.


Small developers work with small businesses.


Those 10 small developers on our fictitious block will create 10 small, affordable spaces and will fill them with small businesses.


Build Wealth Locally

Does the biggest developer in your town live in your town? Maybe. Maybe not. But the wealth generated by your largest developer doesn’t stay in your town.


Those 10 small developers, supporting 10 small businesses are creating more diverse wealth in your town. The rent helps the small developer build the next project. The small businesses generate foot traffic and additional interest in the neighborhood.


The big developer with Chipotle or Starbucks? All that additional value created goes back to Corporate HQ.


Building that wealth locally translates into growth and prosperity for your city.


Happy, Proud Citizens

Incremental real estate development focuses on the most important asset in your community — the people.


A unique community is why phrases like, “Keep [insert your name city here] Weird” got so popular.


Big development didn’t make that happen. Small developers did.


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