Sometimes I wish I can get into real estate. The thing is, my interest would not be in being a real estate agent having to sell property. It would be as much as developing as anything else.
If I was interested in developing, perhaps it's possible to start with "flipping" houses. That's as much about developing as in building on a vacant lot. And of course one could always progress to that level.
At least until that time Chicago magazine has an article about flipping houses. It's almost two years old, but surely it gives you an idea of what to do if this is what you want to do. Of course before one engages in such a venture every building isn't the same and of course it's all about the money. If it proves to cost more to fix than to sell it and you can see that upfront don't spend the cash.
Easy for me to say at this moment since well I'm not out flipping houses. ;)