Recent decades have seen a rising interest in the peripheral nature of urbanization processes. While research has put the spotlight on large-scale, transnational and financialized real estate actors, less attention has been paid to informal land developers. Addressing that knowledge gap, this article underscores the key role of land developers in informal urbanization through a case study of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. A mixed-methods approach provides new evidence of the widespread, variegated and spatially uneven development of irregular and clandestine subdivisions over the last two decades, revealing a heterogeneous landscape of informal developers. The study shows that informal development has been shifting from the typical popular and peripheral subdivision, which provided precarious yet affordable housing for working-class families, to new forms of speculative investment for the middle and upper classes, such as country homes and gated communities in peri-urban and rural areas. I argue that this shift is explained by both national and local changing regulatory frameworks and processes of economic restructuring, urban neoliberalism and housing financialization in the periphery. In light of this, I propose the notion of ‘property-led informality’ to refer to a regime of informal urbanization increasingly dominated by commodified, rentiership and speculative land dynamics in the sprawling metropolises of the global South.