How to identify property development opportunities in a changing market
The drivers of change are the ingredients of opportunity.
How these drivers interact and where they interact is the secret to a identifying a successful development.
The common denominator in today’s market is risk minimisation.
Financiers demand it, developers desire it and valuers are tasked with identifying it.
As a consequence the most sought-after sites are those that have an approval, are situated in a triple-A-rated location, with presales on cash deposits, to local buyers with a pre-approved takeout and a fixed-cost lump-sum construction contract to a triple-A-rated builder.
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Less sought after are the sites without approval. However, although all major developers are telling us they don’t need an approval, it seems the guidelines on “why not to buy” an unapproved site are presented in a 10-episode mini-series while the “reasons to buy” are written on the back of a napkin. Not helping the situation is that a function of the demand is high vendor expectations.
The truth is that sites that fit the ideal criterion may exist, but they are not for sale.
Identification of a site that can be packaged with a limited risk profile requires a lot of time, effort and cost.
The complexity of the planning regulations in NSW contrives to give the administrators of the planning laws a very powerful instrument that enables them to implement their own personal agenda or refuse an application based upon “community objection “. Further, it remains to be seen if NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard’s “radical” overhall of the NSW planning system will rectify some of these planning delays.
Due to the rezoning of lands to accommodate Sydney’s growing population and to satisfy the demands of the market to be located close to community/social amenity and infrastructure, it is often necessary to amalgamate sites.
In the past this task has been the realm of the entrepreneur/ developer or the acquisitions team of a public group, however while still in limited existence the difficulty associated with site amalgamation and the cost has decimated the ranks.
So where do the developers go in today’s market, and how is opportunity identified?
A formal acquisitions strategy needs to be developed that pulls together infrastructure, town planning changes, demographic analysis and an understanding of current/proposed supply so a developer has a clear location-based direction. This strategy will allow for identification of potential sites within a region. Identifying and packaging one of these sites inevitably delivers better returns than a site shopped around to all in sundry the for the past 12 months.
In reality the successful developers have prevailed because they have relied on their existing (albeit shrinking) pipeline or have been lucky enough to be handed the right site. Finding an opportunity requires taking some risk, and limiting the risk by obtaining advice from the outset pays handsome dividends. Meriton, Walkers, Winton, Frasers, Payce, Mirvac and others all limit risk through a managed process.
So identifying the diamond in the rough or the location of the next Carlton United Brewery site, Harold Park, Jacksons Landing, Rhodes, Homebush Bay or South Sydney requires a team effort and old-fashioned instinct.
In reality and as mentioned above the question of “Where are the opportunities in a changing market?” requires identification and interpretation of the following key elements.
Infrastructure: What locations will benefit from improved infrastructure over in the short to medium term, for example, transport – such as rail links to growth corridors; express rail services; new light rail; improved bus corridors; key motorway improvements.
Town planning changes: Changes to land use, intensification of use.
Demographics: We are now just days away from the release of the new census data. The first release in six years and understanding population trends will not only reveal opportunity but will be key in pursuing a specific target market. Analysis of area, age characteristics, income levels and population movements is the first step in establishing market growth, product design and accommodation type.
Affordability: Building to a price point is essential for success. Overcapitalisation or constructing the incorrect product type for a particular market can be avoided. However, this mistake is repeated all too often.
The successful development is the one that sells. Therefore all elements must be right if the all sold sign is to be erected.
The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Understanding these issues in isolation won’t achieve success, but knowing how they interact will unlock the opportunity.
Sam Barrow is property advisor and valuer for Landsburys Property providing strategic advice, risk analysis and valuation services. Sam has experience in all property types, however specialises in residential and mixed use development projects and master planned communities throughout New South Wales.
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