"A single dwelling will be processed quicker than a medium-density project, for instance."
Mastering the design, planning and approval stage of a property development
Property development can be daunting, so I’ve put together some FAQs to help address some of the important questions that will arise as you start your development.
This has been broken down to a three-part series:
Part two: Design, planning and approvals
Winston Churchill famously once said “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.
The design and planning phase of your property development will directly impact your end result. So this is a very important stage. Don’t rush it, take time to think about what you want to achieve and ensure you are happy with each milestone before proceeding on, as it can be costly to turn back and start again.
Who do I need in my team for this phase of my project?
You’ll need a surveyor, architect or draftsperson, builder, town planning consultant (not always necessary), the local council, perhaps a private certifier and a development project manager such as Property Bloom if you are time poor or inexperienced. Also your accountant can play an important role in helping you run your feasibility studies.
Where do I start?
You must start with clear concept of what you want to achieve. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
How many dwellings do you want to get onto the land?
How much equity do I want to create by developing this land?
What does the DCP (development control plan) allow?
Design single- or double-storey dwellings – what does the market want?
Are you building to hold or sell?
Who is the target market – tenants or owner-occupiers?
If holding, what do tenants look for in rental properties?
What is the demand for the number of bedrooms?
What do I need to do to differentiate my development in the market?
How much can you finance? It’s extremely important to have a preapproval on your development finance so you know you can complete your project.
What is the best structure to purchase and develop in? This is a good question for your accountant.
What do I do once I’ve found some land to develop?
The first thing you’ll need to do is to have a surveyor completed a contour and detailed survey. Contour and detail surveys give a true representation of the shape, features and services of a site. They normally include manmade improvements, trees and, if required, adjoining property information. Once you have this survey, you can pass it onto your architect, draftsperson or builder. They need this to start on the concept plan.
Another important investigation tool is a geotechnical report. This will classify the site, soil and wind affecting your site. This information is important to consider when starting on the design and critical for the engineering plans.
Do I need to use an architect to design my project?
This will depend on your goal and the area you are developing in. Sometimes it’s not necessary to use an architect if you know what you’ll be building is fairly basic. But if you are looking to create something a little different or need some expert advice on a tricky site then engage an architect. Property Bloom has a great relationship with our builder and we use the builder’s in-house drafting service to save our clients money. We will use our architect for more high-end developments.
Steps in the design phase include:
How long with my DA take in council?
What a great question and one that has many different answers. It will depend on the complexity of your project and your council. A single dwelling will be processed quicker than a medium-density project, for instance. You may be doing a complying development and not even need to lodge with the council. Speak to your council to get an idea of their processing times so you can plan this into your timeline.
Should I use a private certifier?
Property Bloom always uses a private certifier once we’ve received our DA consent. We find it is much quicker to obtain the construction certificate consent, and the inspection process during the build phase is usually also speeded up when using a private certifier. To us this is well worth the small additional cost as time is money.
What is a project schedule?
At Property Bloom we prepare an initial project schedule that shows our clients the estimated timeline for the project. We use this tool to cross check each phase and gauge how we are progressing. Each project is different and will take different amounts of times over each phase, but our job is to keep the project moving forward as efficiently as possible. so using the services of a project manager can really assist especially if it’s your first project, as you’ll learn so much from being guided through the often complex process of property developing.
How do I complete a feasibility study?
It’s important you undertake a detailed feasibility analysis before you decide to proceed with your development. There are various software around you can use, but you’ll need to know what estimates to include, that’s the tricky bit. At Property Bloom we base our analysis on recent and similar projects we have completed. As we’ve project managed over 50 developments in the Hunter region of NSW, we have a very good idea on the costs involved and are able to make quite accurate estimates. From your analysis, you need to calculate the expected cost of the project and likely profit or equity that you can create from it and gross yields if you are planning to hold. Once you’ve completed your feaso, keep updating it with the actual costs as you proceed through the project to keep track of the viability your development.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” - Alan Lakein. That’s what I love about property development – bringing the future into the present. You really can’t spend too much time on the design and planning phase of your development, but try not to get overwhelmed by all the detail. While this is the most time-consuming phase, remember to step back and visualise the “big picture” to ensure you keep moving forward towards your end goal.
Jo Chivers is director of Property Bloom, which manages property development.