Is development for me?



In order to be successful at property development; you have to crawl before you walk. Most mistakes are made with the first few projects you undertake, so it’s best to learn from these without having to risk your life savings.

Ambition is a crucial asset for any property developer, as is the ability to think big, but over-confidence can be your worst enemy. So remember to start out small and learn about the development process with a few initial projects that won’t make or break your entire investment career.     

Property development is an extremely creative process, therefore property developers must be creators by nature. As a developer, your role is to take a project from the conception of an idea, right through all the stages of design and approval, financing, construction and marketing and eventually the leasing or sale of the project.

Successful property developers are a bit like movie producers. They assemble a highly talented team of people and skilfully lead them to develop a profitable outcome. Developers need to be proactive and make things happen. They must also be creative, flexible and adaptive to take their project through the development maze, not to mention all of the bureaucratic red tape that’s involved with council applications, zoning restrictions and the like.

As a developer, you need to work hard, have patience, remain focused, and have a burning determination to succeed. There are a few key basics you are going to have to undertake as you move along the path towards becoming a successful developer. You must:

  • Educate yourself
  • Take your time
  • Do the research

Developers are investors who commit their equity, expertise and talents to convert land from its current use to a higher and better use. They require a good understanding of the town planning and construction process and marketing of real estate projects.

The developer carries the financial risks of the project but stands to reap the rewards if it is a success. In other words, the buck literally stops with you - the developer.

To become a successful property developer you need to be a good coordinator, because you must assemble a team of talented people and proficiently lead them to deliver a profitable outcome. Developers are more than just property traders who buy low and sell high; they are knowledgeable in their field, have good negotiation and people skills and understand how to optimize profits while managing risks.

As a developer, it is your responsibility to make sure the risk you are taking on is equal to the potential reward at the end. That is, the higher the risk, the greater reward you should aim to achieve.

Why should I consider property development?
Given the recent stock market meltdown that saw many Australians lose half their life savings, most investors consider that one of the smartest ways to invest your money these days is in property.

But what is not so well known is that professional property investors are safely generating higher than average returns by participating in the wholesale end of the market. By becoming developers, they avoid paying retail for their new properties.

Sourcing a property that you can purchase for less than its intrinsic value is much easier today with consumer confidence taking a battering given the global economic recession. Many would-be home buyers and investors are waiting to hear some better news before jumping into the market. This has created a property climate that is ideal for investing in many of our major capital cities.  But at this stage of the cycle most properties won’t generate as much capital growth as occurs at later stages of the property cycle. This means it will take longer for investors go grow their equity.

Property development is all about creating your own equity. Something every experienced investor should consider in these leaner times, when profits are simply not as easy to come by. The bottom of the cycle, or at least as close to the bottom as possible, is the best time to get involved in property development and become an active investor, rather than passively waiting for your portfolio’s bottom line to grow.

By buying a development site at today’s relatively depressed values and adding value through development so you can either refinance or sell the end product at retail prices, you have the ability to not only save money, but make more.

Think about it – you buy at wholesale prices, add substantial value, thereby creating significant equity and then use that equity to refinance and borrow more, giving you the option of undertaking further developments or adding more “bargain buy” properties to your portfolio. This makes particular sense for developers who complete their product at a time when the cycle is still gaining upward momentum and selling would not necessarily make you the most gains.

Property development is a more than viable proposition for Australian investors. We are in the midst of a serious housing supply shortage and many large development companies are cautiously waiting out the current market conditions to see what will happen next.

Additionally, our population is growing at its most rapid rate for 40 years, meaning the current supply/demand imbalance is only going to get worse. Remember, when demand exceeds supply, it’s only a matter of time until prices start to go on that upward journey once more.       

Gavin Taylor is a director of Metropole Projects (

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