how to become a property developer

Are you wondering how to become a property developer? How to get development ready?

In these modern times, more and more Australians are looking to generate wealth. And why not?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be able to live comfortably or leaving something behind for your kids.

While people used to look to investing in existing property for wealth generation, more people are investigating developing real estate instead.

And for a good reason – you can make a serious profit by subdividing land and building a dual occupancy project.

First things first and there is no getting around this, if you want to learn how to become a property developer, then you need to have a pretty severe appetite for learning. Even if you are a young aspiring developer, it doesn’t matter.

Knowledge is power, and it is also money.

There are a lot of moving parts in this game, and you need to wrap your head around all of them and have a good understanding of every one of them.

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High Stakes but High Rewards

Property development is a high stakes game with some serious rewards, but the risks are significant too.

If you are serious about becoming a property developer, then you need to put the time and effort into learning as much about the property development lifecycle as you can.

become a property developer

It’s not the kind of thing you want to be learning on the job because you can lose serious money, as quickly as you can make it.

Do Your Own Research

You can’t afford to take third parties’ information as fact; you need to find credible resources and do your own research, there is no shortcut.

do own research

If you want a more relaxed, softer way, you might want to investigate other investment opportunities. But remember that there’s no such thing as an investment without risk.

It’s Worth It

The good news is, if you are going to go down a rabbit hole, I can tell you from experience that multi-unit residential property development, such as side by side dual occupancy and townhouse projects, is a great rabbit hole to go down.

The rewards can be seriously fruitful. We’re talking about beautiful big stacks of profit. Here are some real estate motivation tips to get you fired up!

In which case, you may want to learn about capital gains tax on property development – something that shouldn’t scare you, but rather excite you, given it means you are making money.

What Do Successful Property Developers Have in Common?

Common attributes of successful developers are patience and discipline.

You need the patience to take the time to do the relevant research required for each moving part, and control to make decisions based on nothing other than facts – no emotion.

Making decisions based on your feelings in this game is a surefire way to crash and burn.

There is no hurry. If you hurry and stumble, you’ll mess it up (potentially forever), and the opportunity to become a property developer will pass you by.

There are always going to be more sites and opportunities, so don’t pull the trigger until you are confident you have the knowledge and understanding of the development process.

Your figures need to be rock solid too. You can’t afford to second-guess and guesstimate numbers here. Know your budgets and your bottom lines and stick to them.

In this article, we’ll outline the 20 key tips for becoming a property developer.

1. How to Do a Feasibility

Feasibility is when you crunch the numbers on your proposed project. Just because a site can be developed doesn’t mean it should.

feasibility example

Every single development cost needs to be considered for your feasibility to hold and value.

There should only be two variables in your feasibility: your build price and your sales price. The rest you need to have a very tight handle on.

Here is a dual occupancy case study that shares other things you need to consider.

2. How to Run Real Estate Developer Due Diligence

This is similar to feasibility; the process should be parallel. You can’t just find a site on the various real estate listing portals and know if it’s suitable for development.

You need to learn if a site has prime potential. Remember, take emotion out of the equation.

We’ve seen people get attached to particular sites or dwellings and let their feelings take over. It can end in disaster.

You need to be looking at things such as essential services, encumbrances, orientation and setbacks just to name a few.

At the end of the day, if a site doesn’t tick every box, then move on and find one that does. Doing detailed due diligence as a real estate developer should tell you clearly what your move should be.

3. Know the Real Estate Market

You need to get an idea of the market in your chosen area. Know what’s selling and what’s not.

know your area

This way, you begin to figure out what buyers want and what they don’t.

4. Know the Market Cycles

Property is like any market – it is prone to fluctuation. You need to have a firm understanding of these variations in the market and what it means for a project.

property market cycle

We like to say that a good property developer can make money in any market.

It’s not about waiting for the right time; it’s about working with what you have.

5. Learn the Development Process

There’s a whole process to development, from pre-planning to subdivision, documentation right through to the building of the townhouses and eventual off the plan sales.

real estate development process step by step

You need to know this entire process inside and out. If you don’t have the time or desire, consider employing a professional project manager.

Remember, there are no shortcuts here.

6. Your Design

You’ll need to engage a professional to design your dual occupancy dwellings.

A good architect or draftsman doesn’t come cheap either, so you need to have budgeted for this.

7. Have Some Working Capital

development capital

It’s worth remembering that banks won’t finance design costs or any other planning costs, only land purchases and construction costs.

8. Development Finance and Funding Strategies

Still keen on learning how to become a property developer? Money matters in this game, you need to be able to borrow funds for your development.

Getting development finance is a bit different from getting a home loan or an investment loan.

You’re usually looking at a higher interest rate, and there are a few other things to consider too.

Remember that you’re not locked into banks here too. There are a few other options to secure non-bank property development loans.

9. Site Orientation

Know about site orientation. Nobody wants to live in darkness all the time or in a cold house. North or northeast facing sites are prime because of this.

dual occupancy melbourne orientation

Typically, we avoid south or south-west facing sites, not to say we wouldn’t ever consider one every site and every project is different.

10. Site Dimensions

This is super important because it will inform how many properties (and subdivisions) you can achieve on a block.

Over time you’ll see dimensions and automatically know what can be achieved on a lot. Learn more about how much land you need to build 2 and 3 townhouses.

11. Town Planning Process

The town planning process is how you get your planning permit to do the project.

It isn’t uncommon for beginner developers to not understand the difference between a planning permit and a building permit, so I penned an article to clear that confusion up here.

Each local government (council) is going to have its overarching rules and regulations with regards to its planning scheme. You need someone to navigate this for you.

Council will always hit you up for a request for further information as well, so you need to able to respond accordingly and timely.

Each area will also have its own processing times, so know that you’ll always have a wait.

12. Plan of Subdivision

Your land surveyor will give you a big list of tasks, with a bunch of paperwork for you to complete for your subdivision to be approved. This usually occurs as your build begins.

Managing this plan is vital. You cannot sell separate titled lots without this.

Once construction is underway, one of the most important things you need to manage is your plan of subdivision application.

In Victoria, there is an online portal called Surveying and Planning through Electronic Applications and Referral, known as SPEAR for short.

subdivision application

It essentially makes lodging and processing your subdivision planning permit faster and easier for you as the applicant.

It also makes it easier for the council and referral authorities.

Soon after the build starts, you’ll receive a comprehensive list of tasks from your land surveyor, along with relevant documentation that’s required for your subdivision to be approved.

All these tasks need to be completed. Long story short, without this, you won’t see money for your properties because you won’t be able to settle your sales.

If you aren’t sure if you can subdivide your own property, find out here.

13. Buildability

Buildability means figuring out a cost-effective build for your dwellings.

This is all about saving money on your build and getting bang for your buck.

Take, for example, your foundations. A concrete slab might seem simple, but there are many options, and one size doesn’t fit all.

buildability of concrete

It will depend on your site, and your engineer needs to keep this in mind. They might want to bang it out and get on with their day, but there are massive variables here.

14. Construction Documentation – And Tendering

You’ll need a comprehensive list of construction documentation for a builder to begin work. Below is a helpful list of some of the documentation that will make up your builder’s tender package.

  • Civil plans set
  • Landscaping plan set
  • Energy report
  • Engineering plan set
  • A proposed plan of subdivision
  • Energy plan set
  • Working plan set
  • Fixtures, fittings and finishes specifications
  • Computations
  • Soil test

Once you have your thick stack of paperwork, it’s time to find a suitable duplex home builder and tender out your build.

15. The Building Process

You need to have a basic understanding of how townhomes are built in this game.

You don’t need to be an expert by any means, but you need to know the fundamentals. From foundations to finishes and everything in between.

And you need to decide what you will do with the project at the end. Are you selling, or are you building to rent – this will guide decisions, so you need clarity around your game plan.

In Australia, building to rent, in many cases, you are building equity into your rental from the outset.

16. Essential Services and Street-side Connections

As mentioned above in your feasibility, your dwellings will need connections for gas, water, power and the internet.

Without a street-side connection point, you are looking at a costly installation, so have all this figured out beforehand.

17. Project Management

A residential property development project is just that – a project.  And it’s a damn intricate one if you’ll pardon the language.

property development tips

There are so many variables, hidden parts and moving aspects that you need to be a solid project consultant to oversee everything.

If you don’t have development management experience and aren’t willing to learn, then you should reconsider if this investment is right for you.

Or, engage a company like Little Fish to do the heavy lifting for you.

18. Negotiation Skills

how to become a property developer

Throughout a project, you’ll have many negotiations – with your designer, with your surveyor, with your builder, negotiations with your sales agent and your conveyancer.

You want to get excellent value services while making a profit.

Never accept a first offer or bid. Always go back to the negotiating table. Be willing to walk away if you don’t get what you need to make your project viable for you.

Remember, it’s all about the bottom line here. But don’t burn bridges, either.

19. Understand Build Contracts

You need to have a good understanding of building contracts. You need your chosen builder to commit to delivering a project on time and budget.

Watch out for variations. These are changes to the project as it’s underway.

Builders love them because they can bill for them. A builder will always try it on for size, so have everything in writing and signed.

builder liquidated damages

Also, make sure to have a liquidated damages clause in your contract. This means if the project runs overtime, the builder must reimburse you for your losses.

At Little Fish, we won’t enter a contract without a liquidated damages clause. We suggest you do the same.

20. How to Manage Development Risks

Remember, as mentioned above, this is a high-risk, high-reward game. You need to be able to manage and mitigate risks before and as they arise.

There are financial risks like interest rate rises, risks with the build like delays (hence the liquidated damages clause) and market fluctuations.

A good property developer knows how to deal with development risks and still turn a profit, so you need to know this, too if you’re still keen on learning how to become a property developer.

21. How to Build Relationships – Your Networks are Vital

You need a network in this game. You need to know designers, architects, builders, sales agents, lawyers, and others.

lf network

This is part of the position description. Make your networks work for you. If you’re not willing to invest in these relationships, you may want to look elsewhere to generate wealth.

Side note: Another article worth checking out is this one on how to become a real estate developer.

Wrapping Up

So, the above twenty-one tips should have you well on your way to learning how to become a property developer. One day you could even end up as a major real estate developer, you just never know!

If you are seriously time-poor and can’t dedicate the time and effort required to learn all this, you’re not plum out of luck.

There’s a second option. You can partner with a property development company like Little Fish, which mitigates all the risk and does all the heavy lifting on your behalf.

development project manager

In fact, in most, if not all, cases, even if you could do it yourself by partnering with someone like us, you will get your project completed faster than if you do it yourself.

This happens by tapping into our efficiencies and networks. With someone like Little Fish, you pay wholesale instead of retail for all the above-listed providers and suppliers.

We know how much things cost and how long they take.

With our custom project portal, you can follow along as much or as little as you like.

We are transparent all the way through and hold nothing back, so you can check in on the portal and learn on the job.

Part of what we do is educate too, so don’t hold back asking.

Give us a call on 1300 799 277 for a free consultation.