[+] Five Perth Developers to Watch in 2021

Perth’s house and land market has dominated the property sector for decades, but a growing appetite for design-led “boutique” apartment developments is changing the city’s skyline.

And while Perth’s economic fortunes are entwined with Western Australia’s boom and bust resources sector, increasingly, a selection of developers are rising to meet the demand for luxury apartment living.

Aria Land

Aria Land Paul Simpson, managing director
▲ Aria Land Paul Simpson, managing director.

What was your first project?

Aria Land’s first project was the West One development, at 1303 Hay Street, West Perth. This was developed over 2005 to 2006.

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

Fifteen years ago, non-bank funding was not common. Most developments at that time were typically financed by about 30 per cent equity and 70 per cent debt (“big four” banks, plus Bankwest).

This entailed raising equity adequate to secure the site and cover consultants and marketing costs required to obtain the DA and pre-sales, and then the site’s title and pre-sales contracts being adequate to cover the required finance being used as security for that finance.

The low interest environment we currently enjoy is such that non-bank funding, involving higher LVRs and lower pre-sales requirements, can now be achieved at financing costs similar to that being paid to traditional banks in the past. The equity has been raised either internally and or through contributions from investors, primarily friends and industry colleagues.

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

Aria is currently developing five projects, all in the Perth suburbs of Nedlands and Como. The marketing for another, to be launched in September, 2021, is currently under preparation. These projects comprise 223 apartments, more than $215 million in revenues and $100 million in construction costs.

▲ Aria Land's Bloom, Enclave and Ten Bellevue developments.
▲ Aria Land's Bloom, Enclave and Ten Bellevue developments.

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

Aria’s main focus is the attributes of the site, with all developments close to the CBD and enjoying water views. The quality of the architecture is a fundamental consideration, even if this comes at a cost premium, relative to the target market’s expectations vis-à-vis price-points.

Although one of the current developments entails 111 apartments, the company’s preference is in the 10-60 apartment range, ideally 20-40 residences. Aria has historically capped its activities such that only one or two projects are under construction at any one time.

The increase to six projects being under construction soon has turned out to be ideal timing, given the considerable uplift in selling prices over the year to date in particular.

How hard is it to break into the Perth market? What are some of the unique challenges?

Perth’s adoption of apartment living has followed other capital cities, so that it’s perhaps 10 to 20 years behind where Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane are in this trend.

Most of the Perth evolution has been during the past 15 years and this has seen quite a few developers enter—and many exit—the arena. Breaking in hasn’t been a problem; the issue is continuity.

Aria Land’s concentration on its fundamentals, in respect to the quality of the sites it acquires, and the architecture it deploys, complemented by exceptional marketing, have resulted in each of its developments not only providing sound financial returns, but adding landmark architecture and much-needed inner city living outcomes.

Aria’s expertise in this field has been sought by other developers and landowners, lacking the skills, time and capital to develop their own land. In this consultancy role, Aria has obtained development approvals or bank funding for a range of premium developments, on behalf of their owners, in parallel to its own development activities.

How big is your organisation?

Aria’s team currently comprises just six in-house staff, as most activities are carried out by group of specialists, in the architectural, engineering, town planning and a dozen other fields.

How many dwellings have you built over what period?

Aria has either developed itself, or kick-started the development process for its clients, for 16 projects. This has been over the course of 17 years, and entailing more than 550 apartments, 30-plus office suites-retail outlets, and three restaurants and wine bars. The combined value of these developments is about $765 million.

Australian Development Capital

▲ Australian Development Capital's Rod Hamersley, director.
▲ Australian Development Capital's Rod Hamersley, director.

What was your first project?

ADC’s first project was Brixton6011, which was a small, mixed-use development located in Perth’s western suburb of Cottesloe. The project comprised 13 one- and two-bedroom apartments and eight strata office suites. It was a great initial investment that delivered more than 100 per cent return on equity within a three-year investment period.

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

Our initial projects were well-supported by our existing networks, and this particular project provided a great platform to demonstrate our capability with complexities around remediation, planning and design.

Our funding approach hasn’t changed, with both our own and our investment partners’ equity utilised to acquire development land outright—we then bring in debt funding via the major banks once pre-sales or pre-commitments are achieved.

Brixton6011 filled a gap in the local market for new residential accommodation so it sold well off-plan, and once finished the strata office suites sold quickly and at record levels.

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

We have more than 1000 apartments in the pipeline in our current projects, with the largest of these being the Perth Girls School Precinct that will include over 700 residential apartments (with a mixture of build-to-rent and sell) amongst heritage cultural, commercial and retail accommodation.

We launched Freeman Residences at Leighton Beach (46 apartments that was a WA first in offering a combined residential and short-stay opportunity) in May 2021 and reached financial close within 3 weeks of entering market.

We have another two mixed-use projects launching pre-sales over the next few months—Lyric Theatre Residences in Maylands (52 apartments and retail) and Mos Lane in Mosman Park (83 apartments and retail).

▲ Australian Development Capital projects include Lyric Residences, a bold redevelopment of the former Perth Girls School, and Freeman Residences at Leighton Beach. Images: ADC
▲ Australian Development Capital projects include Lyric Residences, a redevelopment of the former Perth Girls School, and Freeman Residences at Leighton Beach. Images: ADC

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

During the past 10 years we have established a reputation for being problem solvers, not being afraid to seize opportunities despite challenges that often lead others to overlook the potential of a project.

We have dealt with a range of complexities including local and state heritage buildings, complex re-zoning processes and remediation of sites. Our common ethos is also to be good operators—we invest in relationships as much as property, always looking to deliver return-optimising efficiencies for our partners.

How hard is it to break into the Perth market, and can you tell me about some of the unique challenges you have faced?

We grew up locally and are 100 per cent focused on the Perth market, which has assisted us in building strong local relationships with investors, consultants and land owners.

Perth is, and will forever be, linked to the highs and lows of the mining sector and the wealth generated from that industry has resulted in a very competitive local market. We have a very disciplined approach to investment, which sometimes results in avoiding some of the more reactive yet obvious opportunities within market swings.

Owner expectations on asset values is a challenge in every market, but we find the personalised approach to dealing with prospective sellers and our strong track record assists in being able to purchase good quality assets.

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what period?

We run a tight ship with my business partner, Adam Zorzi, and I taking a lead across acquisitions, development, asset management and financing, alongside a very capable development manager and administration manager riding shotgun.

One of our key strengths is our network of best-in-class consultants who we outsource many functions of the development process including town planning, architecture, construction management, sales and marketing, legal and accounting.

Edge Visionary Living

▲ Edge Visionary Living, Gavin Hawkins, director.
▲ Edge Visionary Living, Gavin Hawkins, director.

What was your first project?

Our first project was a 48-apartment complex in Rivervale launched in 2014. The project was targeting the more affordable end of the market and sold out very quickly.

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

Attracting affordable funding on the right terms is always more difficult as you look to establish your credentials as a business. So yes, we had to work hard in the first few years.

We were also faced with difficult economic conditions here in the West and that made investors, particularly from the eastern states, quite cautious.

Fortunately, our backgrounds (directors Gavin Hawkins and David Hillam) in property and architecture had been established over many years. This led to us gaining traction for the new business relatively quickly, both in terms of equity and debt, which has underpinned our strong early growth as a business.

Our debt funding for construction has been a mix of bank and non-bank debt and is very much driven by the type of project and strength of the market. More recently we have been funded through ANZ and CBA.

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

This year, 2021, has been a very exciting year at Edge with projects being completed, reaching completion and being launched to market with construction anticipated for later this year.

We have recently completed the first stage of the luxury Eden Floreat boutique apartment development on the shores of Perry Lakes, Floreat in Perth’s highly-desirable western suburbs. This project has been extremely well-received and as at June 2021, just short of two months after construction completion, 95 per cent of Eden has been sold. The second stage is due for completion in December and is currently also 95 per cent sold.

Buyer interest for the first tower at Edge’s prestigious riverside development, Rivière Residences in affluent Applecross has also seen an unprecedented number of apartments secured since launching in June.

The public demand for Rivière has brought forward the anticipated construction commencement to the third quarter of this year. The development represents three buildings and 220 apartments, with a net realisable value of $360 million—and it is proving particularly popular among hyper-local downsizers.

Prior to the imminent launch of Lumiere, some floorplans are close to selling out and close to 50 per cent have been sold prior to launch. The project is 100 apartments with revenues of circa $200 million.

We are expecting to launch a project on Burt Street in East Fremantle this year. This is an urban infill project of 250 apartments that we are undertaking in partnership with Development WA.

Later this year, Edge will be launching The Dunes on the beachfront at Scarborough Beach.

▲ Edge Visionary Living's Botanical, Lumiere and River Residences.
▲ Edge Visionary Living's Botanical, Lumiere and River Residences.

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

Edge is extremely conscious of developing only in locations that are unique and deliver an exceptional outcome in terms of the desired lifestyles of our clients.

We then work extremely hard on creating, not just an aesthetically pleasing design, but a highly functional product that offers our clients everything that they desire both within the building and the local community.

This design-led approach is paramount in generating the significant levels of interest from our clients. They must have compelling reasons to choose the apartment living experience that we offer, with all the security, world class amenities and great community feel, over the traditional house on a large block.

We are also one of the very few developers in Perth that have their own sales and marketing department. We feel that this is paramount in providing our clients with a fantastic experience through the sales, construction and moving in phases of our projects.

Given we stay so close to our buyers throughout the journey and provide them with a high level of support, our settlement rates at completion are very close to if not achieving 100 per cent success rates.

Most importantly, however, is the sense of community that is fundamental to all Edge projects and how this is being taken on board and lovingly nurtured by residents.

How hard is it to break into the Perth market, what are some of the unique challenges you have faced in this market?

Perth has historically been a house and land market, with significant urban sprawl along the coast. State governments have in recent times been looking to address this with a focus on increasing urban density through strategic government planning policies. This has seen a mind shift in the Perth population, which coupled with recent improvements in the quality of apartment offerings within the market, has seen a greater acceptance of apartment living, particularly by downsizers in Perth where demand has been strong.

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what period?

Since the inception of Edge in 2013, we have grown the team to 25, covering all disciplines of property development, including in-house development delivery and sales and marketing teams.

Edge has delivered more than 800 apartments, representing a gross revenue of $600 million. Our current pipeline of approved projects in the market totals a further 750 apartments to total $850 million.

▲ Griffin Group, Greg Devine, CEO.
▲ Griffin Group, Greg Devine, CEO.

What was your first project?

It was 204 Walcott in Menora. It is an art-deco-inspired building that is becoming a landmark in Perth. The development is a true reflection of who we are as a business, our values and, a constant reminder to stick to our unique model that we know works.

How hard was it to get funding, and get the project off the ground?

It is our view that there are four fundamental parts to creating a successful project. The first is to find a partner with a development in the right location that fits our model, the second is to be flexible enough to adapt to the constant changes in funding requirements.

The third is having strong relationships with other relevant construction professionals required to bring the project to life, and finally the sale of the quality product into the market.

Each of these four parts are all complete businesses within themselves.

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

There is no shortage of opportunities presenting good projects that fit our model to work on.

We are busy with some great projects in various stages across Perth as well other states in Australia including South Australia NSW, Victoria and Queensland. We have also been introduced to some great opportunities in the UK.

▲ Griffin Group's The Residence, Scarborough; Cube on Canning, 204 Walcott, and Loft Haus (clockwise from top left).
▲ Griffin Group's The Residence, Scarborough; Cube on Canning, 204 Walcott, and Loft Haus (clockwise from top left).

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

We are not the traditional developer. We are an asset manager that coordinates a team of professionals to create successful boutique style projects located in inner-city locations that suit our model.

Our focus is to find development opportunities that require a team of professional asset managers to bring the project to life. Griffin secures the project, and the seller can become a shareholder if they choose.

How hard is it to break into the Perth market, and what are some of the unique challenges you have faced?

The Perth property market is unique compared to the rest of Australia and in my experience, it is a market that has either been on or off—there isn’t a middle ground like other states in Australia.

This type of market requires a unique skill set to manage all the parties in the project including lenders, architects, builders, and sales teams that differ to those required in other states.

Perth as a portion of Australia, is historically known as the 10 per cent state, thereby creating a difficult set of numbers to work to as I find that investors and lenders are either in or they are out of the market.

WA sits comfortably now on the world stage, largely due to its exposure through Covid-19 and those unique skills that WA professionals have will be more and more useful in years to come.

We see WA as a great growth opportunity on the world stage due to its unique micro climate of strong attributes such as our demographic, location, security, strong resource sector etc, which work together to bolster the strength of the economy, making it highly attractive.

How big is your organisation?

Griffin operates with a core group of exceptional professionals that work with outsourced specialists to deliver successful projects.

The dynamic: in-house asset management team comprises the best of the best in their professions with the ability to outsource to top level professionals in their respective fields allowing us to deliver exceptional products and remain adaptable in an ever-changing market.

We also have representation in each of the states which enhances our model, and we think our offering is unique for overseas based clients.

Gary Dempsey Developments

▲ Gary Dempsey Developments, Gary Dempsey, founder.
▲ Gary Dempsey Developments, Gary Dempsey, founder.

What was your first project?

Gary Dempsey Developments (GDD) was founded in Perth in WA in 1987 and commenced building projects in the mid-1980s with a small two-lot subdivision. In the three decades since, GDD has delivered a diverse range of residential and commercial projects including luxury homes and apartments, civic and commercial buildings, nursing homes and retirement villages. Our first apartment building, a three-level luxury development with river views, was built on The Esplanade South Perth in 2004.

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

We are quite unique in the market in terms of our funding and debt arrangements, which is one of the reasons we have been around for three decades. We always purchase the land for our proposed developments outright, which therefore means we are able to secure funding from one of the major, trusted lenders without having to enter into risky financing agreements with second-tier providers.

We have operated like this since virtually day one and this has ensured a good ongoing relationship with our financiers who understand the quality and commitment involved in delivering the projects that we do and therefore continue to have confidence in funding what we do and what we ultimately deliver.

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

We’re currently just a few months away from completion of Taskers North Fremantle, a five-stage, multi-residential, high-end development, and have two new apartment developments in the pipeline, both at different stages of development—one is in Marine Parade in Cottesloe and the other on The Esplanade in Scarborough. Both are in iconic waterfront locations and meet the criteria we are looking for in terms of premium location, design and product.

▲ Gary Dempsey Developments' Marine Parade, Cottesloe; Taskers Falcon Apartments, and Bluewater Apartments,
▲ Gary Dempsey Developments' Marine Parade, Cottesloe; Taskers Falcon Apartments, and Bluewater Apartments,

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

I think first and foremost our dedication to quality is what sets us apart. And that refers to quality that you can see and touch but also what you don’t see, which goes back to the design, construction, and technology and practices we use.

Most builders include the term “quality” in their marketing material and glossy brochures; however, the reality often doesn’t stand up to the claims being made.

Being a builder-developer, we are involved in every aspect of the development from start to absolute finish, paying attention to every detail and ensuring we deliver what we say we’re going to deliver.

We choose to focus our attention on one project at a time to ensure we are giving the development the justice it deserves and hence have developed a great reputation for delivering premium, owner occupied, luxury residences with river and/or ocean views in some of the country’s most sought after locations.

How hard is it to break into the Perth market, what are some unique challenges you have faced?

Unlike say the Sydney or Melbourne markets, Perth has taken time to adjust and adapt to apartment living and so the market share and uptake here has been considerably slower and more segmented and therefore more challenging to operate and succeed in. However, the market has matured significantly in the last five to ten years, which has made developing apartments in Perth much easier perhaps than it used to be.

The biggest challenge—and I think this would be seconded by almost every developer in Perth at the moment—is navigating the overly bureaucratic approvals process, especially in the Western suburbs and in waterfront locations, where you tend to have councils that are often routinely anti-development of any kind despite the fact that the state government has set them infill and density targets.

While the recent uptick in the market has been positive, it comes off a decade or more after the global financial crisis, when market conditions were particularly tough.

We are only just getting to a point now where sellers have a level of confidence that they can sell larger family homes for a sufficient price tag to allow them to sell and downsize into a premium grade apartment in the suburb of their choice.

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what period?

We are a small but dedicated and passionate team of eight people across building, development and sales and we are committed to remaining deliberately small. It is incredibly small considering we have close to $250 million in projects in the pipeline at the moment. I have lost count of the exact number of projects we have delivered in our 30-plus-year-history, but it would sit at well over a 1000.

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Article originally posted at: https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/articles/five-perth-developers-of-2021