The Importance of Building a Great Team
Property Development is a team sport.

It’s not impossible to find success by going it alone, but it’s hard to be supremely successful. One of the expressions I've heard that I think fits very well is:

“If you want to go fast, go by yourself. If you want to go far, go with others.”

Great individuals don’t automatically make a great team. You can have the best Architect on earth and the best Town Planner on earth but if they don’t get along, you’re probably going nowhere.

I’m a huge rugby supporter, and I know that my team has a much better chance of winning when the players are working together. No matter what sport you love, you probably know a great team will always beat a great set of individuals. A team of nobodies can be a team of somebodies if they all act together.

A great team is crucial for successful Property Development.

But here’s the million-dollar question: How do you know who to pick for your team?
The team itself is going to revolve very much around the Property Development strategy you’ve chosen. My advice to my students is always choose one strategy and choose one Council in which to apply that strategy. You’ll then be able to choose specialists that are aligned with your strategy.

There’s no point having the best Architect in the country when your aim is to do subdivisions. Similarly there's no point having one of the greatest Town Planners if he's not a Town Planner who specialises in your particular Council.

You’re probably starting to see why it's so important to set the scene from the get-go. You actually need to set your trajectory right at the very beginning and know how and where you're going, and then your team can form in and around that.
Six Key Players

For most strategies you’ll need six key players on your team: an Accountant, a Solicitor, a Town Planner, a Civil Engineer, a Surveyor and an Architect.

Let’s start with the first two, as you’ll need to start working with them early in your Property Development journey.

Choosing an Accountant and a Solicitor

Solicitors are state specific because there are idiosyncrasies with different legislation in different states. Your Accountant, on the other hand, can be anywhere in Australia. Ideally you’ll want your Accountant and your Solicitor to “play well together” because they have different objectives.

Your Accountant will be focusing on tax minimisation while your Solicitor wants to prioritise asset protection. So one of the best ways to move forward is to engage one of these specialists and have them recommend an accomplice.

It’s quite likely your Accountant will work regularly with a particular Solicitor or vice versa and because they are familiar with each other’s mode of operation, they will work together to get the best outcome on both the tax and asset protection fronts.

When I was wanting to do some fairly detailed structuring of my deals, I needed to find someone who could come up with hybrid solutions. So my Accountant recommended a Solicitor and I’ve been working with these people for many years now.

Choosing a Town Planner

To optimise your Property Development outcomes, your Town Planner has to be a specialist and an expert in your area.

Anyone can read the rules and figure out what can and can’t be done.

What we’re looking for is someone who does lots of successful applications to Council for your type of development strategy. This person will deal with that one Council all the time and knows the personalities within that Council.

This area expert will know where Council is flexible and where it’s not, they’ll know the idiosyncrasies of twisting a development a little bit this way or that to get it across the line.

You want them to produce multiple examples of where Council has approved a potentially contentious development thanks to the Town Planner’s skills in understanding and moulding an application. Keep interviewing candidates until you find a Town Planning expert with that rich experience, with their finger on the Council pulse. Someone who’s connected enough to know when politicians are coming up to an election and what topics are sensitive, when they’re looking for economic growth and what are the drivers they’re looking to see.

You’ll sometimes find teams of Town Planners comprising of a senior planner and three junior planners, each specialising in certain types of applications. That kind of depth of detail can really play into your favour.

Your Town Planner is going to be instrumental in assessing whether or not the site you’ve found is developable, and keeping you up to speed with how Council will assess your application when you actually get to the point of lodgement.

They'll look at the zoning, they'll look at the site constraints. They'll look at overlays and neighbourhood plans and LEPs and all of those sorts of things. They’ll be across any state-based legislation that might apply and they’ll be able to measure the likelihood of your success in actually achieving that project.

Your Town Planner will help you to lodge your application and respond to any questions that Council may have. If your DA is accepted, they'll go through your approved conditions and potentially negotiate with Council if some of those conditions aren't necessarily favourable. And if it's been rejected, then they'll be trying to come up with arguments to overturn that decision.
Now choose a Civil Engineer and a Surveyor

In my experience, Town Planners have a series of consultants they typically work with, so you can build the rest of your team around your Town Planner’s team. Your Town Planner should be able to put you in touch with a Civil Engineer and Surveyor who are equally familiar with your chosen area. Again, it helps if they have lots of experience in your development strategy.

Your Civil Engineer will figure out whether or not you can actually get all the civil services you require on and off the site. We’re talking about getting water on site and stormwater and waste water off site. They will also help you sort out things like driveway crossovers and the best layout for road networks if you're doing a large lot land subdivision.

Surveyors are perhaps an underrated team member and I'm going to encourage you to change that opinion. Your Surveyor should be very much part of your due diligence right up front. So the moment you actually get the contract, you should be sending your Surveyor in and they should be capturing the contours of the site, pegging the boundaries and making sure that the piece of land that you think you've purchased is actually the piece of land that you did purchase.

It’s not at all uncommon to find there are issues and challenges with regards to where your boundaries are located. And that can affect how you approach your site and what you can do with it.

Your surveyor is key to several steps in the development process right through to the end of the project when they determine the final boundaries and or strata subdivisions for your site so that you can go through the plan sealing process and actually get titles. So don't underestimate the important role they play!
And finally, your Architect

Not all Developers will need the services of an Architect, but if you do, they too need to be a team player who can work collaboratively to get the best possible outcome.

If you're doing units or townhouses, then you’re almost certainly going to be needing an Architect or Draftsperson.

I would encourage you to use an Architect. They are slightly more expensive but you're going to get a much better solution and they're going to be able to help manage your project all the way through to the end which a Draftsperson may not be capable of doing.

Like your Surveyor, your Architect has multiple roles in the development process. They’ll help you with your initial Council application by providing designs and floor plans mapping all of your site setbacks and when Council comes back with feedback, they'll tweak those designs to secure approval.

After the application is approved, the Architect is the person who actually prepares all of the documents required for the building approval process. And they may engage other consultants along the way, such as Electrical Engineers and Hydraulic Engineers.

Network to Success!

One of the best ways to find members for your team is to talk to people within the Property Developer Network. There are 527 different councils in Australia so it's impossible for me or any other one individual to be able to recommend a great Town Planner in all of those jurisdictions.

So you're really going to be reliant on getting out and meeting people.

That's what the Property Development Network is all about, it's about leaning on your community to actually get recommendations based on your strategy and your Council.

Referrals are one of the best ways to form your team and a great team is instrumental for success on your Property Development journey.
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