While buying an apartment ‘off the plan’ has been profitable for some, in more recent times many an investor has been caught out by a falling market and an oversupply of products. As valuers, we are often engaged to provide and ‘on completion’ valuation to advise what the property is worth. It’s important to note, a valuer can only advise what the property is worth now, in the current market, and not what the property could be worth ‘on completion’ in nine, twelve or eighteen months time. It’s the valuer’s responsibility to use comparable sales evidence to ascertain the current figure and they are not permitted to forecast how the market will perform into the future.

The Valuer can only advise what the property would be worth now, in the current market, and not what the property could be worth when finished down the track.

So, what are the risks of buying a new unit or townhouse off the plan and how to best avoid these?

  1. Too many new developments coming online in the one area

    It’s not uncommon for local governments to approve a number of development applications in one area without taking into consideration the impact on the local market. Too much product coming online at one time affects supply and can have a detrimental effect on the market.

    However, there are steps to take to minimise your risk here. Most local councils make the list of current development applications and approved developments visible on their website. If not, simply call and ask for a list of current applications being processed and which have been approved in the last 12 months.

It’s important to conduct your own checks on the developer’s marketing material and
to always conduct your own research.

  1. Not the right product for the area

    Usually, the developers have spent a considerable sum on researching the market and ensuring their product meets the needs of the market, but they don’t always get it right. Is there an oversupply of one bedroom or studio apartments? Then it’s important not to invest in these if the demand is low. Again, conduct your own research. There are numerous websites that provide information on the demographics of an area and the trends in that location. Call local agents and find out what’s selling fast. Also, call local property managers (who manage rentals in the area) and ask what’s in most demand. These professionals are the first to see the signs of a changing market and can provide invaluable information.

  2. Property overcapitalised for the area

    If the property is located in a lower socioeconomic area and boasts luxury features, this is a sign of overcapitalisation. Look at what other similar properties are selling for in the area and don’t move too far from this price range.

  3. Proposed infrastructure development doesn’t proceed

    Proposed local infrastructure is one thing which is outside of the control of the developers. Their promotional material may be correct at the time of printing and they can be acting with the best of intentions when advertising proximity to proposed infrastructure. However, nothing is assured when it comes to governments and the planning process. Hedge your bets and ensure the property is still a good investment without the proposed infrastructure improvements.

  4. Finished product does not meet contract specifications

    It is not uncommon that the finished product consists of PC items/fixtures which are different from the contracted specifications. Again, sometimes it’s outside of the developer’s control, but what is in their control is what replacements they use.

    To combat any issues with inferior products being installed, have the solicitor read over the contract and specify exactly what the requirements are if the listed fixtures are not available.

    What it all comes down to is conducting your own research in the above areas and not taking the word of the marketers (who are very good at what they do). Ask the developer to see the finished product of another development completed recently. It also doesn’t hurt to Google the developer’s name and previous developments to see what information is out there and what their previous customers have to say. Alternatively give us a call at WBP Group and we can put you in touch with our local valuer in the area to get their opinion of the development or developer in question. Valuers are entering these properties every day and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

    Call 1300 302 581 or email privatevals@wbpgroup.com.au.
    Author: Sacha Millar, General Manager WBP Group (Qld)