Successful Apartment Development

Obtaining Competitive Prices


In obtaining competitive prices or tenders it is important that builders have exactly the same drawings, specifications schedules and documents. If they vary or are incomplete the prices you obtain will be meaningless. This is critical.


Only obtain prices from builders that you know or have researched thoroughly as being excellent in this type of work and who are not too far away. That way you will be confident that you will get a great result from whoever wins the tender.


Your Architects should check the builders who should have a demonstrable track record of carrying this out for other clients. Good tight pricing carried out by your Architects acting as project managers will save you a lot of money and you will end up with a tightly controlled project.


When all the prices are received they should be analysed carefully. Often small anomalies can be sorted out at this time which may include some repricing of some small items.


It is time to go back to your feasibility to make sure that the money is still on target. If not you will need to adjust the building price.


It should also be even-handed. It is not good to have a contract that is less fair on one party. You will end up by suffering the consequences! After all it is you who is taking the risk!


Planning Permit Stage

Nurse, nurse, nurse the way through!

Your drawings, other documents and forms and fees have to be lodged with Council. It will take Council a couple of weeks to assess the information. Council have 60 days in which to issue a permit unless the “clock stops” for any particular reason.

Council may request further information where they believe you have not fully complied with the level of documentation required.

Council may also strongly suggest that you make some design changes to fit their requirements. The officer assessing your application will probably have assessed your application in conjunction with the senior planner to whom they report. At this stage it is critical for your Architects to be fully aware of what Council are trying to achieve and also what you are wanting. Very often your Architects will have a better design that satisfies both.

Once Council are satisfied that you have provided all the information and fit with their requirements they will instruct you to advertise. Advertising generally takes the form of posting letters to surrounding neighbours and placing a sign on each street frontage. Some Councils will advertise entirely themselves on your behalf. Other Councils will direct you to carry out the advertising yourself.

At this point the Council planner will write a report hopefully in your favour. If there are very few objectors Council will issue a favourable Notice of Decision. If there are lots of objectors the matter will go to a committee of Councillors who will recommend to full Council the outcome.

If you do not agree with Council you have 60 days in which to appeal the decision to VCAT. The objectors have 21 days in which to appeal.

Generally the cost of going to VCAT is substantial and risky. For a small development the cost is excessive and an alternative should have been found before this point. However it only takes one neighbouring zealot for you to end up at VCAT! If they are unreasonable you are very likely to win, if they have substantial grounds you will lose. And you will probably deserve to lose! You probably should have seen it coming and should have found alternative strategies to not be in this position!

Once you have a Planning Permit you will find the permit comes with conditions. Your Architects will have also read those conditions and assessed what needs to be carried out at this stage to be included in the set of drawings and documents. They should be sent back to Council for Council to stamp those drawings.

Once those drawings and documents have been stamped you can celebrate!

York Avenue - Under Construction

What Council is Mainly Concerned About

Council are concerned about a number of issues and here are some of the major ones. Going to Council with these sorted out is essential for your credibility.

Council are mainly concerned about a thorough site analysis plan, shadows onto neighbours or onto other units and private open space in the development.

Open space for each unit needs to open off living areas and be secluded. It should have good sunlight access.

Security and surveillance of the front door also concerns Council for the occupant’s safety!

Workability of car parking and turning circles into and out of car parking is essential and has to be in accordance with Australian Standards. Council require cars to exist the site in a forward direction.

Rubbish bins, air –conditioners, hot water services, solar panels and service pipes will also be on the list.

Preserving the natural environment, ESD, energy efficiency, water run-off, sewerage and stormwater availability regularly are raised.

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Dealing with council

Warnings and allowances

Council officers aren’t idiots! They have heard all the tall stores before! And a lot worse! Many times!

Always be respectful of council officers. They are the professionals! Not the politicians! Openly discuss what you want to achieve and seek their honest feedback. Discuss issues without heat and be prepared to offer alternatives to any of their comments. Take on board their comments and adjust your design if appropriate.

Remember you are creating your business.

At this stage also you might find it beneficial to discuss points that you think are contentious with your neighbours. We find that it is usually well received and makes the process smoother.

Your Architects should now make the necessary changes to satisfy you and also Council. The design itself must be buildable and fit within your costing feasibility.

Your Architects can proceed to complete the design and all the necessary drawings and coordinate documents that are necessary for lodgement for a Planning Permit.


Point of Difference

And diversity in the market place

Too many developments look the same, have the same accommodation, and cost the same. Are the same!

 The beauty of having a strong body of information outlining who your target markets are, what your target markets want and what is currently offered in the market place for your target market is … you can easily assess what you can offer that is a point of difference that will give prospective buyers and renters a clear choice.

Important considerations include not less than 50m2 of unit area, creating a connection with the locality through the name, built material, and reference to local icons and attractions.

Consider ceiling heights and window heights as sellable luxuries.

Indoor/Outdoor access and rooftop gardens add extra space and liveability.

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Site Restrictions/Opportunities

Assessing what is a good potential development site


Size, shape and location, location, location will be fundamental information that will govern the suitability of a site for development.


Site impediments include easements, contaminants, surrounding buildings, traffic hazards, flooding, fire, sloping site and vegetation.


Site opportunities include: views, proximity to natural or other local features, orientation to the sun, vegetation and sloping site.


A trusted and experienced professional will be able to assess the site impediments. Usually the opportunities are obvious and why you are looking at the property in the first place. Your trusted professional can carry out a preliminary site analysis and plans. Site plans will enable calculations showing the yield on the property and size of each unit.


There are many types of easements including party wall easements, sewerage easement, stormwater easement and carriageway easement. Easements can often be expunged and any assets re-diverted but sometimes at great cost.