46 – 10 Things I’ve Learned From Doing A Project Remotely

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A splitter project

Bernadette will be discussing the important things that she learned from doing her Wynnum splitter project remotely.

Listen to Episode 46: 10 Things I’ve Learned From Doing A Project Remotely

Podcast:Download (Duration: 22:38 — 22.55 MB)

Episode Highlights

  • Financial Freedom Against The Odds live event update
  • Getting ready for the upcoming Bootcamp training
  • Updates on her Wynnum project
  • What is a splitter property?
  • The 10 important things  you need to learn when you are planning to do a splitter project

02:12 – What a splitter is

04:00 – You’re only as good as your feasibility

06:11 – The stormwater

08:14 – Allowing for extra holding costs

10:17 – Get decisions in writing

13:03 – Avoid over capitalising

16:58 – Vacant houses attract undesirables

Transcription

“None of this is rocket science, but it’s just really confirming what we already know is that you’re only as good as your team. And in this scenario, you’re talking about a team that includes a town planner, a civil engineer, an electrical engineer, just quite a few moving parts.”​

Intro

Well, hello, it’s Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. And today, the topic is “10 Things I’ve Learned Doing A Split Project Remotely”.

It’s just drawing to the end of the Wynnum project. I thought it might be time to do a bit of a postmortem on it. I’ve also just spent three days up there trying to get it complete.

Before I go any further, I’ll just share a bit about what I have been doing over the past couple of weeks since the last episode.

And of course, the first thing that I want to mention is the fact that we did our live event in Sydney and Brisbane called “Financial Freedom Against The Odds”, and which was an amazing event because we had three different speakers offering completely different strategies in terms of property. And I know those people who came absolutely loved it.

Plus, we got to meet the people that listen to the podcast. And I want to thank those of you who came particularly to Melinda and Daniel, who gave me some great pointers on the podcast. How to improve audio quality. I have not been able to implement for this episode, but I promise you that the next episode will have much better audio.

I only got back about 10 o’clock last night and have hit the ground running because I have a Bootcamp this weekend, a boardroom full of enthusiastic renovators set to really move the needle on their income and in their lives. Doing some prep before that.

I’ll be back in Brisbane next week. I haven’t quite finished. And hopefully, by the end of next week, Wynnum will be on the market. We’ve also put Bondi on the market. That ad is not now live, the first open is this Saturday. And so it’s all very exciting. And the minute this is all out of the way, I’m heading to Victoria because I am well overdue for a trip.

Let’s get into the 10 things that I’ve learned by doing a splitter project remotely. Firstly, for those of you who don’t know, just want to clarify what a splitter is. What it is, is two lots on one title. There is a lot for it in Queensland. There are some others scattered around the country and at some point in time blocks were being sold on a two for one deal.

Most people actually who bought those blocks built the house over plonk in the middle of the two blocks so that they could not be separated without a lot of break. Now the advantage of a splitter as opposed to a subdivision is twofold, really. If the house is not over the boundary, then it is just a case of going and splitting the titles, putting in the services, and you’re not required to pay the council or developer contribution that you’re normally required to pay if you create a new lot.

Whereas with the subdivision, sort of the same sort of process. But you need to go through the council approval process or the subdivision process and you need to pay contribution to council. It could be anything from $3,000 to $30,000. In Brisbane City Council, it’s just over $28,000.

Basically, it’s saved us paying that twenty-eight thousand. We still have to put in the services, the sewer, the water supply, telecommunications, and energy. But we’re not required to pay that fee. It’s a big saving and I suspect that you’ll probably pay a bit more as a result for the block of land. But for me, it’s just been an interesting exercise to actually go through the motions.

A splitter project

Wynnum project

1. YOUR FEASIBILITY IS CRITICAL

The first thing I want to say is that you’re only as good as your feasibility. Because you’re talking about selling two, you may use it as an investment strategy to increase your equity in one. Basically just get a free block of land that you can build on. But the feasibility is really critical.

So for us, we’re selling both. And when I look at the figures, if you’re talking about two properties as opposed to one, there’s a lot more room for error. If you get your resale price slightly wrong on both, you’re going down much faster than if it’s only one. Those figures are really important. And for someone like me who has no knowledge of the area and has no intention like I know my limitations, I am not going to spend months studying the area, then I would always use an expert to be able to source that block of land so that I do work with solid information. And get a good deal.

We use or engaged our friends, Jo and Greg Vadillo from Advocate Property Services, and I have to tell you, their figures were spot on. I’m just so impressed. That’s a good thing to start with. It’s starting with a solid foundation.

2. YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR TEAM

The next thing to know is like none of this is rocket science, but it’s just really confirming what we already know is that you’re only as good as your team. And in this scenario, you’re talking about a team that includes a town planner, a civil engineer, an electrical engineer, just quite a few moving parts.

Once again we were able to source our consultants through Advocate Property Services because it’s not an area I work in. And our town planner was absolutely fantastic. Really spot on. That helps the process. It makes it go much quicker and much smoother. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the civil engineer who I would stress did not come through Advocate Property Services. Actually came through the town planner. There are a few things that could have been done better.

3. KEEP YOUR NEW SEWER OUTSIDE THE BUILDING ENVELOPE OF THE NEW BLOCK

Which brings me to the next point. When you are planning to develop a block of land, whether it’s 1 into 2 or 1 into many. A couple of things you need to be concerned about are the stormwater. Well, you need to be concerned about lots of things, but the stormwater is one, so if the block is sloping to the back. That can be a problem.

And the sewer, you need to know where the sewer is going in relationship to the new build on the vacant block. One of the things that happened when the civil engineer did the design for the new sewer. They ran it right across the middle of the block. We had to tell them to go back and redesign it so that it didn’t go across the middle of the block because that would be an issue for the buyer. Because, yes, sometimes you can build over a sewer, but if there’s a way of avoiding that, you would never run it inside where the proposed building or envelope would be.

Now, this is something that we talk about in our reno training, because often with additions, you may have a sewer where the addition is going to go. Part of your due diligence when you are purchasing the property is to look at the sewer plan. It’s usually attached to the contract. It’s an easy thing to do and just a really basic 101 due diligence. Where is the sewer going to go?

4. WHEN RENOVATING REMOTELY, ALLOW EXTRA HOLDING COSTS

The next thing that I wanted to talk about is allowing for extra holding costs. This is more relating to if you’re operating remotely and your time-poor. For me, I am the active person in this JV (Joint Venture) because I have more flexibility than my partner and so I’m the person going up there. But I also have a lot of other demands and as a result, can’t be as available as I’d like to be. That takes extra time.

Allowing for extra holding costs would help to, I guess, take the pressure off. Either that, work with someone local so that the process can be done quite easily. I’ve actually enjoyed the process of going up and working on the project, but it has created some, I guess, anxiety in some ways to just get the time to get away and go and do it.

A splitter project

5. HOUSE OVER THE BOUNDARY IS NOT A DEAL BREAKER

The next point I want to make is if the house is over the boundary between the two properties or two blocks, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, particularly in Queensland with the beautiful Queenslanders. Their timber frame, you can move them. You may be able to subject to approval. Be able to move the house to one side or the other so that you’re able to create that free block. And that’s actually done very commonly. But for us, we have a beautiful old 1940’s solid brick property that’s not going anywhere. The process there was to realign the boundary, which once again requires council approval.

What that means is instead of having too long skinny blocks of land, we’ve actually got two nicely shaped rectangular blocks of land producing a really nice free block for someone to build a property on.

6. CORNER BLOCKS MAKE FOR A BETTER OUTCOME

The next point that I want to make and this relates to building granny flats as well. Corner blocks are crack up. Having a corner block means that both properties have street frontage and this has a serious impact on the property.

If you have to put in a driveway to access the second block and you end up with a battle-ax or a hammerhead block depending on what state you’re in. Obviously the block on the block back will have a lower value than the one on the front. But on the corner block, they both have an equal presence. That really helps with the values.

7. ALWAYS DOCUMENT DECISIONS IN WRITING

The next thing is really important to get decisions in writing. I shouldn’t really call these learnings because they’re things that I do anyhow, but it became important in this particular scenario.

Basically, the telecommunications pit and there was also a tower. It was TPG, was in the location of the new driveway. And because the house is on a corner, there were very few locations where we could locate the new driveway.

The civil engineer actually got in touch with TPG to get their feedback on what the scenario would be because the council had determined where the driveway would go. And they said that we would just need to replace the lead on the pit with the traffic of a lead, which would cost us about $300. And that was it.

Once the driveway had been put in, we got back in touch with TPG and said, now we’re ready for the trafficable lead to go on the pit because the driveway has been poured and it’s all set to go. And then they flew into a spin and then started backpedaling big time and said, “You didn’t have the approval to pour that driveway without our input on where the telecommunication pit was to be relocated” And that then started to say that it was a very long and expensive process and that what they had said to us before was not approval. It was just a suggestion. And that basically it didn’t stand. I was beginning to become quite concerned because I thought and then they were saying, “You know, that pit’s quite deep and we may not be able to just replace the lead. We may have to replace the whole pit” And I’m seeing the dollar signs clicking over, thinking this is going to be $10K or $20K.

8 . AVOID OVERCAPITALISING WITH THE RENO

The next thing I want to talk about is to avoid over capitalising on the renovation. I’m used to doing renovations in inner Sydney where we present a really complete project.

However, in this project, I’ve not had the budget for that, so I’ve had to prioritise where I spend the money. I made the decision that I was going to spend the money on the livability of the house, the kitchen and the bathrooms.

Basically, we took a wall out in the kitchen so that we opened it up. This is a beautiful old character, 1940’s home. It pretty much sells itself internally. It’s solid double brick. Lovely for the buyer. Terrible for the renovator. Other than that, most of our spend has just been on bringing existing up to standards, sanding and sealing the floors, paintwork, window furnishings, new light fittings, upgrading the electrical. But pretty basic reno and where we could have really come unstuck is the front of the house has like a built-in veranda sort of sunroom, which is I won’t say it’s ugly, but it’s not that pretty.

And had this been a reno I was always doing under my usual process, I would have really worked on that area and I just did not have the budget.

It’s a great area. It’s over 30 square metres, got a solid floor. And for a family, it’s a fabulous area. On a rainy day, your kids could be playing out there. It’s just awesome. What we decided to do was just spruce it up. We’re putting vinyl timber floor in it. It’s all been painted. And then we will just use styling to help to create a connection with our buyer.

A splitter project
A splitter project

9. YOU CAN SELL LAND WITHOUT AN AGENT

You can sell a block of land yourself without an agent. Now I know lots of renovators and investors sell their own properties. I don’t because I think a good agent is worth his weight. I’m saying his because my agents are all male, in gold.

However, I can see that there’s not a lot of value that an agent can bring to the sale of a block of land. This is a first for me. We’re listing the block of land independently, but in my usual form, I’ve looked at how we can up the ante on the land.

Firstly, I got a photographer with a drone out the other day, so I got this guy off Airtasker to take the drone up between 5 and 8 metres from ground level to see what the view was like. I was hoping for really lovely views of Stradbroke Island. You can actually see Stradbroke Island, but the water views are very distant, but at least I’m able to present that evidence in my ad.

The second thing is that we have house plans from a couple of builders that work on that block, so we’re able to include that in our listing so that someone coming along can see if they want to build a new house. Basically, what’s possible and what it’s going to cost them because they’ve all been costed up.

And thirdly, we’ll be listing on realestate.com via a site that allows non real estate agents to do that. And we’ll also be including all the options for that block. The different types of building you can do on that block. It does have some limitations. It’s only I think it’s 405 square metres, but yes, we’re just putting everything we can into the copy on the ad so that it presents all the options and doesn’t leave too many barriers to the buyer to actually buy.

10. VACANT HOUSES ATTRACT UNDESIRABLES

My last point is vacant houses attract undesirables. Think long and hard before you stay in the house on your own. This is particularly for the women. It’s something that I probably wouldn’t have worried about. Up until this last couple of days and I’ll explain what led me to that decision.

I had decided that I was going to stay in the house because it was plumbed and ready to go and it would negate the need to pay for accommodation and meant I was on-site would be much easier. I asked Stephen if he would come with me. Normally I go on my own. But given that we were doing the event, I thought it would be quite nice if he was able to take a couple of days off and come up with me, which he did, thankfully.

The night before we came up, we got a message from one of the neighbours to say that someone had broken one of the front windows. Thankfully, our Wynnum agent went round there and actually caught a tradesman in the act of breaking into the house, which was a bit creepy. And thankfully, thanks to Belle in Manly, they organised the glass to be replaced. By the time we got there, the home was secured.

But what happened while we were there really brought it home to me. There was this man the first day he came there, and when our kitchen guy was there, he said he was a project manager and a lawyer and a valuer and that he was interested in buying both the house and the land and was really just showing you zero. The second day we were there, he went while Stephen was there. And I wasn’t all that I care or something. Same thing with Stephen. And he said that he wanted to talk to us both. And Stephen said he just thought there’s something really weird about this guy.

Anyhow, so that’s fine. That night we were sleeping in the front room. We’d made up a bed and so on. And that night we had gone to bed quite early because we were obviously both tired. We’d been doing a lot during the day and we woke up from a dead sleep and there were lights shining in the window. And then there was a car driving around the house block, which seemed really bizarre. So we got up and here is this man at the window talking to us through the window. It was just creepy. And he was saying, I think he has to be mentally ill with something not quite right there. He was then talking about how he really wanted to buy the property and that he was going to come to the door and that he had bought us groceries. And so I just said to him, “You’re giving me the creeps. You need to go away straight away or I’m calling the police” He went and sat in his car for a while, which, remember, was parked on the inside of our boundary fence parked in the yard. Then eventually he took off. And I guess the thing that I thought was I could well have been in that house on my own and he may not have been so willing to vacate the premises.

From now on, I am not staying in projects on my own. It’s just not worth the risk. Incidentally, I have this guy’s card. I looked him up. Yes, he is a lawyer. Yes, he is a valuer. Yes, he has a project management company. There is something very odd about it. Don’t stay in the house on your own.

It’s been a very eventful last few days and I’m very happy to say I am home and safely in Sydney and very excited about getting that project on to the market.

That’s it for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed my war stories. I will include some images of the property. It’s looking stunning. Not quite finished. The styling, I’ve been styling with a little help from my friends and students in Brisbane have lent me some things to help furnish the property. So it’s really coming together nicely. OK. That’s it for today. See you next week.

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