For decades, the duplex or a dual occupancy development has been a major feature of the Australian urban landscape. They are popular with many buyers in the main cities and in small regional towns and centres in the country. Now the duplex is making a major comeback in the Australian property market; it is considered one of the quiet performers in the property market, preferred by many buyers looking for space, affordability and a great location.
For the property investor, the duplex represents an exciting investment opportunity to acquire a dual-income residence at below the market pricing. Innovation in design has also added to the appeal of the Australian duplex. In the past, a typical duplex complex was a sprawl of monotonous designs that more or less looked the same way. But trends have been changing. The modern buyer is not just looking for space, affordability and a dream location with some posh-factor; they are also looking for uniquely designed duplex complexes that look trendy and serve a need.
The Evolution in Duplex Development
The Australian property industry has been changing in the recent years and so have been the trends in duplex development. In the past decades, duplex dwellings were not considered particularly cool and trendy. The duplex architecture was one that was ugly but functional and they were mostly situated in dodgy suburbs, the kinds that buyers and renters hated to live in.
A few decades ago, buyers and tenants were not the demanding and discerning type like the sophisticated consumers of today. They had a completely different idea of good quality and they weren’t too fussy about the location and the quality of the duplex architecture. Besides, many buyers preferred the large blocks of detached developments that were situated far away from the central business district. Duplex dwellings were not particularly popular with consumers two or three decades ago. They were hard to market and the rental yields weren’t strong to justify a significant investment.
The change in tastes and perception began around 2014 due to the skyrocketing prices of land in the major Australian cities. The demand for housing shifted from the large detached units to smaller duplex dwellings as many consumers were priced out of the detached units market. All of a sudden, the duplex dwellings were in vogue and duplex developments became some of the best industry performers as consumers shifted to smaller living spaces.
Today, a duplex dwelling is an aspiration for many an Aussie homebuyer. It is
It’s a good compromise midway between living in a highrise apartment and enjoying a quiet luxury lifestyle in Toorak. The duplex development concept is now popular not just with buyers but also with many developers.
However, you need to have a great insight into the duplex property market in order to get your duplex development right. Here is a checklist that you need to follow before venturing into profitable duplex development:-
Get a Financial Pre-Approval
The first step before you get started with your duplex development is to get a preapproval for your duplex financing. There are various lenders in Australia that can offer you well tailporedduplex development loans. Lenders offer various financial packages for dual occupancy developments although, generally, they cap the loans for duplexes at about 80% of the value of the property. For low doc loans, they will even fund less of the value of the project. However, based on the value of your duplex investment property and the location, it is possible to get financial institutions that would be willing to lend you more for the duplex development.
Many lenders are generally more conservative when it comes to the dual occupancy or duplex property loans because these investments are generally considered as high risk. In spite of the growing demand of duplex dwellings, as an investment, they are still unpopular as you are unlikely to find an investor willing to purchase two homes on a single block and the duplexes must generally be sold as a unit. Banks therefore limit the percentage of the value of the duplex investment that you can borrow.
Get the Council Requirements for Dual Occupancies
Every local area has duplex town planning requirements that you will need to adhere to. Before you embark on the project, familiarize yourself with the local environmental plan and the development control plan of the local council. You need comprehensive information on the required lot area for duplex development in the local council as well as the kind of designs and duplex architecture that are permissible.
A typical duplex checklist will require that you fill in information on the duplex house plans and provide answers to questions such as the following:-
- The floor area of the proposed duplex development
- A detailed site plan of the proposed development
- Whether adjoining residents and landowners have been consulted
- Whether there has been a consideration for the heritage of old buildings if you will be demolishing old buildings to give way for your duplex development.
- Whether your duplex investment will be an integrated development. In such cases, you will be required to supply extra sets of plans and supporting documentation.
- You have to state whether the duplex development will be within a conservation area, in a Heritage site or adjoining a heritage site in the locality. For this, you will also require to provide a Heritage Impact Statement for approvals before you can proceed with the dual occupancy development.
- Will your dual occupancy development be within a scenic protection zone? Provide plans and supporting documentation to prove otherwise.
- Does your duplex development plan comply with the local development control plans (DCPs) drawn up by the council?
- Provide statements of environment effects for the duplex development or an environmental impact assessment.
- Give Ccpies of the building plans for the duplex development and a site plan for your building project used for neighbor notification.
- Provide details on the duplex architecture and the external building materials that will be used along with the finishes.
Some of these requirements may vary depending on the local council by-laws. Take time to study the local requirements and ensure full compliance in order to smooth the way for the dual occupancy development.
Ensure Proper Zoning
If you have met the council requirements for the dual occupancy development, then you will need to focus your attention on the site where you want to develop your duplexes. Take measures to ensure that the site has been properly zoned for duplex development.
Work through the council zoning and planning regulations to ensure that there are no covenants on the land that may hinder the smooth implementation of the project. The key to success in surmounting zoning obstacles is to do a thorough research about the location. Before you proceed with a duplex investment, make sure that you understand the site and the council regulations well.
Does the land meet the dual occupancy criteria?
Assess the lots where you are planning to build and determine if they meet the dual occupancy criteria. An important criteria is the size. Look at the frontage and see if it meets the minimum width requirements for your dual occupancy.
If you are planning to build a duplex development, you will need a minimum frontage ranging from 18m to 20m. The size of the frontage will ultimately depend on your unique duplex design.
When evaluating the suitability of the lot where you are planning to build your duplex, you should look at the depth and the size to ascertain whether it will be large enough to satisfy the development control plan (DCP) requirements for a dual occ.
Other site considerations to factor in include the aspect of the site, whether the site has sufficient space to meet the minimum outdoor private space requirements and if there is access to various services such as electricity, water,gas and sewerage system. The land where you are planning to build your duplex development should be relatively flat and with a slight slope towards the street. If there is no natural slope, then at least the site should have a great drainage easement.
Check your planning certificate
Still on the due diligence, give your building a certificate a second look in order to check whether the area you are planning to build the duplexes in is prone to bush fires or flash floods. While you can still build duplexes in a disaster-prone site, it is going to increase the cost of development.
Get your duplex builder to look at the site
Your site must have met all the compliance requirements set out by the local council but it is advisable to have a professional builder look at the site. They can give it a fresh set of eyes and identify the challenges and opportunities that might not be too obvious to someone who is not an experienced builder.
Do a feasibility study on the viability of the project
To establish the viability of the project, it is advisable to do a feasibility study in order to get a bird’s eye view on the suitability of the project at that particular location. There are variables that you can factor in to establish whether the project will be a right fit. Look at the duplex market in the area. What are some of the recent comparable sales? You can base the end value of your duplex development on the recent sales that have been witnessed in the local real estate market.
You can also rely on the opinion of the realtors in the location and ask them about the potential of duplexes in the market. What is the rental market for duplexes like? What is the median rent for duplexes in the neighborhood or locality? Based on this data, you can project the rental yield of the duplex development upon completion.
You also need to evaluate the cost of building a duplex development in the locality. A professional builder can work out an estimate once you have a concept plan. However, the cost of building will evolve during the design and planning process for the duplex development. If you have a full development application (DA) for the duplex investment, it is possible to run a full tender in order to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of development which you can compare against your original development estimates. A tender for the duplex construction can be generated if the engineer’s plans for the duplex construction certificate (CC) are available.
Secure the Duplex Site for a Settlement Period
You should secure the duplex development site and work out on a long settlement period while retaining a permission to lodge a development application from a vendor. At this stage, it is possible to have all the design work for the duplex development completed and even have the development approval and the construction certificate approved before settling on the land. Going this route is going to reduce the holding costs. The subdivision to be developed must be included in your development application.
Secure the Duplex Development Loans
During the initial stages, you will have secured a preapproval of loans for duplex development. However, once you have secured the development application and the construction certificate for the duplex investment property, you can now approach your lender and secure an unconditional loan for the construction of the duplex development. Once the financing is secured, you can begin the construction work for your duplex property.
Start the construction work
With all permits secured and money in the bank, you can begin the construction work for your duplex investment property. The construction phase should typically take anywhere from three months to four months depending on multiple factors. As an investor or property owner, it is prudent to be on the site in order to keep tabs on the builder’s progress and manage any on-site risks and challenges that may arise during the construction process.
Acquire the occupation certificate
Upon the completion of the duplex property building work, apply for an occupation certificate for the development. Once this is issued, your duplex development can be tenanted or put in the market for sale. Upon the completion of the duplex property development, it is also advisable to order a depreciation schedule for the property. You can do this by simply emailing the building plans, tender and miscellaneous cost details to a professional quantity surveyor.
Apply for a subdivision certificate
Last on our duplex checklist is the application for the subdivision certificate. After this has been issued by the relevant council, you can register the subdivision once your lender has signed off on the development. However, if you are planning to hold the duplex development for some time and are not planning to refinance the property, there is no hurry in rushing for a subdivision certificate. Besides, certain costs of holding the property such as the rates will be cheaper if you keep your duplex development in one title.
Hopefully, this duplex advice will help you put things together when you are planning to pursue duplex development. The duplex checklist doesn’t have to proceed in a logical sequence. Some of the steps you will have to pass through, especially as regards to duplex town planning and development approvals might not be so straightforward. However, a whole lot of due diligence and professionalism is required as mistakes can prove quite costly during a duplex development.
If you are not experienced in this area, it is generally advisable to use a professional and specialized duplex builder that has the expertise and experience in navigating past many of these challenges and delivering flawless duplex development in time.