Property Development 101 – Part 5

So, you want to be a property developer!

This can be a great way to make money, if you know what you are doing. The property development process can be a long and complex one, from finding a site and selecting the builder to financing the deal and building and selling. Property development can lead to significant profits but it can also lead to significant losses so the more you have planned and thought about your project, the more likely you are to succeed. Remember the old saying, “A failure to plan is just a plan to fail”.

This “Property Development 101” series won’t be able to teach you everything there is to know about property development. However, if you read each instalment, you will learn about the fundamentals of property development and it will make you aware of what questions you need to ask so that you can make educated and informed decisions.

In this “Property Development 101 series”, I will be outlining the major steps involved in property development. These include:

Setting your goals


How to find development sites

Choosing the best site


Feasibility studies

Working with council

Selecting a builder


Project management

Real estate agent/property manager


In the first instalment I outlined some strategies in relation to goal setting and research.

In the second instalment I detailed some methods on searching for development sites and then some considerations when selecting the best site to develop.

In the third instalment I provided an insight in to the design and drawings for a development.

In the fourth instalment I looked at one of the most critical components of property development; the feasibility study.

In Part 5 of the Property Development 101 series, I consider what you need to do when working with your local council or shire so as to obtain approval for your development.


It will usually be your local council that determines if your proposed development will be approved, approved with some conditions or rejected. It is at this stage where your project can be held up and if you have already purchased the site, your holding costs just grow and grow. If you don’t know much about property development, I strongly suggest that you find a professional that can assist you. In most cases, this will be a private town planner. A town planner should be able to interpret the council’s rules and regulations so as to give your proposal the best chance of being approved in the shortest amount of time.


Your first step is to consult “The Plan”. The plan has different names depending on where you live but they all serve the same purpose. They are used to help control the type of development that can occur in different areas based on zoning and associated restrictions.

These plans are the “bible” that the council and its planners will use when assessing your application. However, the plan is open to interpretation. Some statements are definite rules as they use terms such as “must” or “will” but often words such as “could”, “should” and “recommend” are used.

Some say that this is the problem with council plans. If they were strict rules, such as the building code, then it would be black and white; you either comply or don’t comply. However, as the plans are guidelines open to interpretation, it can be very frustrating with lots of grey areas. One council planner may indicate that your plan looks acceptable whereas another planner from the same council may not look at your application so favourably.


When I look at a development opportunity and consider whether it meets council’s planning guidelines, I do three things. Firstly, I check the plan and try and determine what is possible and what is not. Secondly, I call the council and ask to speak to a planner about my proposal. Finally, based on my reading of the plan and the discussion over the phone, I will go to the council with a rough sketch of what I am proposing and speak face-to-face with a planner. If I get the same answer using all three methods, I am fairly certain that I am on the right track.

Town Planners

Do you know the difference between a row dwelling and a residential flat building? Do you know the difference between overshadowing and overlooking? Do you know how to calculate the average site area as compared to the minimum site area? What is the minimum width of a driveway for a battle-axe allotment? What are the minimum frontages and setbacks from rear and side boundaries?

Whilst the answers to these questions should be in the plan, it can still be daunting trying to find all the information you need and make sense of it. That’s where private town planners come in. Just as the council has a team of town planners to assess applications, there are many private town planners that can assist you with your development application. It can save you time, which in turn will save you money. A private town planner speaks the same language as the council planner and should be able to interpret the plan but more importantly, they should be able to determine what council really want so far as development is concerned by reading between the lines of “The Plan”.

Working with councils can be frustrating but if you know what you’re doing, you know what council require and you have a town planner working with you, it should make life a lot easier.


Written by Peter Koulizos – lecturer and author –



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