July 16, 2024


The Intersection of Information and Insight

Property development guide part 8 – Increasing your chance of success & managing risk

7 min read

In this series article, I talk us through managing the risks associated with property development to increase the chances of success.

I’ve found that once many property investors who’ve collected a few properties in their portfolio become keen to “dabble” in property development.

They see this as the next phase in their career and determine that with the bit of knowledge they have gained buying and selling real estate, they’re all set for a successful transition into the world of planning, design and construction.

The fact is, getting involved in property development means entering a very challenging adventure.

There are many ups and downs.

It’s a bit like riding a roller coaster that leaves you wondering when the next highs and lows are coming.

In this section of our series on property development, I will explain some of the more common dilemmas that can plague even the most seasoned developer and discuss ways you can reduce such risks.

In giving you this knowledge, hopefully, you can be prepared for the bumps in the undeniably challenging road that you will face along the development journey.

Tenacity – the tool of successful developers

Most successful developers have one common characteristic that stands out above all else; they are tenacious.Tenacity – the tool of successful developers

Rather than give up at the first sign of a problem, they focus on solutions and dig their heels in to get the job done.

Without this type of conviction, you can lose heart very quickly in the development game.

Tenacious people succeed because they are driven by their goals.

They know that success doesn’t come instantly; it requires focus and determination.

Just imagine the pride you will feel when you find a way to get past obstacles such as:

  • Looking at 50 potential development sites that are all too expensive and unsuitable, only to find the perfect property that has been snapped up before you even get the chance to look at it.
  • Employing an architect who fails to follow your brief and instead constantly presents you with his own ideas, before you have to take control of the situation.
  • Jumping through numerous hoops to get finance because you’re an inexperienced property developer.
  • Starting to pour the foundations for your property, only to have the weather turn on you so that flooding rain causes the foundations to collapse.

You must stay positive and remain focused on your goals, even when everything seems to be going wrong.

Your hard work and tenacity will truly pay off when you finish your project and reap the financial rewards.

Crawl before you can walk

Property development has the potential to provide great long-term returns when the outcome is successful.

However, as with any new venture you intend to have a go at though, you need to crawl before you can walk.

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Tips: If you are new to property development, the key is to start small and build your way up.

As you grow in experience and benefit from the profits of your early projects, you will be able to take on more ambitious challenges.

Tackling a small renovation, to begin with, is the best way to cut your teeth and determine if developing property is really a path you wish to pursue.

Importantly, starting small allows you to make mistakes that won’t send you bankrupt!

All developers make mistakes and being able to learn from small errors is just as valuable as learning the hard way – from the big ones.

How to make money whatever the market does

One of the most common questions I am asked by budding developers, particularly in recent times, is; what sort of profit can I make from a development project and how do I guarantee a profit in any type of market?

Realistically, as with any type of investment, the end has to justify the means when it comes to making money through property development.

In other words, the higher the risk, the higher the reward you should expect to gain.

As a general rule of thumb, with any development project, you should always aim for a 17 per cent return on your total development cost ( which translates to a much larger return on your invested capital) in order to maximise potential profits and minimise the risk of losing money.

A 15 per cent return gives you leeway to make a few mistakes and still come out with a reasonable profit margin upon completion of your development.


When planning your project and determining whether the risk will be worth the reward, quite logically it will always come down to the numbers and projected return on investment.

That is, the profit you make after you have sold the property or refinanced the property before tax.

This is typically called net profit.

A 15 per cent return means your (net) profit will be 15 per cent of the total development cost of your project, as in the following example:

Total Costs of project (including all fees, commissions etc) $1,700,000

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