EAST­ERN HOUS­ING PUNT PAYS OFF

The Sunday Times - - BUSINESS WEEKLY - CLAIRE TYRRELL

EN­TER­ING the east coast mar­ket is a gam­ble for any­one in hous­ing, but Dale Al­cock has got the ul­ti­mate prop­erty hedge.

Mr Al­cock’s ABN Group is among a hand­ful of WA-based prop­erty de­vel­op­ers do­ing well in the cur­rent cli­mate, be­cause of a de­ci­sion to ex­pand the busi­ness into the east coast mar­ket.

Cedar Woods and Peet Lim­ited also broad­ened their hori­zons by build­ing res­i­den­tial hous­ing busi­nesses in Vic­to­ria.

ABN Group ac­quired Vic­to­ria’s Bou­tique Homes in 2009, af­ter gain­ing a ma­jor­ity stake in the com­pany in 2008.

Mr Al­cock said his com­pany brought a point of dif­fer­ence to the Mel­bourne res­i­den­tial prop­erty mar­ket with Bou­tique Homes.

ABN Group also took its Home­buy­ers Cen­tre busi­ness and fi­nan­cial plan­ning arm Re­solve Fi­nance to Vic­to­ria.

“We have taken what we be­lieve to be a fresh ap­proach to the Mel­bourne mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly with our home­buyer cen­tre busi­ness, which is fo­cused on the first-home­buyer mar­ket — a part of the Mel­bourne mar­ket that was un­der-ser­viced,” he said.

“What we bring to that is the other pil­lar of our group, the fi­nance bro­ker­age. We’ve been able to pro­vide a unique of­fer­ing to first-home­own­ers in Mel­bourne that wasn’t avail­able be­fore.”

Mr Al­cock said his east coast busi­ness made up about 40 per cent of the group’s to­tal in­come.

Last fi­nan­cial year, ABN Vic­to­ria com­pleted 1700 homes in Mel­bourne and is sell­ing 170 homes a month.

Mr Al­cock said op­er­at­ing in the Vic­to­rian mar­ket helped off­set the im­pact of a slow WA econ­omy.

“We be­lieve we’ve been able to achieve a di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of of lo­ca­tion, which has in­su­lated us,” he said.

He ex­pected the Vic­to­rian hous­ing mar­ket to slow from its record highs, but he would still con­tinue to keep the busi­ness at 30 to 40 per cent of ABN Group’s in­come.

“Ide­ally, if we had a wish, it would be for WA and Vic­to­ria to be up at the same time,” he said. “But it’s re­ally nice to get that un­der­pin­ning of fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity in the group when you’ve (got) these two economies and hous­ing mar­kets play­ing a strong role in pro­vid­ing a level of sup­port.”

Ai­dan Hooper stepped into the role of ABN Group’s Vic­to­ria man­ag­ing di­rec­tor from start­ing as a sales­man in the com­pany’s Perth Home­buy­ers Cen­tre more than 20 years ago.

Mr Al­cock said this ap­point­ment worked well for the com­pany by pro­vid­ing some­one with “skin in the game” at the Mel­bourne busi­ness.

He said the de­ci­sion to ex­pand into Mel­bourne was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence not with­out its risks.

“It all hasn’t worked out per­fectly, there have been chal­lenges — others have tried and failed,” he said.

“It has very much been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. By hav­ing a go at es­tab­lish­ing some­thing in a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion, we’re now in the po­si­tion where we are shar­ing learn­ings from one State to another.”

Branch­ing out: ABN Group di­rec­tor Dale Al­cock with new Vic­to­ria man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ai­dan Hooper.

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