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Understanding land releases

There is a lot to consider when building a new home, particularly if you are a first home buyer.

You will need to decide on a location that’s going to best suit your lifestyle, personal needs and budget, and before you start, it’s always a good idea to have a fair idea of how land development works.

To make this easy for you we’ve consulted Satterley’s land development experts to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is a land release?

A land release is when new blocks of land in a housing estate are released for sale. This is usually undertaken by a developer in stages so as to not saturate the market. It’s important to remember that blocks are not always released in number order.

What are the different types of land releases?

Different land releases are used at different times and in different circumstances. For example, a general release, which is the most common form of land release, is when a developer releases land to meet the demand of the area. In some cases, projects may have an annual demand of 100 to 150 lots, while others can be as high as 500 lots a year. General land releases have staggered timeframes and depending on the estate’s attributes and locational benefits, may vary in size and frequency.

Online releases have become more common for a variety of reasons, not the least because of pandemic restrictions and increasingly competitive real estate markets. Online releases allow land sales teams to allocate lots on a first-come first-served basis. Once registrations are taken, they are date-stamped. This avoids buyers camping out for lots when market conditions are tight and provides transparency. With technological advancements, buyers can see stock availability in real time. When a lot is sold, the web mapping program immediately marks it as ‘sold’.

Land sales via expressions of interest are often used when lots are rare or when it’s difficult to place a value on them, for example blocks with uninterrupted ocean views. This selling process can also be used for the final release of a development so the market dictates what the lots are worth.

A less common means of land release is off-the-plan. This generally involves signing a contract with a developer before final subdivision approval has been granted. By purchasing land off-the-plan, purchasers buy a block at an agreed price at a future date, subject to the developer obtaining approvals to develop the area, the construction of roads and connection to electricity, water and sewerage.

What planning approval processes does a land development go through?

In many cases, land for new housing estates was previously used for agriculture so before a developer can create a masterplanned residential community, it must be rezoned and meet several statutory planning measures for subdivision.

Once the land has been rezoned, a Local Structure Plan (LSP) is prepared by the local council or developer. This plan determines the key features of the proposed estate, including retained bushland, public open space, schools, retail and commercial areas, road networks and the residential density codes.

Once the planned estate meets community, local authority and government approvals, the landowner can submit a more detailed subdivision application for the land they wish to develop. The subdivision application is a detailed blueprint with proposed lot sizes, densities, roads, public open space.

In WA, the subdivision application is then lodged with the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH), which seeks feedback from the local council, environmental agencies; and electricity and water authorities before conditional approval is granted.

To be able to title the lot, the developer must demonstrate that each of these conditions has been satisfied. Possible conditions can include the provision of power and water to each lot, open space obligations, and a condition to notify buyers of specific building issues such as bushfire or noise requirements.

What do planning authorities look for in a new development?

Planning authorities have a keen eye for good urban design that generates local employment and supports environmental sustainability, access to services and infrastructure, and quality community facilities.

Good urban design may include street network designs encouraging walkability to local shops and schools or a range of public open space sizes to cater to different uses and demographics in the planned estate.

Are pre-sales common?

Pre-sales are popular because they give buyers the opportunity to buy off-the-plan.

This provides the purchaser with time to organise house plans and secure finance before settlement, saving the buyer from paying interest as they do when buying an established titled lot.

What is titled and untitled land?

For a lot to be ‘titled’ it means a legal document has been issued by the government that outlines the block details and name of the owner.

If a block is still under development, it will be ‘untitled’, so a buyer will need to wait for the certificate of title to be issued by the government. Once a land title is issued, ownership of the block transfers from the developer to the buyer.

Can buyers register interest to buy land?

The old adage ‘the early bird catches the worm’ rings true when it comes to property, so registering interest to buy land from developers is an excellent idea. Lodge your contact details to make sure you’ll be first to hear about new releases or incentives.

When does advertising for a new land release start?

Timelines for publicly advertising a new land release vary, but usually it is between three and six months from when the land is titled.

In a busy market, like we’re in currently, stock may be released up to 10 or 12 months ahead of practical completion and titles.

How much deposit is required?

Deposits vary from as little as $1000 to around 5% or even 10%. The deposit is held in trust while the land is ‘under offer’ and the balance is paid at settlement.

How many lots are generally released at any one time?

The number of lots released at any one time depends on market demand and the stock available.

Generally, a stage may include 50 to 60 lots that are under construction and these stages may comprise three or four releases and a range of stock types and prices to appeal to a range of buyers.


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