One of the most common enquires received by Findasite is from perspective buyers who are undertaking initial due diligence on a property they are interested in purchasing. Real Estate Agents will often inform buyers of development potential of a site, but it is Findasite’s experience that this advice is often out of date, or simply incorrect. It can also be a minefield for inexperienced developers, with city zonings and restrictions that could mean; you may be able to build a 5 storey mid rise apartment block on one side of the road, but only a single Dwelling House on the other side of the road. What about potential flood and bushfire risk also? Is my property flood prone or in the path of a high bushfire risk?
So, with all this in mind, what should individuals do when purchasing a property and they want to know its development potential? The easiest way to answer these questions is to contact a town planner who, can undertake the initial research and provide advice. However, should you be restricted by time or cost, Findasite would recommend the following research at a minimum:
Planning and Development search – One of the first searches that any purchaser should undertake is a Planning and Development Search, or more commonly known as a PDonline Search. The majority of Councils will have a PDonline Search function. The search allows you to see any applications (Building, Operational Works or Development) that have been lodged at a property. It is worth nothing that some Councils only provide applications lodged after a certain date, while other Councils provide all applications lodged over the history of the site. For example, City of Gold Coast will only provide applications lodged post 2003, while Logan City Council provides all applications lodged over the history of the site (that Council hold a record of). Having information on what applications have been lodged can allow a potential purchaser to confirm if any relevant approvals are in place. For example, a property maybe advertised as ‘dual living’ with the ability to rent out a separate area (granny flat etc) however, a development approval is required for this to exist legally, and a quick check on PDonline can confirm if any such approval exists.
City Plan Mapping Search – Another important search is the City Plan Mapping Search. The vast majority of local governments will have an interactive mapping system that allows users to search for a specific property. Once you have searched for a property, the mapping system will often give you a chance to download a basic report. This report will inform you of key planning related information, including the zoning and relevant overlays. The mapping system allows you to view individual maps, including the overlay maps which are colour coded and legends included. This is helpful when you are trying to determine the severity of the impact that an overlay map may have on a property i.e. if a property is located within the bushfire overlay, is there high exposure (which may severely limit the development potential of the property) or is it low (which will have little impact on the development potential of the property).
State Mapping – Findasite would recommend using two different state mapping searches. The first is, the Development Assessment Mapping System, which allows you to check if any relevant state overlays are impacting the property. This includes, if the property is located on a Main Road (state controlled road) or if the property is located in the urban footprint. Depending on the overlays present, they can severely impact the development potential of a property. Should any overlays trigger, Findasite would strongly recommend obtaining advice from a planning consultant, as the trigger points for overlays differ significantly.
The second state mapping system is the State Planning Policy Interactive Mapping System. This system also informs the user of state related overlays which include environmental significant overlays and can indicate protected vegetation. As per above, advice from a planning consultant is recommend should any overlays trigger, due to the complexity of the state planning system.
Once a purchaser has completed the above basic searches, they will know what existing approvals are active at the property and what the zoning and key overlays are (both local and state). With this information, purchasers should be in a stronger position to understand the development potential of a property or the likelihood of illegal works at the property.
Regardless of the experience of a purchaser, Findasite would strongly recommend contacting a planning professional during the due diligence phase. The small outlay of costs could save you a fortune in costs, should you purchase a lemon.