09/11/2015 - 10:21

Lifestyle choices by design

09/11/2015 - 10:21

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SPECIAL REPORT: Apartment projects typically rely on streamlined, slick marketing techniques to attract and secure buyers; now, however, developers are turning to technology not only in their advertising, but also in their building design to establish a point of difference.

Lifestyle choices by design
GREEN CREDENTIALS: Mike Enslin (left) and Danny Psaros say sustainability is a key component of the success of Psaros apartments. Photo: Attila Csasar

Facilities, amenity, location and design are becoming increasingly crucial in today’s hyper-competitive apartment development market.

Apartment projects typically rely on streamlined, slick marketing techniques to attract and secure buyers; now, however, developers are turning to technology not only in their advertising, but also in their building design to establish a point of difference.

Perth’s latest apartment projects are beginning to resemble high-end hotels, with shared facilities like yoga decks, luxury swimming pools, private dining rooms, high-fidelity theatre rooms and full-line gymnasiums becoming commonplace to lure buyers.

The push to create the best facilities stems from an increasing proportion of Perth apartment buyers being owner-occupiers rather than investors.

While the mix has traditionally been around 50:50, Blackburne Property Group managing director Paul Blackburne said that had tipped strongly in favour of live-in owners, with up to 70 per cent of apartments now being sold to owner-occupiers.

Mr Blackburne said most people buying an apartment were seeking an improved lifestyle.

“We’re investing heavily to make our common facilities a real five-star thing,” Mr Blackburne told Business News.

“What’s happening now is new developers are copying what we’re doing, and that’s great, so we’re trying to find what’s next.

“What’s next is design, so we’re investing more in interior designers and allowing buyers to customise their apartments more.”

Frasers Property Australia WA residential general manager Tony Perrin also said buyers were increasingly asking for options to customise their apartments.

Mr Perrin said buyers were willing to pay extra for specific floor coverings or customisations to cabinetry, for example, to put a personal touch on their new homes, adding another layer to a developer’s job.

“It’s a coordination and management issue for the developer, it will always be worn as a cost of a buyer but it adds a complexity to the contracting nature in the way that the builder and the developer work together,” Mr Perrin said.

But amenity is not restricted to the facilities of a building itself, Mr Perrin said, with buyers becoming increasingly discerning regarding what surrounded an apartment development.

Finbar Group managing director Darren Pateman agreed that the most successful projects were those where residents did not have to get in their cars to do their shopping, get a coffee or grab a meal.

Targeting established communities is also a key strategy for Stirling Capital, with managing director Luke Reinecke saying adjacent amenity was the most critical factor for buyers.

“The idea of having all amenities within walking distance, such as grocers, bars, shopping and work, appeals to a range of people, from first home buyers to empty nesters,” Mr Reinecke said.

For some developers, like Psaros, energy efficiency has emerged as a key consideration for buyers, who were keen to save money on electricity and water usage.

While Psaros managing director Mike Enslin said the company had focused on high-end common areas, sustainability had been an important part of its recent success, on two fronts.

“There are those who are very environmentally conscious and they feel like they are doing some good by buying into a development with some sustainability,” Mr Enslin said.

“And there are those who are ambivalent about the environment, but they understand the financial benefits.

Georgiou Living is also keenly focused on green building, executive director Jon Smeulders said.

Mr Smeulders said Georgiou had collaborated with buyers to communicate what the developer could do to decrease running costs of apartments.

“You’re using your heating for fewer days of the year and you’re using your air-conditioner for fewer days of the year,” he said.

“It’s not something that’s nice to have, it’s part of the value proposition.”

The physical marketing of apartments is also becoming all the more sophisticated, with technology playing a key role.

Some developers, like TRG Properties, have upped the ante on a traditional approach – the marketing brochure.

TRG Properties chief operating officer Tanya Trevisan said the developer aimed to have the best brochures in Perth, giving buyers a level of detail they were not able to get elsewhere.

“We spend a lot of time considering our marketing carefully; the focus is being able to demonstrate to buyers what we’re going to deliver in advance,” Ms Trevisan told Business News. “A huge amount of effort goes into the renders in particular, that’s why we’re so proud of the result and being able to be held to it.

“Also, all developers off the plan have to give specifications of what they’re going to deliver, but if you actually read them, the vast majority are extremely vague, even in some very high-end apartments.

“Ours are much more specific than most developers because we want to stand by what we’re saying we’ll deliver.”

Other developers are using a much more high-tech approach.

Psaros has utilised virtual reality headsets to give potential buyers a virtual tour of new apartments, while Blackburne showcases its apartments to buyers using interactive 85-inch touch-screens in its West Perth head office.

One of the latest innovations comes from BGC Development, which has partnered with technology company oneVR to develop an app to give potential buyers an immersive view of the developer’s latest project, Sixty Flourish in Atwell.

The app not only gives the buyer a fresh insight to the development, but also allows the developer to track the success of its marketing campaigns with interested buyers.

Devwest Group director Chad Ferguson said the developer was evaluating technology to implement in its sales process, but he was wary that some approaches could be a little bit gimmicky.

“A lot of it comes down to the actual features of the project, in addition to your marketing materials,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Buyers are getting a little more sophisticated, so just having flashy brochures and sales suites is not enough to convince them.

“The actual project has to have standout features, otherwise all the glossy stuff doesn’t mean much.” 

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