Hiring A Town Planner For Dual Occupancy (Ep134)

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Dual occupancy can be a great way to increase the rental income of your property. But it is something you need to get approval for.

The most common way to get approval is through the services of a town planner who helps give you planning advice and lodges the required documents for you.

Today I sit down with Rochelle and Nicole from PfP Urban Planning and we discuss dual occupancies and utilising a town planner.

To get in contact with Rochelle and Nicole visit Pfp Urban Planning


Dual occupancy can be a great way to increase the income of your property, and to perhaps turn a negatively yield property into a positively yield property by increasing the rent a year.  However, unfortunately you can’t just usually go ahead and split a house in two and call it a day, because you do need to get the proper approval to get such a thing done so that you have the right protection and that legally, everything is in place.

Today, I sit down with Rochelle and Nichole from PFPUrbanPlanning.com.au.  They are Town Planners on the Gold Coast in Queensland and they do with Queensland and New South Wales primarily and they help people get dual occupancies approved, and also help in other areas such as subdivision and development.

So I sit down with them.  I cut the interview into three different parts.  Today we are talking about dual occupancies in a more general sense, and when you should go about hiring a town planner.

In tomorrow’s episode, we are talking about the cost of hiring a town planner; and then in the last episode we are talking about the risks associated with going ahead and doing construction work that you don’t actually have approval for.  And trust me, it can be pretty scary, so it is something that I necessarily want to go ahead and do.

Before we get into the interview, I just want to say that today over on Onproperty.com.au, I have a new positive cash flow property enlisted.  This property is on the market for $849,000, so it’s a bit more expensive, but it has a whopping rental earn of 13.47%.  You can check that out by going to www.onproperty.com.au or to check out all the properties that we’ve listed, go to www.onproperty.com.au/properties and that will take you directly there, and you can see all the properties.  We list a new one every single day at 8:00 a.m., so come back every day and you can see a new positive cash flow property.  So let’s now go into the interview and find out more about dual occupancies so we can make educated decisions about which houses we purchase and what we do with the properties that we do have.

Hi guys, this is Ryan from Onproperty.com.au, your daily dose of property education and inspiration, and today I have with me Nicole and Rochelle from PFP Urban Planning and today we are going to be talking about the opportunities for dual occupancies and how you can get legal approval to go ahead and do dual occupancies, which do have the opportunities to increase your rental yield and potentially generate positive cash flow.

Ryan: So guys, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Rochelle: Hi Ryan.

Nicole: Thank you.

Rochelle: Thanks for having us.

Ryan: So first, let’s talk about dual occupancies.  What is it, and how would someone go about doing such a thing?

Nicole: So just quickly, dual occupancy can be a couple of different things.  But essentially in a nutshell, it is when you’ve got multiple self contained units which could be a house in terms of a unit into one premises. So for example, you could have two dwellings that are separated from each other which would be dual occupancy or you could have two dwellings, like a granny flat situation and then a main house, so the granny flat underneath or in a shed out in the back yard and then the main side of house. So it is strategically, when you’ve got two self contained premises within the one kind of lot essentially or building itself.

Ryan:    Yes, so it’s under one title basically, so it could be a house that is split in two, it could be two separate dwellings as you said, but rather than going ahead and paying to have a property subdivided, you could potentially go ahead and have two rental incomes without the need to subdivide. Is that right?

Nicole: Exactly.

Rochelle:   Strata Title.

Ryan:  Yes, with that meaning? What’s a Strata Title?

Nicole: Yes, that’s going into a different area but that’s the admin way of having things running individually and independently of each other.  If you want to unsell say one side and keep back one you can get that happening but that’s probably a topic for another day.

Ryan: Yes, for another day.  So, okay, my guess is that the majority of people would probably be thinking about this with the existing property, which probably  only currently generating   one rental income. So what would they need to do to go about getting dual occupancy approval, because from my understanding you do actually need to get formal approval. Is that right?

Nicole: Yes, that is right.

Rochelle: That’s correct. So what you can do is, you can call a town planner, for example us,  and we just need some really  basic information to get started,  so a site address basically and we go and look into the relevant government website and get a heap of information which enables us to see what’s currently approved on the property, if anything, what is able to be approved, and what if something  does need to approve, and what that would entails, so if there is cost, what cost they are and the different types of consultants potentially, depending on this area and the complexity of the job.  So it’s very site specific ,  it’s away site specific and then we would be able to give your customers some basic information,  to at least have an idea what that would be involved,  so that’s what you would generally do, always call a town planner.  If you call the council, they will tell you to call a town planner.

Nicole: Yes, you can generally get some basic advice from a council just to get an idea, is it possible,  do I need to lodge an application, but they don’t always, depending on how good your local government is and they don’t always get into the details, so they would often say what you need to do is to go to a town planner and get them to go through to find details for you, but the big thing is just knowing the site constraints as well,  because you might have a site and it’s okay,  great, I’ve got this house, I’m thinking of running another house on it, but you might have a whole bunch of  a constraints specifically related to that site and that could hinder either placement size, or the ability to get something going on there, so …

Ryan: What’s an example of some constraints that people might have?

Nicole: Constraint, yes it could be slow, it could be to protect the site vegetation, it could be with easements, it could be a whole range of different things that just kind of hinder another dwelling.

Rochelle: The ability to provide car parks is a big on.e

Ryan: Yes.

Rochelle: So space for car parking.

Ryan: Okay

Rochelle: And depending on the plans given the number of car parks you need to provide per dwelling.

Nicole: It also depends on the size of your lots as well, also  for density.   So density is one of the big triggers that councils look at, when looking, if you want to go down a scenario of a different dwelling on your site.  It’s always quite a popular way to go knowing that people are generally hiring or well progressive into paying of one house and one lot and if you are going to display or anything at all, its actually affordable for me to  go and build another house and either rent it out or set it up separately.  So that’s also a possibility to do, but is the site actually large enough to actually accommodate two dwellings on that site or any setbacks, can we get those other things to work.  So there is a little bit to it, it’s not difficult, but just to be aware, it is not as straightforward as I’ve got a bit of land in the backyard.

Ryan: And just put a house on it.

Rochelle: Exactly.  And that is common sense, and people do that and they often y get caught by not going to the right person, so it’s just not being aware.

Ryan:   Okay, so if you want to do a dual occupancy whether that be a separate building or converting a dwelling into two, do you always really need to go to a town planner?

Nicole: Look, if the town planning person said you can do it yourself, you don’t need to have the   application lodged by a town planner, however, you do need to be able to   read  planning schemes,  understanding legislation, understanding different fees,  understanding the information  the council wants, understanding the relevant consultants that might be needed.

Rochelle:  Understanding that there is a political aspect as well.

Ryan:  So it is really if I were to go ahead and do this, yes, I probably could do it myself but that sort of stuff that you just said isn’t even something that I care to learn about realistically in detail.  It’s not something I would want to do myself

Rochelle:  You would be better off spending your time doing your work that you are really good at and paying someone a reasonable fee to do this work for you, I think.

Nicole: In doing that too, we sound like a good town planner who have a good appreciation as to what the council’s critical feel with regarding certain application type, scenario, what the  constraints are, what consultants are needed, and  I can usually pinpoint ideas so  that you can go ahead, saying this is going to be the issues,  I think we can work around this or this highlight certain risks and this could be really challenging to get through, however, we think we have got a pretty good case. And the other scenario is that, this is not going to work so it is probably going to be something that isn’t worth your time.  So, we can highlight those things at a very early stage so that a lot of time and investment aren’t made and the application goes in and you got your fees and that actually is the worst case scenario.

Ryan:  So you saved yourself of a lot of headache and heartache and expense by going to a town planner early.

Nicole: Yes

Ryan:   So when about in the process do you go to a town planner, like would you have drawings done or not before you go to a town planner? Or what would be your first protocol?

Rochelle:  I would say that…….I wanted to mention this before…….If you have got a client that is (I might just back track a little bit) looking at purchasing a property like it’s not a property that they are already on, they could also come to us with several different possible properties that they are looking at purchasing and we can say kind of what was Nicole touching on there, like, this is your best opportunity or the most risky.

Nicole:  This might be a high risk scenario or this could fell astray for whatever

Rochelle: Yea, so that’s a very good stage to come and see a town planner before you purchase a new property looking to do something like that.  If you already got the property and hopefully already have a site plan with existing house plans from when you made that purchase, you can just come to us with a rough sketch, because as town planners we look at the basic things like the density, we would look at setbacks which is the distance from the house, it would be the boundaries, those things are really important at an early stage. We don’t know necessarily need house plans straight up.

Nicole:  Some people do already have it made in their minds and they might feel very confident, they might have already chat to council and they’ve  got kind of a principle, and concepts, and it’s okay to go, so they might have gone ahead to the next steps and always get plans drawn up and start getting serious about that and then might step into a town planner and  that’s fine too, it just runs the risk of not getting that upfront advice after investing in an architect or draughts person to design plans.

Rochelle:  And I think it’s good to mention that it depends on the awareness of the architect or the draughts person because sometimes they are more idealistic they don’t always incorporate important things such as setbacks and heights and things like that which could be really crucial to the success of that development application.

Ryan:  So realistically, a town planner should be one of your first protocol because then you can, I   guess roughly, and then talk about your rough ideas and they can give you a framework to work around which then allows you to go to your draughts person or to your architect and say look, here is what I want to do with them but we think we would be able to get approval for…

Nicole:  Yes.

Ryan:  So let’s now go ahead and work on that

Nicole: Exactly. So you would be able to then approach a draughtsman or architect but within reasonable confidence that we’re not going to waste time and money and you should get an approval through or to some extent.

Ryan:  Yea, I love the idea.

Rochelle: Parameters really.

Nicole: We can’t guarantee approvals but with our experience and what we do with some councils   and consultants we got a pretty good feel before, whether something is going to be high risk application or fall astray for other risks

Rochelle:  Yea.

Ryan: And so I love the idea of getting reports before you purchase a property because that sounds pretty smart if you’re thinking that I’m going to go ahead and do this anyway, to actually understand whether you can or it is going to be one of the most high risk applications may change people’s mind as to whether or not they purchase that property.

If anyone wants to get in touch, contact with you, what is the process that you do and how can they best get in contact with you.

Rochelle:  Yes, you can head to our website is www.pfpurbanplanning.com/au that’s got our emails, our phone number, we probably going to put a link through your website with this podcast I’m guessing.

Ryan: Yea:

Rochelle: So you can just click on that link, give us a call, or send us an email if you’ve got a property that you are specifically looking at, or you have just got some general questions, as part of our service is to give you some advice, up front initially.  I’m happy to go through any queries that you might have.  Nichole, do you have anything to add?

Nichole:  Nothing to add. You actually covered it.

Okay, well, that was just part one of the three and already we have covered some great stuff. It is always really excited to learn about this because I have known from a long time that dual occupancy can be the right way to achieve positive cash flow but I haven’t known about the costs and the processes associated with it.  It was excited to hear that yes you can go and apply for these sort of things yourself, however, it is not something that I would really want to do because when it comes to reading legislation and then understanding all that sort of stuff to me,  it is just too difficult, too boring and it will probably be a false economy.  You would probably be better off spending your time going to work wherever it is that you work, than you would be spending hours upon hours going through legislation to try and get planning approval.  It just seems so much easier to hire a town planner.  And trust me they didn’t pay me to say that but actually what I think after the interview.

So I learnt from that that interview that getting a dual occupancy isn’t as easy as simply going ahead and doing what you want to do, whether that would be  splitting the house or building a granny flat, that you do actually need to go ahead and get the planning approval. I also learn that you can go to a town planner before you get your drawings done and before you go and see an architect and the fact that in most situations that probably is going to be the most beneficial way to go about it.

And the greatest thing about Rochelle and Nicole is that they offer free advice over the phone so you can give them a call talk through your ideas with them and they can give you some advice and obviously if you can’t go the next step then you can talk with them about fees specifically for your property. So, again you can find them by going to www.pfpurbanplanning.com.au, check out their website and you can contact them over there.

Another thing that I learn is before going and buying a property if you have these grand schemes and grand plans of what you want to do to convert that property into a high rental yield it probably going to be worth speaking to a town planner and getting a report on that property to find out whether your ideas can be done or whether they are one of those high risk situations that might not get approved.  This could save you thousands of dollars down the track and stop you from buying the wrong property just like in this small report that can help you understand whether or not it’s going to be a good investment for you or not.

So Rochelle and Nicole, thank you guys so much for spending time with me.  We will be back with them again tomorrow to talk about how much it cost to go through this dual occupancy process and how much a town planner cost as well.

If you want the full transcription of this episode, then head over to onproperty.com/au/134 and again you can find the property that we listed today for $849,000 with a whopping rental yield of 13.47% at onproperty.com.au/properties.  So until I return, too many links that you guys have, there is a lot to do but if you just go to the website it’s pretty easy to navigate I’m sure you will be able to find your way around.

So until tomorrow, remember that your long term success is only achieved one day at a time!

Dual occupancies can be a great way to increase the rental yield of a property. Great investors estimate the potential cash flow a property buy they buy or do a development. Estimate cash flow easy with The Advanced Property Calculator.

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