Interview: Sam Elbanna, Project Director Laver Residential Projects
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Interview: Sam Elbanna, Project Director Laver Residential Projects

We discuss home ownership trends, development success and longevity in the sector.

By Marwan Rahme
Tue, Apr 12, 2022 1:26pmGrey Clock 5 min

Kanebridge News: What’s the allure of working in property for you?

Sam Elbanna: Property is the foundation of much of the world’s wealth and, for many Australians, a fundamental element of our lives. Property houses us, provides us with income, and gives us venues in which to work, play and be entertained. For me, working in property is exciting because it is tangible, always evolving and interesting due to the vast array of people I get to meet daily from all walks of life who are all brought together by property.

How do you think notions of homeownership have changed in Sydney over the last 5 years?

The last 5 years have seen numerous fundamental shifts in the way we live and work with Covid-19 being the biggest influence. Prior to Covid, certainly in the inner city, there had been a shift toward smaller apartments, often for singles and couples. This was further fuelled by affordability issues, investor demand etc. Many people were comfortable with this because the local area provided them with ample amenities to socialise, train and simply be around others.

Since we have adjusted to life with Covid, I have seen shifts in buying behaviour such as a strong desire to buy in lifestyle areas — for example near beaches, wanting apartments with designated office space, a strong desire for outdoor space nearby and as part of dwellings and for local entertainment.

What do you think people need to know before buying a property – what advice would you give them?

  1. Buy where people want to live! We know people want to be near water, shopping, entertainment, restaurants and cafes. This alone assures regular capital growth.
  2. Understand that people value convenience more and more each day.
  3. If it is cheap, it is cheap for a reason. That means, don’t buy in a suburb because you get more house for your money, buy there because it will allow you to enjoy a lifestyle you desire and is likely to increase in value over time.
  4. It is wise to sacrifice home size for better suburbs.
  5. If you are priced out of a suburb, buy in the adjacent suburb… that’s where the price growth is.
  6. If you forego luxury cars and holidays for 5 years and use that money to buy property, you will be in a much better position for the rest of your life.
  7. Research research! research. I am often amazed at how people will spend more time deciding on a pair of $400 shoes than they spend buying a million dollar plus property. Information is readily available on your smart phones.

How has project marketing changed on the business front in the last 5-10-years?

The biggest change over the last ten years has been the extensive use of technology in the marketing and selling of property. Large proportions of advertising budgets are allocated to online advertising and, over the last 5 years, social media. We are now exchanging contracts and settling online. In February this year, I showed a buyer through a multi-million dollar property via facetime. Last week we exchanged numerous contracts where buyers signed on their smart phones. Essentially, it has become more apparent than ever that if you aren’t using technology extensively, you will be left behind.

You’ve chalked up over 5000 apartment sales in your time. Has it gotten easier, harder, different?

It is just different. For a start, the internet has changed the way we operate. It has broadened the reach of advertising, and the speed of communication with consultants. But with all the changes, the one fundamental that has remained the same is that we are in the people business. People buy real estate from people.  They live in real estate with people. The properties are designed, and built by people. So, we in the sales industry have to recognise that, whilst we do this every day, the people we are selling to are making massive, life changing decisions. Successful project marketers take a collaborative approach to selling, act as advisors and play the long game.

What do you do differently that has given you longevity in the industry?

I would love to talk about discipline and hard work which obviously are important but for me, it’s a genuine love for the business. So even though some days are hard, I’m having fun and I’m surrounded by people that I genuinely like. Interestingly, many of my closest friends are somehow related to the business. And because it is constantly evolving, I am forced to constantly learn and embrace change which is exciting. Not really work is it?

What makes for a successful development, is there a recipe for success?

This quite simple… not easy but simple.

  1. Identify your market.
  2. Ascertain their needs and wants
  3. Discover what they are able to or willing to pay if you provide them their needs and wants.
  4. Calculate if you can design and build what the market needs and wants and readily sell it at a price they are willing to pay.

A live example of this is a project called The Halston in North Strathfield. Originally almost half the project was made up of 1 bedroom properties. It’s normally easy to ascertain what people want because we would look at other developments in the area and what they’re doing and how people are buying them.

But here, because there’s no new development, and hasn’t been for many years, we interviewed hundreds of people to get an idea of what people in the area wanted. It became obvious that there was strong demand for 3 bedroom properties as many people were selling their homes in the area and there was simply new little three bedroom stock available.

Now in the project, 1 bedroom units make up less than 30% and the number of 3 bedroom apartments has increased markedly. After a couple of days on the market, this has proven to be the right move with much of the interest being focussed on those apartments.

What does Laver offer that other firms don’t?

Laver is very different to other firms. It is a collection of some of property industry’s most experienced and successful people working together for a common goal. Each of us have complementary skills that are applied to each project to ensure success. We offer a complete end-to-end service to developers and financiers, from site acquisition, planning and design, right through to project marketing and sales strategy. Most importantly, our directors play an exceptionally hands-on role in every component of every project, including on the frontline making sales.

What do you think homeowners are looking for, is there a trend you see growing in the next 1-3 years?

I see a move towards a highly segmented market where trends within those segments will dictate the property landscape moving forward. For example, one of the fastest-growing and most affluent segments is the empty nester market. These are the children of the first baby boomers. These buyers are young enough to embrace technology yet old enough to understand the value of time and compounding. These buyers are overwhelmingly looking for lifestyle properties with ample space as they are often selling large family homes and anything smaller is a compromise. The other segment which will be influential on the property market are the first home buyers who are well paid, still living with their parents and seeking a property that appeals to their desire to live a certain way.

For more information on Laver Residential’s North Strathfield project, The Halston, click here.

 



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

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Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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