An interview with Matthew Ward

By Aspect Buyer's Agency
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Matthew is a Buyer's Agent, Registered Valuer, Property Consultant, and Developer.
His love affair with property began when he was just 8 years old and he saw his beloved family farm transformed into a housing estate. He didn't know it at the time, but this was a defining moment, setting him on a life journey that is more than just a career.
Q: Tell us more about the moment that sparked your interest in property.
A: The first time I really became aware of property was when I was about eight. My parents had sold our family farm on the edge of town to a developer. I couldn't help but be intrigued by the transformation – watching as roads were cut into the paddocks and houses were built. I was too young to understand the economics of it, but seeing the dramatic change from grazing paddocks to a housing estate stayed with me. 
My dad was a livestock buyer and cattle dealer, and growing up I spent a lot of time with him around the livestock sale yards watching the livestock buyers and selling agents do their thing. So the concept of a professional buyer was with me from a very young age, although at the time I didn't realise the influence this would have on me either. 
After school I went to university to complete my property degree, which allowed me to become a registered valuer. It was the late 1990s, and I was working in the expanding areas of Kellyville and Baulkham Hills of Sydney’s west where I learnt a lot about development and land subdivision. That experience led to a 3 year stint in London, working with a multinational property firm on their residential development advisory team. It was such a huge step up from what I was doing in Sydney. The markets were booming, and the beer was pouring! 
After finishing in London I moved back to Orange to start with a local valuation firm, which gave me exposure to a whole new range of properties and market conditions. The development experience gave me the expertise and confidence to undertake small land subdivisions of my own and to see opportunities where others couldn’t.
This did result in us moving seven times in eight years so we could take advantage of capital gains tax rules, excluding principle of residence to minimise the tax on our developed properties. By this time, I was married with kids. I'm not sure my wife appreciated the countless moves. 
After valuing and advising on literally thousands of properties over the years, I saw the need for some truly independent advice and guidance for investors, home owners, developers and farmers when they were purchasing or dealing with property. So in 2014 I switched from only providing my services to banks and governments to now providing property advice to the general public.
So, Aspect Buyer's Agency was born! We aim to be the link between country people looking for investment in cities and city-based investors looking for regional investments. 
Q: What are the most important things to consider when you're looking at a development or subdivision?
A: No. 1. Make sure you are developing a product that is saleable in the local market. Don’t rely on what you know from other areas, do fresh research every time. Don’t rely on master plans or other developments in the area a guide, as master plans are drawn by planners not developers and just because there are two story townhouses next door doesn’t necessarily mean the developer made money. These things are critical in slower moving markets. Check sale rates of competing or similar developments, look at the prices and if possible get a copy of the special conditions of the contracts to make sure there are no kickbacks for early settlement or other factors that could distort the recorded sale prices.
No.2. Know your costs and include them all, including a reasonable profit margin. The banks generally like to see around 20% when doing the feasibility. Obtain fixed price contracts and be crazy about the details, so many things are missed if they are not given the attention. Assume nothing - just because you saw it in the display home, doesn’t mean it will be included in your building contract. 
No.3. Developments and subdivisions are expensive and require a lot of your time, so make sure that you have the time to give. Skipping things in the planning phase will end up costing during the build with variation charges, or a substandard final product. Poor floor plans or wrong room dimensions can’t be fixed once the slab goes down. Engaging a builder who will commit to the job, can save you weeks or months on the construction phase, and potentially thousands in finance and holding costs. 
Q: When not buying property what keeps you entertained?
A: With a wife and three kids, my spare time is pretty limited, but I am always on the look out for the next development opportunity, trying to figure out how to make blocks work, and working around the problems they present. Mum and dad still have a farm, and I enjoy getting out and helping with cattle work or whatever else needs doing. It's a bit slower paced, and the change of scenery is refreshing. The kids love getting out on the farm, too.
The lifestyle benefits of living in a regional city like Orange are immense. There is always so much going on around the district - with the food, wine and music festivals, sports, or skiing at the dam (Lake Burrendong) with the cousins in the summer. It's a really great place to live.
Recently I started training for the Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker, a 100km charity walk. There's a few of us involved, and we’ve been training most weekends since February. It's pretty intense and enduring. We've combatted leeches, fatigue and sock burn. Don't ask me how one gets sock burn, but it's a real thing, and it hurts. I'm looking forward to the beers after the event, and it will be nice to have my weekends back.
The Oxfam Trailwalker tackles poverty the hard way. Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney sees 600 teams walk through beautiful, rugged bushland from the Hawkesbury to the Harbour. If you would like to sponsor us, please follow the link below. 
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