Why funny-shaped blocks of land can be a winner for property investors

By Sasha Karen 11 June 2019 | 1 minute read

Buying a property on a square or rectangular block of land is an ideal purchase, but buying into a triangular block of land, or a “corn chip” isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it opens up its own unique investing opportunities.

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Dealing with property on irregularly shaped land might be a turn off for some property investors, but for Glenn “Goose” McGrath, buyer’s agent at Dashdot, irregular land can still provide investors with long-term gains, provided they have a long-term plan in mind.

The easier-to-handle irregular land type for Mr McGrath is what he refers to as the corn chip, with a larger rear coming to a narrow point.

“If you can find an asset that has good capital growth potential and it is cash flow positive, great, that’s a great first step. But when youre thinking about how else you can create a mechanical lever in your portfolio that you can enact later on, a corn chip-shaped property can actually present a really good opportunity, provided that you are assessing that end goal from the start,” Mr McGrath said.

Where that opportunity lies, according to Mr McGrath, is in having a larger backyard, which then presents a potential opportunity for subdivision.

Key considerations

However, investors should not just jump in right away, as there are some key aspects they need to consider, the buyer’s agent said.

“Youve got to consider the original house position, where that currently is, how much land space you have at the rear.

“You might have, say, 1,000 square metres at the back, and thatd be a pretty extreme example… You might go, ‘Oh great, well, we can subdivide that into two lots.

“The problem is, youve got to look at what the angle of the corn chip is, because if you cant put two lots side by side, youre going to struggle to be able to get the accessibility for it, so you can find that whilst you may have the land content, you need to make sure its going to fit with the end purpose.”

If an investor does not consider that end purpose with their corn chip land and realise the value in the back of the property needs to be considered over the long term, the property might as well be left alone.

“Whilst it might not matter in the first five years whether it has rear access or how wide the driveway is, it might matter in the long term, because if you cant realise the value in the back, then there is no point,” Mr McGrath said.

“If you have no intention to subdivide it, then there is no point. If the driveway is not, say, three and a half metres wide or four metres wide, there probably is no point… because what youll have to do is too much modification to the existing property to be able to realise that value.

“However, if you can find and buy a block that does have an exceptionally large rear – sounds quite funny – a property with a big butt, then you have the ability to subdivide that sometimes into as many as two lots, which can give you the opportunity to, say put two townhouses on the back, which gives you future development potential.”

If an investor focuses on that long-term scope from the consolidation phase, Mr McGrath said investors should have “huge long-term upside potential”.

“If you can see the value that other people cant, theres real potential to actually get a much bigger upside, because people look for an easy option. So sometimes its looking slightly laterally at how you can make the situation work will actually net you a much bigger return on investment long term,” he said.

Other shapes and sizes

Outside of the corn chip, other odd land shapes can provide more trouble than they are worth if subdivision is on the agenda.

“Say youve got a 1,000 square metre block, if its got 19 different angles in the fence line, youre going to really struggle to create a unit-like space, because youve got to think about subdivision in basic terms of squares and rectangles,” Mr McGrath said.

“I think the ideal scenario for any property is a square or a rectangle thats at least 12 metres wide, thats the ideal. When it starts to vary from that shape, youve got to consider what the end purpose is.”

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Why funny-shaped blocks of land can be a winner for property investors
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