Interview | What does it take to become a property developer?

How Andrew Purdie, successful developer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and media host got to where he is today, and where he’s going!

Many property investors have aspirations of dabbling in development, but what does it take to really succeed? In the first half of our interview with successful developer Andrew Purdie you’ll hear all about how he got to where he is today, and where he’s going…

INTRODUCING ANDREW

Andrew Purdie

With a passion for property, Andrew Purdie has been at the forefront of the real estate and property development industry for many years. Managing director of Bennett Williams and co-host of Australia’s Best House, Andrew’s success is founded on his innovative approach to design principles. His vision and determination, combined with his entrepreneurial flair, have resulted in the exponential growth of his property portfolio…and contributed to his ability to succeed and achieve longevity in the challenging development space.

SPARKING THE PASSION

When I look around my sphere of influence, my peers, their backgrounds and how they got into property, I’m probably the least likely candidate1 There was no inkling or lead up to me becoming a property developer, and I had no family background in property at all.

So when I finished high school, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I did a trade apprenticeship, and then got into real estate as an entry level sales person where I got to experience and learn about property, and was exposed to a bit of property development.

And it sparked the passion inside of me.

GETTING STARTED

I went back to my original trade, built up a successful plumbing electrical company over a number of years, and integrated back into the real estate sector by providing plumbing and electrical maintenance for the companies I had built relationships with.

I wasn’t super passionate about it, but I derived a really good income – which helped me with cash flow and gave me the serviceability to be able to borrow money and start developing property.

THE TURNING POINT

While continuing to run my plumbing and electrical company I started doing a few renovations and building townhouses.

I got back into real estate – which looked different for me this time around because I came in at an ownership level – with an agreement with my partner that I would do some property development. That was a turning point for me, because I knew that property development was something that I wanted to make a career out of.

GROWING ORGANICALLY

I’d learned enough through building townhouses to start doing it at a level where I could make a living out of it. But I never really understood how much energy and time and money it was ultimately going to take to do it on the scale that I ended up doing it at…because I thought that building townhouses was relatively easy.

“I didn’t really know what it meant to be a property developer. I still had this image of what a property developer did, and what property development was about, from what I was exposed to in my real estate career, and in the very limited experience I’d had in building some townhouses. But I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

My career grew organically from the agreement I had with the real estate office. I went from building a couple of townhouses, to building ten townhouses, to building fifty townhouses, to building a hundred townhouses…to ending up where we are now, which is a diversified property company that does land subdivisions, townhouses and luxury homes. We’re also in the finance space – private equity, private debt into the development industry, funding of other developers, and now our lifestyle villages.

“It’s changed over time, and most of that change has been organic change. As I’ve learned more I’ve continued to take on more.”

ENJOYING THE JOURNEY

You’ve got to love what you do, and I take great enjoyment and satisfaction from what I do in my career, because I love property, and I love the challenges that come with it.

“There’s been far more challenges in my property career than successes. Success can be measured in many different ways, not necessarily monetary or fiscal, actual wealth. For me, to be able to get in at the very start of a project, to have a vision and get it to the point where you can commence it, deliver it and see it through is really satisfying.”

The journey is something that I really enjoy, and I continue to learn as my journey continues and I grow my career. And as I’ve continued to learn, I’ve branched out into other things and done what I’ve enjoyed. I’ve been really lucky to do that – and I have so much more to learn!

NEXT STEPS

I think my days of my days of building townhouses, and building homes, and building and engaging in delivering built form, is probably behind me. I'm wanting to take on less stress and less complication in my business, and land subdivision for me is easier than delivering built forms.

So the future of our business will definitely be land subdivisions, and at the moment our core business is regional land subdivisions. Post COVID there's this absolute thirst in the Victorian property market for transitioning into regional Victoria, because that's where the market is at.

When the market trends change that will come back into the growth corridor and we'll look at doing house and land packages, or land for builders to build house and land packages on. At the moment it's regional Victoria, and lifestyle villages.

We're getting heavily into the lifestyle village space. There's a massive affordability issue in retirement in Australia, and that's only increasing. So we're getting into affordable living in retirement space, in lifestyle villages.

But I think ultimately, in ten years from now, it will be social housing. And our next really big push, will be social housing.

CONTINUING TO EVOLVE

I’ve got this business that sits over there that I’m still really passionate about, and I enjoy, but I’m finding new things in life that I’m also passionate about.

Success for me and what success looks like, is changing at the moment. For me, it’s no longer about trying to accumulate massive wealth. At the moment success for me looks like how I can go out there and make a difference, and help people where I can help them. It’s about helping others less fortunate and helping people that need help, while making sure my business continues to run and be successful.

The Purdie Foundation

“I’m transitioning at the moment from keeping my business running, and implementing the people and the strategy in there to make it hum along, whilst I step back from it a bit, and I transition into my philanthropic path, which is what really resonates with me at the moment.”

I started up The Purdie Foundation, which I thought was going to be this vehicle that I put money into and then went and helped people. But as I continued to evolve with the foundation, I realised that it wasn’t that easy, and there were challenges to it. While I had capacity to earn money and raise money, I didn’t have the capacity, or the time, or the manpower to deliver that money to the coalface of the problems that I wanted to help. So I was best raising the money, or donating the money, and partnering up with people with different strengths to me – charities that need money, with the manpower and the capacity to deliver at the face of the problem.

So I went on this cool journey dealing with different charities, and talking to people that had dedicated their life to charity, and talking to different people, and some of them I work hand in hand with now.

The Hidden Philanthropist podcast

I had no intention at all of doing a podcast. In fact, truth be told, it was only very, very recently that I listened to my first podcast. But what I did know was, as I was going out and meeting people, they had really cool stories to tell. And I think that my biggest, initial driver, was to go out and talk to these people and see how they did it. To see what the charity, philanthropic aspect of their businesses and their lives looked like.

A lot of these people are really high net worth people, industry leaders. Some of them are sports people, some of them are business people, some of them are from all these different walks of life. And there’s often an intense media hunger to grab them and put them on the front of the paper. But it’s always for the wrong reasons.

They’re recognised for hitting a celebrity, they’re recognised for going through a divorce, they’re recognised for getting caught speeding. And they aren’t always recognised for the amazing things that are in their life, and it’s time to recognise these people for the amazing work that they do.

So these chats with people have organically turned into a podcast that’ll come out next year.

We also show listeners how they can engage with each of these charities. Because I think there’s a huge amount of people out there willing to help. And people don’t need to help with money. People can donate time, people can donate intellect, people can donate food, they can donate all these things – it doesn’t need to be money. And now I’m realising that there are a lot of people out there willing to do that. They just don’t know how.

So part of The Hidden Philanthropist is firstly, listening to all these cool people and the amazing things they do. But secondly, it’s teaching people that if you’ve got a willingness to help, you can do it. This is how you do it. Get out there, give back in whatever way you can. We can all do something to help and it feels good to help other people. And there needs to be more of that.


If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to become a property developer, and Andrew Purdie’s key advice to those who’d like to pursue it as a career, read the second half of our interview here.

If you’d like to start your property investment journey, or learn more about what it takes to become a developer, then book in a free one on one strategy call with one of our property mentors and get started today!

And if you’d like to hear our podcast interviews with Andrew, head over to Investor Intelligence, where every week we discuss all things investment and put them into bite-size episodes to help investors of all levels along their journey.

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