A land estate project marketing case study: Peter Chittenden

Peter ChittendenMarch 4, 20130 min read

When you first read the marketing headlines for Molonglo Valley, Canberra the statistics are very impressive.

Fifteen suburbs, 25,000 homes and fifteen years to complete, making this project the ideal starting point for my focusing on the project marketing of land estates and master-planned communities.

I first became involved with Molonglo Valley back in February 2010 along with the residential land estate sales team at Colliers International in Canberra who were working at a furious pace to launch the first land release for their client the Land Development Agency (LDA).

My colleague Shane Radnell, general manager of Residential Land Marketing in the ACT was at the time heading up the sales and marketing team for what was one of the largest projects of its kind in Australia.

Over the few months that followed the launch we embraced a number of new and very innovative ideas – several of which were clearly Land Estate Project Marketing ‘firsts’.

However, before we take a look at that stage of the project and the detail of the marketing that was undertaken, here is a general outline about Molonglo Valley.

If you are not familiar with the ACT, Molonglo Valley is less than 10 kilometres from Canberra City, 5 kilometres to Woden and 12 kilometres from Belconnen, and so this is an inner-city location near Mount Stromlo and Black Mountain in an area that was partly impacted by the bush fires of January 2003.

Molonglo Valley’s close links to the CBD are unique in a city where most new land releases are much further removed. The impressive new National Arboretum Canberra plus Stromlo Forest Park, Lake Burley Griffin and the Molonglo River are all near neighbours.

Such a location in a major urban setting is very rare and so this would have been clearly in the minds of the LDA as plans for the first release were being finessed back in 2010.

According to Shane Radnell, “This was to be a stand out project the location demanded nothing less, the streets for example were being planned with a view of ‘old-Canberra’ with a feeling of some of the older established suburbs like Kingston. Blocks were to be larger and building controls would also help deliver a quality outcome, leading into the launch there was strong demand for this type of project.”

“For many potential buyers at the time the only alternative to Molonglo Valley would have been to purchase an existing home, demolish and re-build. From our point of view the marketing challenge was clear, but there were some very big hurdles to overcome.”

What Shane was in part referring to was the fact that when the release was to come onto the market and be released for sale, no site works had been undertaken, none at all and it was not even possible to walk onto the land. The site had to be seen from afar and so for some buyers this would be a leap of faith.

The marketing challenge was to bridge this gap and to provide a sales path that would educate buyers, easily and quickly, but to also ensure that they had enough information to make a commitment to buy.

“We made the recommendation to the LDA that due to  high level of demand, amongst other reasons, that the first release of 100 blocks in Wright (which was the first suburb to be released) should be by auction and not by ballot, which at the time was the more standard way new estates were taken to market,” said Shane.

To help appreciate the hurdles of moving away from the ballot process here’s a brief outline of how the system works. It is a model more unique to the ACT than any other market.

This is a brief outline from the LDA’s website and you can refer to the site for more details www.lda.act.gov.au

“A new land release in an LDA residential estate may be offered for sale through the LDA’s ballot system. The ballot system is the fairest and most transparent way the LDA can sell residential blocks to the public. Block prices are set at the market value, which allows the buyer to purchase the block without the risk of a higher bidder obtaining the block.

“How does the ballot work? To participate in a ballot, potential buyers must register their details using the LDA’s online system during the advertised registration period.  These details include the full names of each buyer, their residential address, solicitor details and the type of lease they wish to enter into.

“Once the registration form has been submitted, the potential buyer is then entered into the ballot and given a unique ballot number. Once the registration period closes, each eligible ballot number is entered into an electronic ballot draw system.

“Witnessed by Gaming and Racing officials, the ballot is drawn at the LDA’s head office. Ballot numbers are drawn sequentially and the official results are uploaded on to the LDA’s website.”

The Planning Begins

Against this general background, the planning and detailed marketing for the first release of 100 blocks got underway a highly successful auction was held May 2010. Remaining blocks were subsequently offered for sale by ballot and over-the-counter.

This is very much the short hand version of events, and in my next few posts I will detail how some new technology, a purpose built CBD display suite and a very deliberate sales path were employed to make this first Molonglo Valley release a stand out example of Land Marketing leadership as well as an up-date of where the estate is today.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.
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