What hurdles will I need to jump to subdivide land? Ask Margaret

What hurdles will I need to jump to subdivide land? Ask Margaret
What hurdles will I need to jump to subdivide land? Ask Margaret

Hi Margaret,

Myself and a friend have decided to bid at auction for a block of land in Westmead, NSW.

We have verbal approval from council’s town planner to build a duplex on this land.

I appreciate it if you could help me with following:

  • Would the council usually be able to provide written confirmation regarding approval to build the duplex?

  • As this is just a block of land, what are the charges or taxes we have to pay before building.

  • Is there any step by step guide to go through all the formalities we need to complete post signing the contract of the land?

  • Do we need to make sure of anything before we go and win the auction?



Margaret's answer is on the next page. Please click below.

Hi Hitesh,

It’s always a risk when buying a property which you think might be able to be subdivided. 

Many years ago, I purchased a block in Queensland and prior to the purchase I had a lengthy discussion with council in which I was advised that I could potentially build a triplex. Upon settlement, I commenced the approval process to be told that only a duplex would be possible. Just before I got the application finalised, the councils merged and my application for a duplex was rejected. Due to where this property is, building a single dwelling is a loss making exercise and I now have a technically useless, non-income producing block of land!

I tell this story to indicate the potential problems you could have.  The council will not provide written confirmation to you prior to bidding, as everything can change in the meantime and they will not want to be locked in.  They will simply refer you to the current town plan and the existing development application rules and suggest you use them as a guideline.

There are no taxes to pay to build, but the ‘charges’ can be endless.  Subdivision approval is complex and requires the services of town planners, architects, surveyors, geo tech experts, and engineers, to name a few.  A simple duplex subdivision can run to tens of thousands just for the approval to build and if driveways and retaining are also involved, expect to reach costs of over $100,000!

Your local council should have a guideline for subdivision approval on their website (or a document they can send you) but good luck with that! 

In my experience it is complex in the extreme, and it can be laborious translating what is actually required.  This is why it is a good idea to retain the services of a town planner, preferably one who may have previously worked for the council in question.

I’d initially download that guideline and contact a town planner prior to auction to get an idea of the costs of the subdivision.  This person will be able to quote on getting the ‘approval to subdivide’ (which is step one) but be aware that, after this step you have to carry out all works and steps outlined in this approval before your final deposited plan number will be allocated.



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Margaret Lomas

Margaret Lomas

Margaret Lomas is a best-selling author and writes and hosts the popular Property Success With Margaret Lomas and Your Money, Your Call, both on Sky News. She is the founder of Destiny.

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