Georg Chmiel chats with Ben Coorey on how to turn neighbours into millionaires

Georg Chmiel chats with Ben Coorey on how to turn neighbours into millionaires
Georg Chmiel chats with Ben Coorey on how to turn neighbours into millionaires

EXPERT OBSERVER

When brothers Ben and Rob Coorey created the technology to analyse the profitability of potential development sites within seconds, they had a choice.  

They could keep it to themselves and go on to become two of Australia's richest developers. Or, they could share it with the world and make real estate investment, development, and design much easier and more transparent for everyone.

They chose the latter.

Not that they haven't also benefitted. Their business, Archistar, has raised millions from investors such as the former Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh, ex-CoreLogic managing director Graham Mirabito, and former CEO of CBRE Australasia Tom Southern.

"Our tool evaluates development opportunities for your property and assesses its potential market performance,” Ben Coorey told me in a conversation last week. "A consumer, developer, architect, or council … anyone can benefit if they need to assess designs."

MAKING NEIGHBOURS RICH

Archistar can even turn a handful of neighbours into millionaires.  

As Coorey pointed out, the most important part of real estate development is to understand what the rules are for your site. His tool gives you exactly that information.

Coorey say, "Our software allows you to piece together a number of neighbouring lots and determine what you could build if they were combined.”

A group of eight neighbours in Castle Hill secured $5 million each by selling all their homes in one go. The developer who bought the land plans to build a unit project. Since the average price in Castle Hill is about $1.3 million, the vendors earned about a 300% profit by informing themselves about the development potential of their property.

That kind of windfall shows why Archistar’s tool is so valuable. But I don’t think the Coorey brothers are in it for the money. 

Talking to Ben, I got the sense that what really motivates the Cooreys is getting their arms around complex problems and then solving them. The fact that they made their development analysis tool publicly available is proof. (You can get a free, basic analysis of your own home on their website, https://archistar.ai.)

More proof that the Archistar team is motivated by a good challenge rather than a fast buck comes from the fact that they decided to take on the challenge of developing automated reports based on the arcane rules of a 3,000-year-old practice that has been called both science and superstition.

DOES YOUR HOME HAVE GOOD FENG SHUI?

“We wanted to democratise the principles of Feng Shui so that anyone, anywhere could get an instant Feng Shui analysis of their floorplan,” Coorey told me.

How hard was that? 

Very. 

Archistar spent 12 months developing a one-of-a-kind artificial intelligence engine that makes the Feng Shui analysis possible. To start with, they had to understand the principles of Feng Shui. Then, they had to digitize them, create algorithms that can analyse any floorplan according to those rules, and design a system that uses those algorithms to provide useful insights that allow you to fix whatever Feng Shui problems your home might have.

"We had to translate over 500 rules from ancient Chinese Feng Shui texts that go back hundreds of years," Coorey said. The sources they consulted also included some recent page-turners such as Human Habitat and Feng Shui (人居环境与风水), Modern Residential Feng Shui (现代住宅风水), and Chinese Wisdom Feng Shui's Application (国学智慧-风水文化应用篇) by Professor Yu Xixian.

"From those texts, we put together a set of Feng Shui rules," said Coorey. "Then we take apart floorplans and use these rules to evaluate the Feng Shui of each one."

To test its new Feng Shui analysis tool, Archistar looked at The Lodge, the official Canberra Prime Minister’s residence which has been home to leaders such as Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating, and John Howard.

Archistar’s Feng Shui analysis found that the 1927 building generally abides by Feng Shui principles. It’s not that the original architects consulted a Feng Shui expert when designing The Lodge.

“Sometimes, a design has good Feng Shui even though the architects didn’t know anything about the practice,” said Coorey. “Good design can transcend cultures.”

Juwai.com, where I am chairman, now provides Archistar’s Feng Shui reports to our Chinese international property buyers.

WHICH CITY RULES?

As Archistar analyses the Feng Shui properties of more and more floorplans, Coorey expects to be able to draw conclusions about entire cities.

“As we build a database of floorplans, you can start to collect insights on regions, countries, and cities. Up until this point, you haven’t had the analysis in a common format that you could compare. Now, we have a standard format to do so.”

I asked Coorey which Australian city he thought would come out on top in the Feng Shui competition. 

Do buildings in Melbourne have better Feng Shui than Sydney? Does Brisbane beat Perth? And can Parramatta blame bad Feng Shui for the fact that the Eels came dead last in 2018, or is there a more nefarious cause?

Probably wisely, Coorey wasn’t willing to hazard an answer to any of these questions.

Georg Chmiel is the chairman of Juwai, a Chinese website for buyers of overseas property, was speaking to Ben Coorey, the founder and CEO of Archistar, a training centre teaching digital design skills for architects and engineers.

His regular column, getting into the leading minds of Australian property experts, has spoken with LJ Hooker agent Bill Malouf about the ins and out of the Sydney market, REINSW president Leanne Pilkington about women in real estate, developer Larry Kestelman about developing your first property, Harcourts boss Mike Green on real estate investment secrets, Ironfish chief Joseph Chou on investing in today's market, liveability guru Cecile Weldon and Hickinbotham Group's Michael Hickinbotham.

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Juwai Georg Chmiel

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