Ask Margaret: Merging blocks to create multiple dwellings

Ask Margaret: Merging blocks to create multiple dwellings
Ask Margaret: Merging blocks to create multiple dwellings

Hi Margaret,

My husband and I currently own a house in Macarthur (ACT) and are in negotiations with our neighbor to buy their house next door, before they move to Tasmania next year. The houses are side-by-side and at the end of a cul-de-sac.  

I'm just wondering what our first step would be if we decided to merge the two blocks of land and sell to a developer for them to build multiple dwellings. We don't want to manage or build ourselves, we just want to sell them as a package.

How do I know if this allowed in our suburb? Is there a website I can look at or someone I can contact?

Kind Regards,



Hi Lisa,

Your first port of call will be to the local council who manages subdivisions in your area. You will need to talk to their town  planning department.  The council will have a town plan in place which will be governed by the territory’s planning scheme. They will be able to tell you about the rules and regulations surrounding subdivisions, or in your case, land boundary changes in your area.

The reason it is important to start here is because you want to know exactly what you would be left with in the event that such a boundary change (that is the combining of two lots) is allowable. You need to know how many subsequent blocks a developer can achieve from this boundary change.  If they can only achieve the two blocks which you originally had, then there is no benefit to the boundary change and your blocks would be just as easily sold separately as they would combined as one.

Once you know these details you then have a choice: You can either simply offer your two blocks together for sale as a package, leaving the responsibility for a boundary change up to the potential developer, or you can effect the boundary change yourself, which may make the two blocks more valuable. 

You should consult an independent town planner, one who works in private practice, to quote you on the potential costs of having the two blocks combined, including his fees and all government charges, and also consult with a local real estate agent to establish whether or not spending this money would result in a suitably increased sale price. 

If you wanted to go all the way you could then do the subdivision into the allowable number of blocks, but as you have seen, past advice I have given in this column has outlined all the potential risks and costs of doing that, and you have said you don’t wish to incur those.

I will point out to you that one of the difficulties you face is in working out who should get what. If you offer them for sale together, with a condition that both must be purchased, but you price them separately, it’s easy to see how much each person should get. But if you price them as a package, then it’s harder to work out whose property should get the most unless they are identical properties of identical size. In addition to this, you would both have to agree on what you get as a final price, and also on the strategy you would follow in the event that one of you had an offer for their house alone that they want to take. 

Under these circumstances, tempers can flare and relationships can break down. These are all the kinds of issues you must think about before entering such an agreement, and it’s a good policy to think about all the potential problems, write them down and agree on a solution before they arise.

Have a property question?        Ask Margaret!

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.

Subdivision Property Development

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