How the Sydney apartment developer, Third.i, always puts the buyer first: Five minutes with Luke Berry

"The name Third.i was very much formed with the two most critical elements to development; investment and infrastructure," Berry said.

How the Sydney apartment developer, Third.i, always puts the buyer first: Five minutes with Luke Berry
The Dairy Farmers development in Newcastle. Image supplied

The Sydney-based developer, Third.i, are continually trying to break new ground in what type of product they are bringing to the off the pl​an apartment market.

It's been a pillar of Third.i since it was founded by Luke Berry, Robert Huxley and Ron Dadd in 2005, so much so it forms a key part of the company name.

I recently got to catch up with Luke Berry, who also handles Third.i's sales and marketing, to discuss the company's current direction and how they like to develop.

"The name Third.i was very much formed with the two most critical elements to development; investment and infrastructure," Berry said.

"We follow planning, jobs growth, and the inevitable need for housing in those areas.

"Infrastructure is key; where the government are spending, where there's private spending on infrastructure, new transport hubs etc. Always invest where infrastructure is and is planned to be."

The third I was more in the spiritual sense, Berry added.

"We are always trying to think ahead, constantly challenging both ourselves and pushing the boundary as to what's conceivable in apartment development.

"We try and create apartments and a style of housing that people don't even know they want yet. We think of the projects people are going to need, rather than what they necessarily need right now."

Their latest innovative venture however isn't about what they're offering a buyer in terms of the product they are creating. It goes well beyond that.

The team has recently launched CoPosit, which allows potential buyers secure a property with just $10,000 in savings, with the remainder of the deposit paid over weekly instalments until the apartment is ready.

That's available for buyers at the Dairy Farmers project in Newcastle's West End, where already 100 of the 184 apartments have been sold. Around 10 per cent of those buyers have used CoPosit.

"Developers usually need five or 10 per cent deposit minimum as a bank needs a qualifying presale to provide funding for the project," Berry said.

"But we've managed to crack open the door for first home buyers, who, if they can't stump up a deposit, can still secure an apartment and take advantage of the price growth of that apartment during the construction phase.

"Traditionally, those buyers would maybe have to wait a year, or wait until completion, before they can buy the apartment. With the way the property market has gone in recent years, that's a lot of growth they've missed out on. They're potentially paying $50,000 more for that same apartment they couldn't get a few years earlier when it wasn't complete."

Berry says he believes the scheme will completely revolutionize off the plan sales.

The Dairy Farmers project will comprise a separate five story-building that will house the very first residents’ shared work hub coupled with 1600 sqm of commercial and retail space.

The development will also include a range of exclusive amenities featuring communal green spaces, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, cabana pool areas with a lap pool, a wine bar and cellar, as well as multiple function rooms.

The Newcastle West site was once home to Dairy Farmers - one of Australia’s largest dairy producers. In a nod to the history of the site, Third.i will re-imagine the heritage-listed, iconic glass milk bottle and clock towers as part of a pedestrianized, broader public art installation.

“We feel like the West End is our second home and we are excited to be part of its revitalisation," Berry said.

"We want Dairy Farmers Towers to be a West End icon, a landmark that will be reborn to create a new chapter in the West End’s growth as a great place in which to live, work and play.

“Residents will have some of the best views in town, as well as the harbour, great dining and entertainment options, and the transport interchange at their doorstep. To create a true sense of community for residents, we’ve really focused on incorporating communal green spaces andcommercial and retail spaces to add diversity of housing options for locals.”

A large number of locals have made up part of the buyers so far, a mix of downsizers wanting to live in an urban apartments and first home buyers who see the entry level apartments as good value for money.

There's also been a number of investors, both from Newcastle and Sydney.

Third.I, has always been forward thinking - and is one of the largest providers of SDA (Specialist Disability Accommodation) apartments along the East Coast of Australia. They have a partnership with Aruma (formerly House with no steps) and many other SIL’s (Specials Independent Living Advisors) to provide suitable accommodation in their medium and large scale developments.

"ESG (environmental, social and governance) has always been important to us, and the commitment we have in creating SDA Housing is a cornerstone of our business policies in providing social housing" Berry added.

It was at the forefront of their efforts in London. Both of their London projects, the completed Battersea apartment building currently under construction, and the upcoming Vauxhall development, has around a third of its development set aside for people who couldn't traditionally afford them.

"We have around 30, 35 per cent of our developments in the UK reserved for people like nurses, school teachers, train drivers, single parents who struggle to afford to get in to the property market," Berry says.

The expansion in to the UK has seen Third.i's global footprint expand, with meaningful conversations with huge REITS and investment firms.

"What London has done has cracked open the door for Third.i to forge international business relationships with funders, agents, based in Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, all which wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the investment in to the UK market."

"We have a big vision, big dreams, and now we're in a position to chase them," Berry said.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and new developments across the country

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