Backyard property developers have the right idea

Backyard property developers have the right idea

Tips and Advice

So you want to be a property developer, but don’t know where to start? Well, how about in your own backyard?

Most people think that they need to purchase a separate property, or block of land, in order to become a property developer, and yet many people have the opportunity to simply build a separate dwelling on their existing house block.

And it actually makes a lot of sense to do so.

Providing your block of land is large enough, is the right zoning and it’s possible to get the relevant approvals, building something like a townhouse in your backyard can be hugely profitable, with less risk than might otherwise be the case.

Risk Reduction

Many first time developers go out and purchase a property with a view to doing a basic renovation and then selling it fast. But old buildings, even some that are not very old at all, can often have hidden problems that are not always picked up during pre-purchase property inspections. It’s only once they start getting in and knocking things down that they find issues that can cause major budget blowouts.

However, by building a completely new dwelling, you don’t have any such issues. The building will be completely new so no hidden problems can arise. Sure budgets can still blow out if you don’t know what you’re doing. But providing you have engaged an architect such as myself to manage the building process, then chances are you will only spend what you were told was required.

backyard property development

Building behind your existing home can be very profitable

Project Management

Another massive advantage of developing in your own backyard is the fact that it’s easy to keep track of your investment. You only need to wake up and look out your back window each day to see how work is progressing. Nothing could be simpler.

Small Investment, Big Returns

But perhaps the greatest benefit of all lies in the fact that your initial outlay is so much smaller than it might otherwise be. Unlike a separate investment property, you already own the land. You’re simply paying for design, materials and construction.

Once the project is complete your property will have significantly increased in value. You now have the option of collecting a healthy rental income or putting your property on the market and selling both your existing home and your new townhouse for a significant profit.

Thing to Consider

Obviously, there are a few potential downsides to building in your backyard. To start with, you will effectively ‘lose’ your backyard whilst construction work is underway. Tradespeople, materials, vehicles and machines will be taking over your property from the street in front of your home to your back fence. It can sometimes feel like you’re trapped inside your own home, but most of the major disruption occurs over only a few weeks. Outside of these times, life can still be relatively normal.

Noise, dust and other building annoyances can be a concern, but once again these are bearable, particularly when you consider the bonus that comes at the end of the project.

Another thing that can put would be backyard developers off is a perceived lack of privacy. This is obviously an issue during construction with tradespeople wandering through your yard, but for many people, the concern is more about what happens once the project is complete.

If you are going to rent it out then you will have someone else living right behind you. They will now effectively ‘own’ that area for the duration of their rental period. But this is where quality design is so important. A well-designed backyard development can cleverly protect the privacy of both the property owner and the person/s who are renting the property at the back of the home.

By positioning walls in a certain way, slightly adjusting alignments and properly planning the garden areas of the home and townhouse, it’s possible to create an environment that’s actually less intrusive than that of your current existing neighbours. The advantage you have is that you’re designing this new dwelling to suit your privacy needs, unlike your existing neighbours who design their homes to suit their own needs.

How Do I Get Started?

If building a small scale investment property in your backyard is something that you’re interested in exploring, then the first step is to have dion seminara architecture conduct a feasibility study. As part of this study, we look at the numbers to give you an idea of potential costs, as well as assessing the suitability of your block for this style of development.

Some of the things that we look at are:

  • Zoning and implications
  • Other town planning issues
  • Council infrastructure charges and application fees
  • Service connections
  • Tiling options
  •  What sized dwelling, if any, can legally be built in your backyard?
  • What type of dwelling would best blend in with your existing home?
  • What type of tenants are you looking to rent to?
  • What type of dwelling would most appeal to that target market?
  • Does the block offer driveway access to the rear property?
  • Will the block need to be built up or levelled before a slab can be laid?
  • How will drainage be handled, along with sewerage, electricity and plumbing?
  • How can privacy be maintained whilst still creating desirable accommodation that people would want to rent?

Gaining approval for a development of this kind can be quite time-consuming. We discuss these and other issues with you to ensure you know what is going to be required.

It is vitally important that you understand that a high quality of design and construction is required if this is a longer-term investment. Simply throwing a townhouse in your backyard may increase the value of the property, but chances are one that has been designed by dion seminara architecture will give you even greater returns. You also need to consider the costs of maintenance and upkeep over the coming years. A well thought out, well-designed building will cost you significantly less in the long run which of course offers you greater returns.

A Place People Want To Live In

Another advantage of having dion seminara architecture design your new development for you is the fact that we understand what tenants want. It’s not enough to simply put a townhouse in your backyard and then try to rent it out. If you want the highest rental returns, with the highest occupancy rates, then you need to have a dwelling that has been designed to suit the needs and desires of your target market.

We have had extensive experience in this area. In fact, I have personally had more than 20 years experience as a landlord and property manager. I know what rents and what doesn’t. More importantly, I understand how to design dwellings that attract and retain quality tenants, not the type of riff-raff that you really don’t want to deal with.

So if you’re interested in exploring the possibilities for your home (and let’s face it, you should at least be considering it), then contact dion seminara architecture today to arrange a time for us to conduct a feasibility assessment on your property. It could be a very profitable move.

Dion Seminara Architect


Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.