The influencers: Shane Wilkinson

Market Insights
7 years ago
6 minutes

From humble beginnings buying his first property at the tender age of 21, to the director behind a multi-million dollar development company, Shane Wilkinson has established himself as a leading player in Melbourne’s property scene. Here, the man behind Pace Development Group talks to Apartment Developments about his journey, shoddy developers bringing down the industry, and where he visualises the future of the industry.

How did you start in the property game? 

Well, my dad’s a builder and my mum is an estate agent, so I’ve been surrounded by it from a very young age.

At the age of 21, I bought my first house, renovated it and put a unit at the back, and then I did another one, but this time, we built 2 units, instead of one. The next was 3, and I guess from there, it just grew. I’ve been a qualified builder now, for, now almost 20 years.

Ultimately, we did a few renovations for some other people, and whilst it was fulfilling, we decided to just do work for ourselves, and basically tried to do the best we could, and we really pushed the limit. We had borrowings up to our chins for many, many years, and just built the business into revenues. I still own the business, 100% of it. I haven’t sold any of it, and we don’t do any partnerships, and none of our projects are joint ventures. They’re all owned outright.

We make decisions autonomously, and we don’t have to refer to anybody, but we do hold all the responsibility.

Today, we now have 70 employees, with a turn over of at least $150 million a year. But in the end, I love it - whether it be looking for new sites, or composing and constructing a new development, I’m entrenched in it all.

What is coming up for Pace, and what do you need to stand by? 

Well, over the next 5 years, what we, as Pace Development Group, really need to find out is; why are people buying our properties? With us, our customer care doesn’t just stop after settlement - as we have a maintenance division, where we have at least 8 people driving around in vans ready to come inspect any slight occurrence at any of our many apartments in Melbourne, these maintenance members are more than just maintenance, they are a representation of what I see Customer Care to be, and will actively try and facilitate any concerns a buyer may have.

Unlike almost anyone else, we do all our own building - so the chance of any delays or hiccups is significantly reduced. We control the site, the time framing, as well as the aesthetic that the initial architect has proposed - we do really pride ourselves on quality.

For instance, with the Icon building, we purposely chose to spend an extra few million dollars on ensuring that the facade of the building could withstand the ages, rather than wearing out after a few years.

We want our customers to see value in the Pace Development Group. It really is hard to converse, but we really do just care about our buyers and our properties - and filtering that philosophy all the way through every facet of the business.

We don’t have those arguments you hear about between developer, builder & the owner - so there are no broken promises, or pointing the blame, and in those situations there really is only one person who cops it, and that is the client. So for us, from design, to renting our properties out for buyers, Pace Development Group has their hand ready to serve. 

How far do you look ahead? 

At least five or six years. And the industry as a whole should do well, with a little bit of hurt. There are some players involved in the industry that really don’t deserve to be playing at all.

I assume you’re referring to some shoddy developers who, in a sense, are dragging the public’s perception of the industry, down with them?

Yeah, that’s definitely one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that they are paying large amounts of money for sites, which you cannot possibly make profit out of it.

When we are competing for sites, there are some people who don’t understand the market, or the industry, who are paying money for sites that are unfeasible as far as I am concerned. If you are stretching the dollar that much when it comes to that, imagine what they’re doing to make up those costs.

Pace aren't as CBD centric as others, with Pace's sprawl extending out towards Mentone and Abbotsford, is there a reason? 

Pace Development Group is definitely more city-fringe rather than right in the CBD, and that’s by choice. From Windsor, to St Kilda, to Abbotsford, to Collingwood to Mentone - rather than those tight communities closer to the city.

Is foreign investment something you come across quite regularly, particularly in these developments in the suburbs? 

We have quite a low foreign investment rate comparatively to the rest of the market, as we are at around 15-18% of our buildings being foreign investment. In some cases, it even drops down to 3-4%. At 181 Fitzroy St, we have 90% owner-occupiers, with the remaining 10% being investors.

Are those (low) numbers reflected by the locations of the developments? 

Whilst I would like to take the credit for it, it is the position. Particularly with 181 Fitzroy, its perks are that it is north-facing, over looking the park, with 100 apartments facing one way, and another 60 facing the other. With all the standard amenities, as well as cold and warm food stores for when people get food delivered, plus all the NBN and high-internet speed capabilities that one should expect from an A1, A-Grade developer in 2016. 

So if you forget all of that for a minute, you then have to consider how can I condition and package those qualities with others to make it a really good apartment development? How does someone actually enjoy living in their apartment, or owning their apartment and renting it out, and function?

When competition increases (at the moment it is pretty high), it becomes tougher and tougher.article-image

To enquire about Pace Development's latest project 808-818 Sydney Road, click here