FROM EIGHTH to seventh to sixth, Marwan Rahme has gone up a place each year, he jokes, and so in six more years he could reach the top. Yet Rahme could be seeing a number one finish quite a bit sooner than that, if his reading of the market turns out to be correct.
Kanebridge Capital is based in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills, at the heart of the recent Sydney construction boom and – in recent months – its virtual hibernation. As Rahme sees it, banks “[have] almost – and in brackets almost – closed in the last six months, which has forced the developers and builders to seek other funding … our expertise is needed and warranted, which makes getting clients a lot easier.”
In addition to an established reputation, Kanebridge has a number of other assets that put it in a position to do well. It has an existing database of developers, many of them repeat clients who have recently found themselves turned down by banks and in need of Rahme’s help. It has long had an in-house quantity surveyor, and recently signed up an architect to be a full-time development manager. These specialists are invaluable, Rahme explains. “Having someone like that in-house allows us to give feedback to the developer about what he needs to change early on to get funding, rather than leaving it to the last minute.”
“The development doesn’t proceed unless it gets funded; it doesn’t get funded unless there are presales in place”
Having in-house specialists has been central to Kanebridge’s unique value proposition; however, there are good reasons for other brokers to follow this approach. “The development doesn’t proceed unless it gets funded; it doesn’t get funded unless there are presales in place.” Small, pokey apartments might have sold 18 months ago, but “these days buyers are a lot smarter; they’re looking for true value”. Developers have to work smarter to provide that value, he says, reducing useless space, such as hallways, wherever possible.
There’s also an overwhelming demand for efficiency from funders, Rahme says. “The biggest thing today is reducing construction costs, because construction costs have gone up.” Kanebridge estimates costs have risen by 15–20% over the past 24 months.
Beyond adding much-needed expertise, the act of taking on a new development manager during hard times is in itself a statement. “What we’re predicting is a loosening up of credit,” Rahme explains. “We believe liquidity will be more extensive and the banks will have more funds to lend in Sydney. In-house, our analysts don’t believe this is a long-term funding issue.” A lack of starts over the last six months, matched with continuing demand, low interest rates and thus repayments, and banks beginning to see a payoff from earlier construction booms, means Kanebridge is “gearing up … to deal with the infl ux which we believe is round two or three of the Sydney property boom”.