Real estate runs in Andrew’s blood. He grew up pricing properties on the city streets of Brisbane, and his father is still a licensed real estate agent after 50 years. And now, this self-confessed property nerd is building a strong presence for Assetline in Melbourne – helping Victorian developers access more reliable sources of alternative funding.
We asked Andrew to share a few things he’s picked up in his 20-plus years working in property.
As Director responsible for Assetline’s fast-growing Victorian business arm, what excites you most about this opportunity?
There’s a genuine business need. Over the last few years, I’ve had so many conversations with small and mid-sized developers who were being underserviced by the banks. I think non-bank lending has been relatively ad hoc in Melbourne, and when you’re raising capital you can’t afford delays between the deal offer and closing.
Assetline is committed to this market with a permanent on-the-ground function that includes business development, pre-settlement and post-loan management – and access to Assetline’s back-of-house processing power and balance sheet. I think our business in Melbourne will be as substantial as Sydney’s – there’s such huge potential. That’s certainly my goal. And we’re off to a good start – we just closed Assetline’s largest construction deal, on a site in Richmond.
For me, property is a shell for people – you need to know how demographics and behaviour work, and respond to those trends. That’s what drives price – it’s not just the building, but where it is, and why people will want to be there.
What’s driving Melbourne’s property market right now – and where do you see that potential in the near future?
The past 10 years have been about population growth, migration and international education in a city with the ‘most-liveable’ tag. Covid put all that on pause, but owner-occupiers, upsizers, upgraders and first homebuyers have been active, especially in the middle and outer ring. And while apartments haven’t been as strong, they are picking up again because the house price differential is widening.
I expect we’ll soon see pick-up again in the inner city areas. Once everyone is vaccinated and able to get back to pubs and bars, and the buzz of living in places like St Kilda and Fitzroy returns, so will interest. And we’ll see that in commercial assets too – we are seeing a lot of potential in small boutique offices and mixed-use developments in city fringe areas, like Richmond and Cremorne.
This is where Assetline is well positioned to help, with construction funding in the $3 million to $40 million range, and low or no presale requirements for the right construction deals.
How would a colleague sum you up in a few words?
I’m collaborative, pragmatic and innovative. I actually did four years PhD study, although I didn’t complete my doctorate. It gave me the discipline to take lots of disparate ideas and connect them together in new ways, to tell a different story.
What are the most interesting and important things you’ve learned in your career?
I love thinking at scale – I worked on a project in Dubai designed to house 1.3 million people, where we had to consider the mind-blowing logistics of getting everyone out of a 1 million sqm shopping centre at once. And I also love thinking deeply about bespoke design on smaller projects. For me, property is a shell for people – you need to know how demographics and behaviour work, and respond to those trends. That’s what drives price – it’s not just the building, but where it is, and why people will want to be there.
From a leadership point of view, I’m all about building relationships. Deals are not just a transaction. They’re a conversation. That’s where I can bring a bit more to the table, because I’m from the developer’s world. For example, if I don’t think the exit strategy is going to get you where you need to be with a valuation, I can help you think about it differently.
What brought you to Melbourne?
When the GFC hit, we thought about moving from Dubai to Ireland, where my wife is from, but decided on Australia. She’d never been here. I heard La Trobe University was looking for someone to help them turn their campus into a new university city. And I loved that large-scale thinking, so I jumped on it.
And what excites you most about leading Assetline in Victoria into its next chapter of growth?
When I was doing some consultancy work for Assetline, I really liked the consistency and certainty of what they provided. It’s a very strong head office team with a 10-year established track record – but still a start-up mindset, a growth mentality. We take nothing for granted. Every day we’re talking about deals in Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, working on this collectively. It’s incredibly motivating.