There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a new home. Location, price, convenience and community all play a part in the decision-making process. Then there’s the inevitable question over whether to buy or build.
For those wavering on that last point, there are now thousands of additional reasons to start searching for that perfect block of land thanks to a range of new or expanded government grants.
Designed to provide a much-needed boost to the residential construction industry in the wake of COVID-19, the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder scheme provides eligible owner-occupiers with a grant of $25,000 to build a new home.
The time-limited program applies to building contracts signed between June 4 and December 31 this year, with construction required to start within three months of the contract date. While income caps and property value limits also apply to this scheme, it’s a huge boost for eligible applicants looking to build a new home.
There’s even more support on offer from the Federal Government for first home buyers, such as the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. This can potentially help people afford to buy land and build sooner by decreasing the minimum deposit required to secure a loan and eliminating the need to pay thousands of dollars in lenders mortgage insurance.
The State Government is also chipping in to help more first homeowners build new homes, with a $10,000 grant under the First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) scheme.
First home buyers can potentially save thousands of dollars on stamp duty as well as part of the State Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, which is designed to support the property and construction industry by providing incentives for more people to buy or build a new home.
Changes to the existing First Home Buyers Assistance scheme came into effect on August 1, which included increasing the threshold at which stamp duty kicks in when you purchase vacant land to build a new home.
Depending on the value of the land, the changes could save buyers more than $13,000 in additional fees.
Someone who understands more than most the importance of these government grants is McCloy Group Managing Director Brian Swaine.
The McCloy Group has been developing residential estates across the Hunter for more than 30 years, and Brian said there has never been a better time to build a new home thanks to the current incentives.
“The moment to buy land and build is now,” he said.
“The opportunities that both levels of government are now providing via HomeBuilder and other government grants for first home buyers and stamp duty exemptions are second to none.
“I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen any sort of government stimulus packages like the current ones.”
Based in Newcastle, McCloy Group is one of the Hunter’s largest private property developers. The family-owned business is a well-known and trusted name within the industry, with a legacy that spans both construction and property development.
One of McCloy’s early successes was the construction of the $150 million John Hunter Hospital, which was delivered a year ahead of schedule.
In the 1990s, the McCloy Group diversified and began developing residential estates. One of its earliest ventures was the 420-lot Green Point estate at Belmont, closely followed by the award-winning Northlakes Estate in Cameron Park. This master-planned residential community features 1494 homesites set amongst 110 hectares of bushland and was awarded the coveted National Urban Taskforce award for “Masterplanned Community” in 2012.
The company has built its reputation on transforming underutilised spaces into award-winning residential land estates where communities thrive, and people love to live.
Brian said the McCloy Group spend a lot of time envisioning what they want to produce within each estate.
“We like to take a step back, and master plan each site so that it’s had everything considered, from access, road and pedestrian connections to open space, neighbourhood parks, recreation, the whole box and dice,” he said.
“It’s more taking a holistic view and trying to optimise the assets of each piece of land, so whether it’s views, whether it’s sloping, whatever the sites’ constraints are, we don't see them as a constraint, we try to see them as an opportunity and master plan the best outcome for that piece of land.”
The master planning process is also about creating a sense of community in each residential development.
“We have a strong focus on things that give our residential communities their own identity,” Brian said.
“Everything from marketing initiatives like the names of estates and street names, right through to things like public art, entry features and the landscaping is all tailored individually to each project.
“It’s about creating its own identity so that when our residents come home after work in the afternoon, they feel like they've got their own identity and their own little neighbourhood.
“Enhancing that sense of community and interaction between residents is also something we try to do through various initiatives, such as creating Facebook groups for each estate.
“We have lots of open space, neighbourhood parks, urban bushland where people can go for a walk. We try to integrate the community, so everyone just doesn't come home, close their garage door and stay inside; we want people to get out and about and interact.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted the need for communities to have easy access to amenities and open spaces, making estates with these types of features even more appealing to those looking to build their dream home and ideal lifestyle.
McCloy Group is renowned for incorporating these aspects into their master planning, such as at Heritage Parc near Maitland, where the company built a community dedicated to natural open space, with 11 parks and playgrounds proposed and expansive waterways interconnected by cycleways and walking tracks. The estate was named the “best residential development” at the 2014 Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) Awards for Excellence.
“People are looking for that healthy lifestyle, active lifestyle,” Brian said.
“They want to be well-located, close to recreational opportunities, but also have things on their doorstep where they can, at short notice, go for a walk, take the dog for a walk, take the kids down to the playground, all those sorts of things.
“We’re expecting in a post-COVID world that people will be even more conscious about their living environment and it being multi-functional so that they can work from home and live at home. They can recreate, they can work, and they can play.”
Carefully selected public art installations are also a prominent aspect within all McCloy communities.
The initiative, which is driven by Group Chairman Jeff McCloy, is viewed as a vital element of every community’s cultural foundation.
The art is distinctive to each estate, with statement entry features and installations that resonate with the community in which they live, such as Billy’s Lookout in the lakeside town of Teralba.
An abundance of art all connected to the lakeside lifestyle is scattered throughout the 70.9-hectare estate. From a boastful cockatoo, two giant pelicans and nautical displays that include pieces titled ‘Fish’ and ‘Anchor’, the art demonstrates Billy’s Lookout’s relaxed lifestyle – where the sea meets the bush.
Similarly, at The Bower in Medowie, there’s a creative display of Australian wildlife from bower birds to koalas and large kangaroos, which have been incorporated into its one-hectare park, playground and adult exercise area for the enjoyment of children and adults alike.
“It comes back to that sense of belonging,” Brian said.
“Jeff McCloy has a passion for public art and the sense of community that it creates. People really appreciate it and the effort that goes into it, so we try to provide it as a key feature of our communities because it really gives our residents that sense of identity… they identify with that piece of art, and they’re very protective of it and like to look after it.”
Brian said all the various amenities offered within these master-planned communities make a distinct difference to people looking to buy land and build.
“There’s plenty of choice in the Hunter. We’re not the only people providing opportunities to build a home,” he said.
“People decide for themselves where they’d like to live, and the location is obviously still a high priority for people because they want to be close to their existing family networks and where they work, all those sorts of things.
“But when it comes down to choosing between us and our competitors, we think those extra one-percenters do make a difference.
“We also find these things influencing the people who end up on our repeat buyer program, where we provide a discount for people that have bought with us a second, third, and fourth time.
Another new estate heading to the market this year is Hereford Hill, Lochinvar, situated on a 25-hectare parcel of land off the New England Highway, which will see approximately 280 new homesites created in the local community.
Brian said McCloy Group is currently staging development of more than 6200 residential home sites in 18 residential communities across the Hunter, New England and Northern Rivers regions, which are located close to major high-growth regional centres such as Newcastle, Maitland, Lake Macquarie, Tamworth, Armidale and Lismore.
He said the central location of the Hunter and it’s affordability compared to the Sydney market will ensure demand stays strong across the region now and in the future.
“We've just recently released stage one at The Gardens at Medowie, and it was very well-received by the market,” Brian said.
“I think 20 out of 22 homesites sold on the morning that we released them and we even had a number of people camping out for up to a week.
“Hereford Hill at Lochinvar will commence construction on stage one in the coming months, and we hope to have lots of home sites available to the market in about nine months.
“Lochinvar’s very much a rural lifestyle but still very close to the conveniences of Maitland. Generally speaking, it will appeal to people looking for that wider open space, perhaps larger lot sizes and the convenience and the quiet village atmosphere.
“We’ve got projects in more regional areas of New South Wales, right up to the Far North Coast, but we’re very much focused on the Lower Hunter right now.
“We will continue to have people migrating out of Sydney up here to the Hunter as we have hospitals, schools, all the resources that people want.
“We see the Lower Hunter’s future as being very bright.”
To find out more about McCloy Group’s residential communities, as well as details on the government grants available to eligible owner-occupiers looking to buy land to build, visit www.mccloygroup.com.au
Top: The Bower, Medowie
Above: Bower Park, Medowie
Above: Potter's Lane
Above: Heritage Parc