"People do more research before buying the plates"


Pace currently has nearly 1,800 homes under construction or under development, including 550 terraced houses in Sunshine and a luxury apartment development on the site of the Old Jockey House with views of the Flemington Racecourse, which he purchased from the Victorian Racing Club in 2017.

"We have just obtained the inheritance permit and we hope to go to the market at the Spring Racing Carnival this year," he said.

There are also four office towers on the construction site, with Pace soon to offer the market a $ 30 million project in Collingwood, after renting 80% of the building.

Despite the many challenges facing industry – from collapsing buildings to developer collapses – Pace is expanding on the assumption that strong population growth will support future housing demand,

"We have a clear strategy for the next five years, which must be in all sectors and grow the business".

Pace recently paid $ 20 million for a 2411-square-foot site at 223-231 Johnston Street in Fitzroy, with plans for mixed-use residential development.

It is also expanding its commercial development pipeline, triggering a 1300 square meter block on 6 Montrose Street in Hawthorn East, with plans for an office project of 3600 square meters.

Wilkinson said that Pace will also try to buy some of the sites offered by the failed Steller group.

"We are trying to spend $ 150 million on acquisitions over the next 12 months."

Although optimistic about the long-term prospects, Wilkinson states that the industry must regain buyer confidence.

"Bankruptcies like Opal Tower and Mascot receive a lot of publicity, but they are the few exceptions that contaminate the sector.

"Self-regulation does not work. We must set the rules for the lowest common denominator."

Wilkinson pointed the finger at the popular "design and construction" model used by many developers, where they acquire a site, get planning permission, market and sell apartments and then name "any Tom, Dick or Harry" to build it.

"This model doesn't work anymore. It has to change.

"You have the developer who sells you this beautiful apartment, but then they appoint a builder who is trying to maximize their profit margins. So there is this competitive and financial tension.

"In the case of Mascot Tower, you had the developer and the builder pointing fingers to each other, no one took responsibility, and engineers and surveyors blamed each other . "

Wilkinson, who has stopped studying for a Holmesglen TAFE building course "to my father's dismay" has avoided this approach since the beginning, with Pace being an end-to-end developer.

"We are a developer and a builder. We buy the land, we do the planning, the strategy and the vision, we do the marketing and the sales and we continue with the construction of the building itself."

It is an approach that has seen Pace complete over 2,000 homes spread over 100 projects and navigate the GFC and credit crunch.

"We are very traditional, we have just concluded an agreement with ANZ and another with CBA,

"We do not use non-bank loans, it is really easy if you have equity capital.

"The point at which you are stunned is when you have these exotic financing solutions that have a high cost and where there is no risk mitigation in the event of a fall in pre-sales."

Wilkinson said the buyer's interest has started to grow again, following the federal elections and the recent rate cuts, but sales remain difficult to guarantee.

"Our leads are up to 120 a week, from 40 in May, but many of them don't close. Customers are worried about things like construction quality."


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