The Victorian land lease operator has marked the birthday of its first community at Brookfield, 45km northwest of the Melbourne CBD, capping off 15 years of expansion to 20 communities built or under construction across the state.
See the video here.
With another two communities in the planning stage – and 3,750 homeowners – we asked CEO and founder James Kelly (pictured above) to reflect on the achievements – and challenges – of the past 15 years.
“Certainly, the biggest challenge in Victoria was that we were a very new industry and getting people to understand what the industry is about and the affordable housing and social benefits,” he said. “But that has also been one of our biggest success stories as well.”
James adds that bringing funders, whether the banks or capital funders, on that same journey, was similarly challenging yet ultimately successful.
Lifestyle is now ranked in the top 300 companies in Australia, which he describes as natural growth.
“We just kept doing what we’re doing but just doing it better and so it is good to see that we organically grew in that growth,” James said.
The CEO also credits their 55% referral rate on new homes and a focus on recruiting staff on a ‘culture first, competency second’ basis to meet their customer-centric approach for their success.
Softening real estate market creating opportunities to expand
Lifestyle is currently growing at a rate of two new sites a year with capital being recycled from one community to build the next and James is optimistic for the future as restrictions lift across Victoria.
“We are very focused in Victoria and will remain so,” he said. “We’re also starting to see more and more good land opportunities and I think the market is going to soften a bit with no immigration happening.”
He is also looking forward to continuing to evolve their product to meet the needs of the Baby Boomers that are now moving into their communities (see the image above of the new clubhouse at their Mount Duneed community).
“The next 10 years will be the most exciting as the Baby Boomers are much more likely to downsize,” he stated.
In his role as the Chair of the Residential Land Lease Alliance, James also continues to work alongside the Retirement Living Council (RLC) to lobby Government for a $25,000 downsizers grant, similar to the HomeBuilder grant currently on offer.
“It’s good policy for Government,” he concluded. “You’re freeing up more established homes for first home buyers and people tend to spend equity that is freed up – it’s just a matter of how you structure it.”
Expect to hear more on this issue then.