Catch Up With John Meagher

John Meagher has been involved with some of the most iconic and successful residential developments in Australia. He’s sold more than 20,000 residential properties. In his spare time, you can find him paddling in a Bayside Melbourne suburb with his mates.

How long have you been in off-the-plan residential sales and marketing?

A: I’ve been in this industry for 30 years. A lot has changed in that time. We were the first off-the-plan firm riding on the back of the 1980s office boom. At the time, leading banks were doubtful that the off-the-plan sector would last. Yet here we are, thriving as an industry, all these years later.

Q: How many states do you operate in?

A: Our head office is in Victoria, and we also operate in New South Wales and Queensland. We’ve recently completed a project in Adelaide, which has been an outstanding success.

Q: How has Covid-19 affected the market? 

A: The pandemic has of course changed the way people view their primary residence as we’ve all reconnected with nature and green spaces. It’s changed the way people operate and think about where they live, which has had a remarkable impact on the real estate market.

Employees have had the chance to prove that they can do their job from home, and they want truly flexible working environments through this difficult period. There’s also been a huge shift to regional areas and a mass exodus of city apartments.

The pandemic has also changed the design and construction style of offices and residential homes.

Q:  Have some cities or states benefited at the expense of others?  

A: Absolutely, the impact of lockdowns differ depending on the state. The housing market has obviously been incredibly robust throughout the Covid period, while a large number of developments in regional areas have done incredibly well.

Regional areas are benefitting from growth as people shift outside of city areas as they look to save more cash amid the economic uncertainty we’re facing as a nation.  People are disconnecting from CBD areas to a degree as they chase affordability, particularly younger families. This shift will be with us for a while yet.

Q: Off-the-plan sales are something of a specialised area of the market. What would you say purchasers are predominantly looking for today versus what they were looking for, say two years ago?

A: Two years ago, most of the demand for off-the-plan was being driven by investors who were buying into large apartment towers in CBD developments. That market has slowed dramatically due to a lack of international students and rolling border closures.

We’re also seeing fewer CBD developments released to the market, while a lot of the product out there has been snapped up by the build-to-rent institutional investors.

As we’ve come out of lockdowns, we’ve seen surges of interest across Australia, because there’s a limited supply of stock, particularly at the premium end of the market.

The downsizing market has been strong for premium off-the-plan; we’re breaking records all the time. Not just on a rate per square metre, but also on the price point, because these downsizers are hungry for larger apartments in lifestyle locations.

Q: Can you see looming supply issues as excess stock currently in the market is taken up or would you say the market is still well supplied?

A: There will definitely be a lack of stock in the future once borders open, no doubt. If you drive through the CBD Melbourne, there’s a distinct lack of cranes in the sky.

Developers have walked away from a number of projects over the last 18 months, leaving a gap that will need filling once international borders open again.

There will be unmet demand for CBD apartments once borders open up, which will drive prices up.

Q: Is immigration a big factor in the off-the-plan sales market?

A: Most definitely. Often, their parents choose to invest in apartments here while their children are studying in Australia, but the stock won’t be there. They may be buying in the inner-city lifestyle suburbs instead.

Inner city suburbs will continue to perform well because of the assets and employment opportunities they offer.

Q: What’s your prediction for prices when immigration eventually resumes? 

A: The strong price growth experienced in regional areas will cool once immigration resumes, and continue in CBD centres, which will continue to perform well.

Meanwhile, our ageing demographic, who hold the balance of wealth in Australia, will continue to downsize into luxury apartments on the city fringes for some years to come.

Q: Outside of business where do you find the most enjoyment? 

A: I’m a father of four children (aged 20, 15, 14 and 10), and my beautiful wife is a personal trainer, so we’re a very fit and healthy family. We love surfing and have a holiday home on the coast, which we visit when we can.

I’ve always loved connecting with the local community of Bayside Melbourne. While lockdowns haven’t been easy, it’s been great to be able to run along the beach tracks and paddle my racing ski in the bay with the other paddlers in our local area.