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Is That The Best You Can Do?

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Recently, a friend texted me a link to the sale listing of the home in which she grew up, and it got me thinking about how we use the resources we have.

You see, in what seems like a previous lifetime, I studied property valuation for a year. I was pretty good at it, getting 100% in all my assignments. There was an expression we'd use, to sum up the aim of a good valuation:

Highest and best use.

It means, not to assume that what is obvious is the best use of a parcel of land. The concept can be applied to anything in life, but let's stick with the real estate analogy.

I remember a valuation I did for an assignment, of a little house in a suburban street in Sydney. Single storey, old; you might think to knock it down and build another house.

But in looking closer at zoning around the neighbourhood, it could have been multiple storeys, or even mixed use. Together with a next door neighbour's house, there could have been a development.

None of these simple ideas would have been possible without that deeper investigation.

It's like my friend's place. One person might see it as a great family home that could use a little TLC and a personal touch to make it your family home, complete with space for veggies, fruit trees and so much play area, the kids would be knackered before bedtime.

I look at it, and wish I had the money to buy and develop it myself!

First, it's a whole hectare.

Second, it's a flat block.

But, wait, I haven't told you the really fabulous stuff!

Not only is this place on a corner block, it has frontage on two of the best routes to one of Australia's most awesome areas - Port Stephens.

Opposite a service station, bakery bottle-shop and general store (known as Paul's Corner), it's located on the corner of Nelson Bay Road and Richardson Road. Oh, and did I mention it was less than 10 minutes drive from Newcastle Airport?

Let me give you an idea of what I'd do with this parcel, if I was a developer.

Underground, there'd be a carpark for residents, visitors, and other reserved spaces. The ground floor on one side (facing north, because it's the best residential aspect) would be town houses for over-55s. The other side would have the entrance to the carpark, a shopping centre and lifts to the upstairs suites. Those would accommodate a health hub. The top floors would then have 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units, and there'd be a penthouse on the top floor.

Some of those residences would be serviced apartments for health practitioners who visit for 2 days or more, as part of their contract to service the area, and for FIFO (fly in, fly out) commuters who use the airport. The reserved carspaces would be available for them as well. There'd be a car-charging hub down there too.

Now, that's my idea. It could become a big shopping centre (@Westfield, @GPT, @Stockland), or a central health hub (@NSWHealth, @NIB, @BUPA, @TeachersHealth).

My friend has said there's already been interest in a variety of other uses. Even "dry storage"!

My point is, we see what we want to see, and that can blind us to other possibilities.

And, life's like that. We see our relationships, jobs, homes, communities, everything, with the filter of our experiences and what we think we want.

Sometimes, life gives us a glimmer of what could be, if only we could open our minds to something else.

Right now, my friend is preparing to say farewell to her family home. She grew up there. Her Dad designed and built that place; and she, her mum and her siblings made all kinds of memories there.

It can be hard to say goodbye to something so significant. It might even be foreign, to hear someone like me (who's so sentimental) say that the attachment to my family home is gone now.

But, letting go doesn't mean forgetting. It just makes room for new memories. It forges energy to make them too. And ultimately, you get to see the possibilities that eluded you before.

My friend discovered plans that her father had drawn up professionally, which show he was pretty astute when it came to this particular piece of real estate. He didn't just see the home he created for his family all those years ago. He saw the future.

Can you guess what he imagined?


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