Hamlan Homes: Geelong’s Niche Builder

Hamlan Homes: Geelong’s Niche Builder

Born out of the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, Geelong-based builder Hamlan Homes originally assisted in re-building cedar-clad homes in Anglesea and along the Surf Coast, and has since played a significant role in various new communities throughout Victoria.

Today, the locally owned and operated business has established itself as the region’s preeminent builder with a particular niche for stunning coastal homes, split-level homes and custom builds, as well as everything in between.

Over the years, Hamlan has been involved with various government projects, including revitalisation projects at both Norlane and Heidelberg, as well as multi-million dollar development projects for some of Geelong’s elite.

At the helm of Hamlan Homes is general manager Andrew Carroll. After completing his Bachelor of Building and Bachelor of Construction Management, Mr Carroll began his working career with Hamlan back in 1997.

Gaining experience with several building companies over the years, Mr Carroll has worked in various roles within the construction industry, including production estimator, project manager, site supervisor, construction and building manager.

In 2013, Mr Carroll returned to the company as building manager before moving into his current role after just six months. Since then, he has overseen a brand facelift, driving Hamlan towards becoming a diversified builder, while remaining loyal to the local community within which it has successfully operated for over 30 years.

Stepping Stone

“When the bushfires went through Ash Wednesday in 1983,” Mr Carroll says, “that was the beginning of Hamlan as a bigger business. It started to grow with the rebuild of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet and surrounding coastal towns.”

Today, the same family owns the business as began it three decades ago. As a Geelong family, they have always tried to be a big part of the city, especially in terms of embracing the coastal sporting environment and actively supporting the community.

Hamlan Homes General Manager Andrew Carroll
Hamlan Homes General Manager Andrew Carroll

“From those coastal towns, there was a long time where it was mainly the timber-clad houses trying to accentuate the views. This design aspect was a main factor in the growth of Hamlan, making sure that we had suitable products to maximise the views.”

“From there, when the urban subdivisions started to grow around Geelong, we slowly moved into those sort of parameters. The long term relationship we’ve had with the government was probably one of the biggest drivers of our volume.”

To cater for the influx in government work, Hamlan began to work with smaller product, and from those beginnings the company started to push into developments in the Melbourne area, as well as into Ballarat and regional Victoria.

“It was probably a stepping stone,” Mr Carroll explains, “capitalising on the rebuilds after the unfortunate Ash Wednesday, and as that got built out, and continues to be built out now, we then began to move into other types of development.”

Looking to the Future

The company’s plan is to launch an exciting new range of homes in early 2016. While not considered a volume builder, Hamlan is the largest locally owned and operated builder in the region. The new designs are set to keep the company ahead of the building game.

Over the last 25 years, the business has been very much driven by the market, as developments have become available. In the last three years, since Mr Carroll has re-joined Hamlan, the company has restructured its business in several ways.

“We’re releasing new product in 2016,” Mr Carroll tells us, “for Hamlan Homes, this is a whole new design range, and we’ve been working hard on it the last eighteen months to two years.”

The company continues to work with valued clients through its architectural-design service, a core part of the business. With its dedicated team and personalised service, Hamlan has designed and built some of the most breathtaking homes in the Geelong region from scratch.

Internally, Hamlan Homes has recently re-structured personnel to increase productivity and keep the business moving forward, and recent investments in construction and core management systems will allow the business to capitalise on growth efficiencies.

The company will also be expanding its corporate social responsibility efforts in the region, as well as partnering with not-for-profit organisations to ensure that the business is contributing positively to the local community.

The growth plan for the next five years involves being more selective with custom clients, ensuring the company has the capabilities to service those clients that want to spend the right amount of money and receive the level of exceptional quality they require.

“We’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but we understand that clients want options. Our new design range is looking at the development of standard plans, but having expanded options that can be bolted onto these homes.”

With an excellent track record of sales over the years, Mr Carroll admits the key is keeping the standard products that clients have been satisfied with in the past, offering custom homes whilst still working within standard parameters to achieve efficiency.

“In doing that,” Mr Carroll explains, “we can then capitalise on the growth of the Geelong region, and into the west of Melbourne, where there’s been a lot of growth over the last two years.”

After dying off a little half a decade ago, prices in west Melbourne are becoming affordable again, with competition for land increasing. Hamlan intends to return to the market next year to capitalise on the change.

Hamlan Home is recognised for their stunnning coastal homes.
Hamlan Home is recognised for their stunnning coastal homes.

“We’re a Geelong-based business, and we want to maintain and grow market share in this region, growth largely made possible due to the expansion of Armstrong Creek, the biggest growth corridor in Australia. This is a great opportunity for our business to capitalise on.”

These growth initiatives are intended to help the company continue to perform well in the area, whilst also competing with bigger builders. As a medium-sized builder, the company wants to make sure not to lose touch with Geelong-based customers, whilst still growing.

“Geelong is a small city in itself, but it still maintains the small town mentality. Our clients are looking for local, knowledgeable and friendly customer service. Price is still an important factor, but it isn’t the number one factor.”

The company’s long term relationship with the government has seen Hamlan look to create efficiencies in its offerings to the government, making sure that the specific requirements for affordable building are adhered to and work is delivered on time.

“The quicker we can build the homes,” Mr Carroll says, “the sooner the tenants can move in. This helps the government, but also helps us to try and be on the cutting edge of development, and service a niche market.”

Industry Issues

With focus firmly on volume building and a large number of residential land lots set to title over the next five years, Hamlan Homes plans to capitalise on unprecedented growth in Geelong and the surrounding regions, cementing its status as Geelong’s preeminent builder.

The company has earmarked opportunities for subdivisions in more established areas of the
region, presenting the chance to re-invest in the local area. This is parallel to recent council support for inner-city living and plans to upgrade local infrastructure and amenities.

Furthermore, recent statistics have shown a shift towards home build prices upwards of $400,000. This market popularity lends itself to Hamlan’s coastal, split-level and custom products.

The amount of lots opening up in subdivisions has been a significant issue in the region, especially as the standard lot size block has changed, and is continuing to change. A normal 16 by 32 block size is considered big in today’s terms.

“As developers want to establish a niche market themselves,” Mr Carroll explains, “they are trying to cut up blocks in a different fashion, so we have to keep abreast of these changes, whilst still adhering to council regulations.”

This means the company’s product needs to be constantly changing to meet the demands of the industry, something Mr Carroll admits Hamlan hasn’t done particularly well in the past, but is now seeing a great improvement in.

“That’s why we’ve really worked hard over the last eighteen months to make sure we have the right contacts with developers, and being close to them gives the industry and other builders the ability to have an offering for the client that is best suited to the block size.”

The industry itself has also struggled to adapt to this change, Mr Carroll suggests, with the exception of the bigger builders, which have a better stance in the market, as they are more needed by developers and therefore afforded more opportunities.

“The good thing about it is that the industry is more open, the developer and the builder. So we need to be smarter with our product, and we need to align ourselves with our developer to make sure that they’re selling land, and we’re selling houses.”

This increased communication between parties means developers will have less opportunity to procrastinate over a block, because the product will be provided more easily, meaning both builder and developer can work more efficiently.

“In that sense I think the industry’s changed a little bit,” Mr Carroll adds. “Smaller builders have more of a chance than the bigger builders now, and we find that we can move quickly with the market because of our size.”

Bigger builders that are doing around 1,000 homes per year are finding it more difficult to push this change because of their size, whereas Hamlan’s output of about 200 homes per year has put the company in a better position to capitalise on the change.

These increased opportunities for smaller builders have coincided with a fresh enthusiasm for investment in the area, especially coming from groups such as ‘Mum and Dad’ buyers, who are looking for new ways into property development.

“Because of inner-city living, not everyone wants to go out to a new estate, even though they are nice places to live, they’ve got their gardens, they’ve got their lakes, they’ve got their shopping centres, but they’re all new and they’re not established.”

“So, the Mum and Dad buyers are starting to look at knock-down rebuilds, as well as sub-dividing larger lots, while still maintaining a three-bedroom home, but compromising on the garden space.”

Mr Carroll believes that there is an opportunity here, similar to the work Hamlan is doing with the government, to get better yields on current stocks for investors, who are creating new assets as well as turning over market funds by selling a product.

“Mum and Dad investors are exactly the same. They’re buying a corner lot, or a long block, and then knocking the house down and putting two to three homes on it, or using a side driveway, so there’s an opportunity on both ends.”

Mr Carroll admits it is great to have diversity and depth in the company’s development in regional Victoria, but it is also exciting to see Mum and Dad buyers coming back into the market and sensing an opportunity to make some money in addition to their everyday jobs.

In order to push understanding of its work in investments, the company tries to create opportunities on REA, through property websites, getting Hamlan’s name out there so clients know that it will work on investment opportunities to earn them maximum yield.

“We’ve got about 6 to 10 plans that actually work really well as standard plans, on these types of subdivision lots,” Mr Carroll says. “So it gives our clients the opportunity to simplify the process.”

Geelong based Hamlan Homes is looking to solidify its position as the regions preeminent builder.
Geelong based Hamlan Homes is looking to solidify its position as the regions preeminent builder.

Major Projects

One of the company’s major recent projects was the Star of the Sea development in Torquay, where Hamlan partnered with Villa Maria Catholic Homes, a not-for-profit organisation, to build a retirement village.

“That’s been a great project because it’s been in progress for five years. It’s seen capital growth within it’s own delivery, and they’ve had generous increases in their sale prices, which is great for them.”

The program was design and construct, meaning Hamlan worked closely with the developer, selling on the plans, which were tweaked depending on client needs. This was facilitated by Hamlan’s position as a quick, small company capable of delivering in this way.

“That project has recently finished, with the whole build being 91 homes. There are lots of opportunities like this one in the Armstrong Creek area, and off the back of the Star of the Sea success, we get good referrals from them and a happy client.”

The village boasts first-class facilities and amenities within the renowned lifestyle destination of Torquay, with architecturally designed homes featuring gourmet kitchens, spacious living, plus quality fixtures and fittings, making them a highly desirable option for seniors.

A further key project, the Bancoora series, is a modular project designed two years ago, which was set up for the coastal market. The series incorporates two stunning display homes at Armstrong in Mt Duneed, plus an additional two-storey home at Zeally Sands in Torquay.

“The intent was when we look through any window in the home that we see a vista,” Mr Carroll says. “They’re all based on an internal courtyard, so going back to the 1960s Californian style of home, that were very simple.”

The major feature of the home was to ‘bring the outside in’. Replacing the traditional Australian backyard is a framed internal yard that the whole house points to, with all bedrooms, dining and family rooms looking into a central courtyard.

“That’s been a really good product for us. It’s a flat roof coastal home, and it picks up a lot of timbers both inside and outside of the home. The feature timber panelling is definitely a highlight.”

Quite often, high concepts like this one might prove too expensive for some clients, who will take from it certain features and leave the rest. Mr Carroll says it is comforting to know that clients have seen the design and want to have all of it, regardless of cost.

“From a locational design point of view, it’s been a success, and we’ve seen that being pushed into urban environments, in the knockdown/rebuild scenario. Clients have then picked that whole feel up and moved it around to suit their needs.”

Raised ceilings, pop-up clearstories, expansive glass façade and extended vistas are just some of the architectural design elements employed to capture the essence of a beach house, showcasing Hamlan’s architectural, custom design-and-construct service capabilities.

Hamlan has established itself as the master of split-level homes that work with the lay of the land to minimise site costs and maximise views. Offering short flights of stairs and zoned living for noise control, Hamlan’s split-level homes can be found dotted across the region.

No project showcases Hamlan’s particular talent for split-level designs more than a recently constructed home in Newtown, a project which presented many challenges, including more than 9m of fall over the site.

“Split-level product is something that we do a lot of,” Mr Carroll explains. “With this particular product, it was not just the fact that it was split-level, but it also had budgetary constraints as well.”

In Newtown, Hamlan faced a tough build. The clients had a budget, but owned a whole block, meaning they went back and forth on what they could afford. Hamlan had to deal with the constraints of the block, while also designing around the family’s distinct requirements.

“We had strict design issues in regards to the slope of the land,” Mr Carroll adds, “but it was also imperative to ensure the home was functional for the family and had a striking street appeal.”

Hamlan Homes stands out as a local business that is genuinely passionate about the community in which it operates, having formed strong partnerships with various local community groups, sporting clubs and charity organisations.

With over 30 years of experience in the local market and a proud history etched along the Great Ocean Road, Hamlan Homes has played a substantial role in the evolution of Geelong and the Surf Coast region, and will continue to do so well into the future.

This Hamlan Homes business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:
Fagg’s Mitre 10
M.B. Pre-Fab Framing
Panelift Garage Doors by B&D
Volare Concepts

To view the editorial as it originally appeared in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.

Editorial written by Nicholas Paul Griffin.