Real Story: Nathan Blackburne, Cedar Woods
21 December 2021
- Almost 20 years at Cedar Woods
- Managing director since 2017
- Born and raised in Perth, moved to Melbourne, and is now back in his hometown
Working at his father’s property development and real estate business growing up, Nathan Blackburne now introduces himself as the managing director at developer Cedar Woods. The Property Tribune spoke to Mr Blackburne about his career-to-date and his thoughts on challenges and future opportunities for the sector.
Mr Blackburne was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia.
“I did the only undergraduate degree available in property in Perth at the time in the early nineties, and that was a valuations and commerce degree.”
After the completion of his degree Nathan worked for a couple of companies, one doing property valuations, and the other managing retail and commercial assets in the city.
In 1998, he began to work with his father.
“We put together and worked on some really interesting projects like Burswood Lakes, Subiaco Square, and many smaller apartment projects in East Perth.
“So I cut my teeth on a range of mixed use and residential projects in Perth and got a taste for the sector there.”
Later, Mr Blackburne made the move to Melbourne to continue his career in property development.
While working for AV Jennings he was approached by Cedar Woods to start up their east-coast operations.
“I thought that this was a really fantastic opportunity because I knew the people who were running the business and members of the board, and I thought they were running a great business and had some very good quality assets.
“Particularly the asset that they held in Melbourne which was the former RAAF airbase in Laverton, which we later repositioned and renamed Williams Landing.
“So part of the key reason that I moved to Cedar Woods was the quality of that land holding and how transformational I thought it could be if we could reposition that project as a new suburb offering a town centre and residential neighbourhoods.”
In 2017 he became the managing director.
The extent of initiatives that Cedar Woods has underway at once is both challenging and thrilling, said Mr Blackburne.
“Other challenges are the people side of things. I say to my managers that people management is one of the most complex and there’s no-one-size-fits all management style.
“There’s a need to adapt and tailor your approach to the individuals that you’re overseeing.”
Diversity at Cedar Woods
Mr Blackburne notes the diversity of the developers products offerings makes it a harder business to manage compared to one that only has a single product in a single geography.
“But we like it the way it is with multiple product types in multiple jurisdictions because it’s more interesting and helps is generate a smoother earnings profile.”
While it is more common for a developer to focus on one area, Cedar Woods develops townhouses, apartments, land subdivisions, and commercial.
“It’s only in the last decade, though, that we’ve carved a niche for ourselves in the medium density residential space where we have purchased major infill locations delivering low rise apartments, and two- and three-storey townhouses on well located sites in inner and middle suburban areas.
“During COVID we’ve had record highs and record lows.”
He added it was a difficult period for Cedar Woods with the initial hit of COVID-19 in early 2020 and lockdowns.
“We didn’t know what the future held, sales had almost completely stopped, and it was very difficult with forecasting what the immediate future of the business looked like.”
The arrival of both state and federal stimuli completely transformed the new housing sector across the country.
“Combined, the amount of stimulus which was on offer around the country, but particularly Western Australia, propelled the industry to record sales volumes and levels of activity that it had never witnessed before.”
Cedar Woods plans to build their built-form, and east-coast portfolios.
He said, “We’ve got some great assets and great people across the country and I’m keen to leverage that to build the portfolios we have in each state.
“The business has a positive short and medium term outlook given the quality if the assets and the buoyant conditions we have around the country. We see the present conditions as presenting a great opportunity for our business to grow earnings in a sustainable way.”
In property development everyday is different, and you need to be across a lot of different technical areas to make each project a success, said Mr Blackburne when asked for advice about property development.
“We’re in the business of creating quality homes and thriving communities and this purchase decision that buyers are making is often the biggest financial and investment decision they will make in their lives.
“So I see it, and we see it as a company, as a privilege to be involved in that for our purchasers.”
(Source: The Property Tribune)