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Matt Berg: Where is the Australian Build to Rent market looking for inspiration?

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Welcome to A New Lease OF Life, a sub-series of the devcast… podcast, where you’ll be learning how experts of the BTR, PRS, student accommodation and retirement living sectors climbed the ladder of their professions.

Hosted by Nick Hammond, Head of Build to Rent at deverellsmith. Our guest in the studio this time is from a land down under...

Following 17 years in the property industry, Matt Berg co-founded Local in 2021, shaking up the market by bringing an authentic Australian Build to Rent brand to Australia. Matt’s career has seen him structure and fund over $4bn of developments. He’s been in the Australian Build to Rent sector for the past 9 years and can be credited with the origination and delivery of over 3,000 apartments.

Where it all began…

Matt’s professional career started in the valuation space working for the likes of CBRE and JLL as a tenant rep. This very quickly evolved into Matt working in the development world, first as an analyst with a big builder. This bought him exposure to lots of different asset classes, opening his horizons to what opportunities were available within the property industry. 2014 was the first time Matt had exposure to Build to Rent, winning the Commonwealth Games Village project which was held on the gold coast. This was a massive project with 1250 units and was delivered as a build to rent asset.


What’s attractive about the Build to Rent market?

The residential space is something that everyone can relate to, as everyone lives in a home or apartment. Matt shared that Australians are obsessed with property, and even though he lives in a house he is always looking at other houses on the market. Build to Rent combines the fundamental grass roots side of property, with the nuts and bolts of commercial, retail or industrial.


An update on the Australian Build to Rent market.

Matt shared that PBSA was always about 7 years behind the UK market. This may sound like a disadvantage, but it enables them to decide what they like or don’t like and witness the mistakes that the UK have made and learn from them. He shares this is the same when applied to the Build to Rent market, when they were building the Commonwealth Games Village in 2014, the UK had already built that asset with the London Olympics in 2012.

In terms of the state of the market, Matt shares that the build to sell market began to slow down from around 2018/19, when the offshore purchases that existed to fuel that market on the residential side of things slowed down. Build to Rent is the only asset class right now that is firing on the residential side of things, and because of that rather than being quite a niche market in Australia, it has become potentially the only solution to solving housing affordability.