5 minutes with Nicheliving

Nicheliving is a multi-faceted and diverse property group which creates affordable living across Western Australia. We caught up with Managing Director Paul Bitdorf to find out why he’s so passionate about this market.

Nicheliving has a very unique offering; providing an end-to-end solution for the affordable living market. How was this concept developed?

The concept was born over ten years ago. Back in 2002, we were the first to understand the way that the housing market was moving in Perth. Back then affordable meant cheap.

For us it’s about taking affordable housing to a new level. We want to give people a home that they can be proud of, something special. We only engage the best architects and town planners because affordable shouldn’t mean low quality.

The first step in developing an integrated offering came six years ago when we added the building and construction arm of the business. It was set up to protect our integrity. In our developments when the builders made a mistake it affected our brand.

Having the ability to control the process from start to finish allows us to ensure quality in everything that we do and control the brand that we are incredibly proud of.

Nicheliving now consists of five different companies providing building and construction services, property development, real estate sales, finance and financial planning. Has it been a challenge integrating the business units under one cohesive brand?

There’s been no real challenge at all. In 2007, we developed a strategic plan for the business with William Buck which guides us in all of our decisions.

The businesses may seem diverse, but every new venture supports this strategic plan. There’s an obvious synergy between each of our businesses as they solve a problem for our target market.

For example, we found that a lot of young people and first home buyers didn’t have enough money to buy their own home and as a result our financing business was formed.

For most start-ups the biggest challenge is cash flow. In the early stages you need to invest a lot of capital and it can be a long time before you see any returns. We’ve been able to successfully manage this through integration. Our more established businesses have supported our start-ups until they become profitable.

You now have a supervisory board, how did that come about and has that affected the way that you operate?

We didn’t want to be holding multiple company meetings for each of the five companies. With the help of William Buck we set up a supervisory board. All companies are represented on the board and all companies respect the decisions made at our regular meetings.

We also have two non-executive directors one of whom is Mark Collins the Managing Director of William Buck Perth.

We are very pragmatic about using external advisors. There is no point in reinventing the wheel if you have experts that can help you.

We apply the same principle to engaging a consultant as we do to engaging an architect; we don’t compromise.

What does the future hold for Nicheliving?

For me, affordable housing is not just a business but a passion. I take it very seriously, and strongly believe in it. The next step for Nicheliving is to marry affordability with sustainability; usually they’re opposed to one another.

This is the biggest challenge we face in the housing market today. We’ve made a lot of investment into research and development in this area. We need to be conscious of new technologies and how they can be applied. A lot of technology sounds good in theory, but is not practical.

For example, there’s a lot of media hype about grey water recycling but it will not make a significant difference. Making solar panels more affordable on the other hand, will make a huge difference.

We’ve been developing a new construction system for building houses which is being trialled in remote areas. Our new brand “NicheQ” meets the tests for all Australian Standards and brings houses into the nine star energy rating.

Our ambition is to bring this to Perth and beyond.