Queensland-based property developer Oxmar Properties is committed to developing land into attractive and well-planned residential estates, with allotments for family living available at reasonable prices. The company boasts nearly three decades of experience as a property developer, striving to find Queensland landscapes that will offer dream lifestyles.
Company Director, Phil Murphy, is the driving force behind the business, and spoke to The Australian Business Executive about what the company means to him.
“I was a jockey as a kid going through school,” Mr Murphy says, “[in order] to get enough money to do law at university. I actually rode 100 winners before I turned 17, most of them in the bush. I had my first ride in a race when I was 13.” After suffering an accident in a track gallop, Mr Murphy damaged his spine and was in a plaster cast for five months. Because of this, he only passed three subjects during his senior, and never got the chance to do law. This meant he had to work even harder to earn a living. “At 21 I had five jobs. I was at BCC, Brisbane City Council, as a clerk. I was working selling furniture on a Saturday morning, I was riding horses trackwork. I was training two race horses [and] I was pouring beer at the Hamilton pub four nights a week.” Mr. Murphy’s strong work ethic hasn’t diminished over time, and there is little doubt he is fiercely dedicated to his job. This is made all the more impressive by his admission that at a very young age he experienced significant financial troubles.
“Years and years ago I started bookmaking as well, and then I started punting. I went through a quarter of a million dollars in six months in 1977, and I had to declare myself bankrupt. I came out of bankruptcy and had to plead to get a job as a car salesman.”
As a condition of getting this job, Mr Murphy promised that he would work for free for a month, in the hope of beating the sales record of 20 cars. He achieved this by working every night and every weekend for a month, and as a result was given the job full time. Mr. Murphy insists that only this kind of hard work can produce success, and that nothing in life just falls into your lap. He went on to spend several years working in auto sales, before deciding it was time to change direction.
“I had a Toyota/Mercedes Benz dealership in Bundaberg, sold it and came back to Brisbane. My brothers had been developing land and I thought that was a good way to go. I wasn’t certain what I was going to do, so I thought I’d have a crack at developing land.”
Over the following years, Mr Murphy single-handedly contacted more than 2,000 land owners within 15km of the Brisbane GPO, sending letters, knocking on doors and making phone calls in order to pursue his new venture.
“I finished up acquiring a site at Cashmere, which was my first big development. It was 115 acreage lots, half with town water. I also acquired a site at Wellington Point, which was less than 30 lots. Most of them had views of Stradbroke Island and were close to the ocean.”
In following this new career path, Mr Murphy attended an auction one day where he ran into an old friend, Peter Bettson. Mr Murphy had purchased vehicles previously from Mr Bettson’s firm, Brisbane Motor Auctions.
“I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years,” he says. “As a business relationship, it was a friendly relationship. We got talking over the next few months, and eventually he said: ‘can you show me some of the stuff you’re doing?’”
Over the coming months, the two men drove around viewing properties that Mr Murphy had been working on, having already had meetings with surveyors, engineers, councils and consultants, getting a feel for whether the properties would be suitable for development.
“The shotgun approach that I had in contacting so many people led me to some properties that had various impediments that could not be overcome through an approval process, such as lots of trees and wrong zonings.”
As time went by, Mr Murphy identified the properties that he felt had value, weeding out those with too many issues. By taking these properties to consultants and speaking with councils, he was learning the ropes of his new career.
“Peter Bettson spent lots of time driving around with me. In a matter of months, we became close friends. He sold Brisbane Motor Auctions and we realised that each of us could stand on our own two feet. One day he said to me, out of the blue: ‘do you want a partner?’”
Mr Murphy accepted straight away, and the partnership was sealed with a handshake. After some discussion, the company name was decided upon, a combination of the two streets the men lived on: Oxlade Drive and Marlene Street. Oxmar Properties was born.
“In that time we had built up about ten projects together, that we’d bought in two names. We never had a partnership agreement signed, we never had a joint venture agreement signed. We never had anything at all that represented any legal obligations.”
When Mr Bettson took the decision to leave the company for personal reasons, the two men agreed upon an amicable split of their assets and went their separate ways. Mr Murphy tells of how they have remained the very best and dearest of friends, catching up weekly.
“Since that time,” Mr Murphy says, “Oxmar has grown bigger and bigger. So much so that I’ve probably got more than 25 land projects, some with townhouses, ready for sale now, and currently at the moment we’ve got eight projects live, selling land.”
Mr Murphy is perfectly aware of the benefits people experience by locating to Queensland, particularly South East Queensland. He is a genuine advocate of the area, describing it as offering a wonderful lifestyle and true value to its inhabitants.
“There’s a buzz in Queensland that won’t die,” he says. “The culture is a spirit that the State of Origin [rugby league] team shows year in, year out. That’s the lifestyle of Queensland through and through. Determination and persistence to achieve and get positive results.”
Mr Murphy takes this spirit with him into his business, describing his office and his team as being like his home and family. He has always been of the opinion that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.
“No one human being can be what they are, when they’re successful, without surrounding himself or herself with good people, particularly having a loving family.”
He goes on to make a particular note of his wonderful wife Diane who has been by his side since 1978 while adding “at the moment there’s an election coming up, and some are promoting family. I think that’s what Queensland is. I believe Queensland is family.”
Oxmar is also in the habit of forming long term relationships with the people involved in the company, both staff and consultants. Some of the team have been on board for 20 years or more, and Mr Murphy greatly values this sincerity and longevity of commitment.
“We believe we’ve got wonderful consultants around us,” he says. “Such as engineers, surveyors, planners, landscape architects, contractors. We’ve managed to stick solid with a lot of those people from day one.”
Oxmar Properties is currently selling blocks of land in several projects across Queensland, including 1,200 lots at Narangba Heights, Narangba, about 500 lots at Griffin Crest, Griffin, and 200 lots at Bridgeman Hilltop, Bridgeman Downs. All three land estates have sales teams on site.
“My son has been with me for twenty years, he manages Griffin Crest, plus Murrumba Castle, which is at Murrumba Downs. The Narangba Heights estate is managed by Cam Haag, who also has been with me on and off for about twenty years.”
In addition, Oxmar Properties has on the books a seaside development at Burrum Heads, called On the Beach, a 1km beach frontage estate which consists in total of over 700 lots and 170 villas.
“Bridgeman Hilltop is a couple of hundred lots. It’s the seventh development I’ve done in Bridgeman Downs. I’ve lived in that suburb for more than 15 years, and my office is at nearby Aspley. I work five minutes from home, and ten minutes from most of my estates.”
Another property, the Samford Royal Estates, located in the south-eastern Brisbane village of Samford, will soon begin the last stage of development. This project consists of acreage lots with town water, with sizes up to 8,000sqm, and is located 14km from the city.
“We’re building townhouses at Carseldine, which is again five minutes from Aspley. I have another estate at Bridgeman Downs called Bridgeman Heights, which only has half a dozen blocks left.”
The Investor Market
Oxmar also has a property in Bray Park which is a little more unique, being one of the company’s only estates that operates at 50% investor and 50% owner-occupier, making it extremely affordable.
“We strive to maintain at least 80% owner-occupiers in most of our other estates. We screen very closely our buyers, which takes a lot of extra effort and time, but the effort is reflected in the calibre of the estate. It doesn’t cost a lot extra to achieve great street appeal, something you simply don’t get in investor-driven estates.”
Mr Murphy explains how many estates are dominated by rental properties, sometimes with 90% of the homes sold to the growing Sydney or Melbourne investment market. Oxmar Properties doesn’t want its estates to be so heavily investor driven.
“If you had a house out at, say, Liverpool, or in the Hills District or in Newcastle, or any place close to Sydney—you could come to Brisbane and be a lot closer to the city, and could buy two of the same thing for the same price as the one property you’ve just sold in Sydney.”
The median house price in Brisbane is currently around $550k, which provides investors with a rent return of around $450-500 a week. This is in contrast to Sydney, where the median price of around $1.15m gives a rental return of approximately $800 a week.
“So you’re getting a higher rent return for the two properties in Brisbane than you do for the one in Sydney, and the most appealing thing to the investors, particularly from Sydney and Melbourne, is they’re getting two products against one. So they’re spreading their risk.”
As a result, the company makes sure to screen all investor inquiries for its properties. Mr Murphy meets personally with any potential investors to make sure that the company requirements will be honoured and accepted.
“Our requirements are not too onerous, and they don’t make houses unaffordable, but it’s critical that when you drive through any of our estates the homes always look appealing and presentable. A huge percentage of investor estates or rental estates are not cared for anywhere near as much as estates which are occupied predominantly by owner-occupiers.”
Mr Murphy understands the need for many more people to be renting in the current climate, but insists that if people come to rent in the area in which he has estates, the aim is to have them renting in the best possible conditions.
“I’m sincerely passionate about that,” he says. “Anyone who buys land from us, and builds in our estates, receives our promise to do our utmost to protect their security for as long as possible.”
The purchase of a home and land is always one of the most significant commitments anybody will make throughout their life, so it’s critical that buyers are able to trust the company to protect their security.
In practice, this means a salesperson going through each clause in the contract with the buyer, whether they are an owner-occupier or investor, making sure that all of the specific covenant conditions Oxmar needs in order to protect people are agreed upon.
“Even as far as solar is concerned, a developer cannot prevent persons putting solar on their roof, and we wouldn’t seek to, but our covenant ensures that we try to get the solar in the best position, so its least visible as possible from the streets.”
The covenant standards are not designed to restrict buyers, but to allow the company to continue providing the best living environment available for those who buy from it. It is clear that Mr Murphy cares about every one of his buyers.
“I try and meet as many buyers as I can,” he explains. “My mobile phone number is available to every single buyer, and our office number is given to every single buyer, so that they have access to me.”
Keeping it in the Family
Away from his work life, Mr Murphy is just as active. He is at heart a family man, and speaks with great fondness about both his own family and those of his employees, who he treats with the same level of love and respect.
“We’re a very, very close-knit family set up at Oxmar,” he explains. “All my staff have young families. We celebrate each staff member’s birthday with a lunch in the boardroom, which everyone enjoys together. We all sit round the table and everyone writes little poems and tells jokes. We all enjoy these fun times.”
Members of Mr Murphy’s own family are also deeply involved with the business. His eldest son Justin has worked for him for many years, and his daughter Stacey also came on board about four years ago.
In addition to his position as director at Oxmar Properties, Mr Murphy is also heavily involved in the world of sports, owning 22% of the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team, as well as being the major sponsor of Australian World Champion boxer Jeff Horn.
“One of my hobbies is watching great jockeys compete in racing. I enjoy a red wine two or three nights a week with my dear wife, and I don’t mind the occasional Mount Gay rum with ginger beer. My life is my family and my work.”
Mr Murphy’s main pleasure is derived from his relationships with family and co-workers, and he speaks fondly of the Oxmar Christmas party, where staff bring their children along to be involved in a close family celebration.
It is an appropriate note to end on to mention another of Mr Murphy’s great passions, that being for chaplaincy. As a man of faith, he believes in the power of this service for children who go through hard times at school, often caused by drug- or alcohol-affected families.
“No-one knows the amount of children’s lives that are saved by a chaplain at schools. For kids who are going through hard times, a chappy is a shoulder to cry on, provides a caring listening ear, is available, and is a good friend or mate.”
Hard work, compassion and family are mainstays of Mr Murphy’s life. In this respect, all these things feed into Oxmar Properties, making it not just a successful business, but a business that truly cares about all the people it comes into contact with.