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Decades In Development

Decades In Development

Joanna Mathers meets an accountant-turned-developer who believes the right combo of figures and a good business partner can yield amazing investment results. Photography Kelly Shakespeare.

By: Joanna Mathers

10 June 2024

Christchurch is a vibrant, thriving city. Its regeneration, post-earthquake, is remarkable. A key component of its resurrection is the investment developers have made; people not scared to take risks and work to create a better city.

Mark Revis, a developer with over 30 years’ experience in creating build spaces for the people of Canterbury, is one of them.

His investment journey has seen him creating communities for people over 60, luxury living for downsizers, and affordable homes for first-home buyers. And his background in accounting, combined with an instinct for understanding market trends and creating opportunities, has seen him thrive in the property game.

Good At Maths

Born in the United Kingdom, Revis and his family moved to Christchurch just before his fifth birthday.

Neither of his parents were investors. “Dad was a blue-collar worker, a master patternmaker who made wooden engineering moulds with his hands. Mum worked some cleaning jobs and at the local butcher so neither of them had any sort of business acumen or background.”

At school, he was good at maths so accountancy seemed a logical option. His early career was spent in accounting firms and it was here he first became exposed to the work of property investors.

“Many of our clients were investors and developers, so seeing how they worked and the wealth they created was really enlightening,” he says.

It was around this time, the late 1990s, that friends began dabbling in property investing. Interest piqued and he registered for a seminar on property investing and attended with friends. It proved an excellent decision.

Revis is currently developing luxury homes for downsizers across the road from Hagley Park.

“The seminar gave me in-depth exposure to property investing, and the merits of it,” he says. “I came home, did some calculations on a spreadsheet, and worked out that if I had $25,000 and applied capital growth of 10 per cent, I could buy another property the next year, and then two the next year; then three, and five, and eight, and it had this amazing compounding effect.”

House At 23

Revis bought his first house when he was 23. He was owner-occupier and he brought in flatmates, who helped pay the mortgage.

It was from this position, with equity in his own home, he was able to acquire his first investment property with a friend. The property was in the Christchurch suburb of Spreydon, an “old weatherboard place that was very higgledy-piggledy”.

In hindsight, Revis says it was probably not the best investment: “It didn’t achieve a whole lot of capital growth. It had a lot of maintenance and tenant issues. We probably rushed in and didn’t have the right understanding of what the right property was.”

Nevertheless, it gave him insight into what would work better for the next venture.

The next property, also in Spreydon, was bought for yield. It was an old villa, split into two flats, and located on 1000 sq m of land. It was secured for just $154,000 in the late 1990s.

But while the flats were great for cashflow, they were an education in the importance of tenants. “When we bought the property it was tenanted. When the tenant in the front flat moved out the new tenants ended up having gang connections, and forced the other tenants, who’d been happily living there around 15 years, to move out.”

As a self-manager, Revis was forced to deal with the situation himself, but one night it came to a head. “The Armed Offenders raided the place; they smashed in the front door, threw in smoke bombs and caused significant damage.”

The property became vacant and with no rental income. Tough decisions needed to be made. Revis considered developing the section, but realised the location would probably attract trouble, given its background. “So, I ended up selling after two-and-a-half years ... I doubled my money on it.”

Mark Revis has been working in property development in the Christchurch region for decades.


Revis’ first development venture surfaced after engaging with a successful commercial and residential property developer who he had worked with at his accounting firm.

He decided to take the lessons he’d learned and ramp up his property portfolio by partnering up with a project manager who had practical skills and development experience.

“We contracted to buy a piece of land and develop it into an over 60s lifestyle village of 69 houses,” he says.

While he was earning a salary through his accountancy firm, it took a long time to grow equity in the investment properties he purchased. Development would provide an extra source of income and the marriage of skills between the two partners made the process smoother.

“I could do all the numbers, and then my business partner was on the delivery side of things. So, I was using the business, accounting and tax skills and partnering up with someone who had the capability to deliver the project.”

The pair used a non-bank lender for the job. While they were paying between 12-14 per cent interest, there wasn’t the same compliance and red tape developers need to go through today.

One of Revis’ developments: 282 Madras St in Christchurch.

“We ended up building 69 houses in 18 months and had 20 pre-sales before we confirmed on the land,” he says.

“I learned a lot about the delays that can happen and the cost of those delays. At the end of the day the actual outcome came out close to the projections we had prepared so that provided confidence to repeat the process. From there we rolled the profits into another project and snowballed from there.”

Since that first development project Revis estimates he’s been involved in building 500-600 homes, but there’s been challenges along the way.

During the GFC he had purchased land carrying $1.4 million worth of debt at 12 per cent interest. “We were about to commence the project, but decided the way the market was we would end up building these units and selling them for no profit margin. Also, we were going to take on more debt at high rates.”

So, they decided to park the project. “This ended up being for three years, paying around $168,000 per annum, so it was a tough time servicing that interest.”

The project was parked from 2008 to 2010. Then the earthquakes hit, and the world changed.

Quake Aftermath

The Christchurch earthquakes were a tragedy, but for Revis they also provided opportunity. His chunk of bare land in North Canterbury was left untouched by the quakes and with so many homes destroyed, or uninhabitable, new homes were needed.

“In some respects, this kick-started that project, and made it a success,” says Revis. “While we had funded half a million dollars in holding costs for three-and-a-half years, that was absorbed in the extra profitability that was made from that project.”

The single level, two-bedroom units for the over 60s were snatched up. There were age restriction covenants, so tenants had an immediate community of people their own age.

Finding pieces of land has become increasingly difficult in recent years, with retirement village operators’ massive expansion into the aged care market. So Revis has pivoted, creating different types of dwellings and venturing into commercial.

One new project, opposite Hagley Park, is aimed at downsizers and smaller families because of its premium location and proximity to great school zones.

“It’s equivalent to high-quality low-rise apartment living on the city’s doorstep with a majestic park outlook”.

With Italian kitchens and great attention to detail, these homes are priced upwards of $2 million.

Another project, in Auckland, features two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouses, aimed at investors and owner-occupiers. Located in Mt Wellington, it’s priced from the late $700,000s. “We’ve designed an eye-catching development and are just in the process of going out to market for presales, which we are confident will go well due to the competitive price point, location and livability of the homes.”

One of Revis’ new ventures is in Mt Wellington, Auckland, with a starting price of under $800,000.

Tough Game

Property development is a tough game, but if done correctly it can yield amazing results. Revis says that getting the numbers right is key, and he has advice for new developers.

“Do your numbers! The more you can convert your assumptions into real values, the more confidence it provides for assessing the outcome and risk of the project.

“If you can pre-sell some units then you can have confidence of the sale values. And with construction costs, if you can get a fixed-price contract from a builder, then you know the build cost, and you will have locked in the two largest variable assumptions in your numbers.

“Property development numbers are actually a simple business equation, however its time and red tape where the real risks lie.”