How to Develop Land with Charles Wah

Charles Wah was born and raised in Hamilton where he invests in many forms of real estate, from rent to own, long term hold, a commercial building and, for the topic of today’s discussion, land development where they have two proposed developments for a total of 150 townhouses.  Charles is a full time entrepreneur and co-founder of the Gateway Group, his real estate and development company.

Charles was a finalist for Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine’s newcomer of the year, he is a proud member of the Real Estate Investment Network, a Rock Star VIP member, Hamilton-Halton Builders’ Association, and Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. Charles is always looking to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs to network and raise each other up.

In his personal life, Charles is a sports fanatic, especially soccer. We’re actually attending Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference Final tonight to cheer on the Toronto Football Club and depending on when you’re listening to this, hopefully we won! So without further ado, I give you Land Developer, Charles Wah.

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In this episode we discuss:

  • The family real estate business
  • Why Canada over Malaysia, I heard the beaches there are lovely
  • The decision to go full time real estate entrepreneur
  • Feedback on the different networks he belongs to: REIN, Rock Star, etc…
  • Why focus on land development?
  • Financing land acquisition
  • What’s a vendor take back mortgage?
  • Starting out
  • Target return on investment
  • Stage of land development
  • What to look for in a parcel of land
    • Location (transit, infrastructure, schools, shopping, other amenities, is the surrounding area mature or being developed?, etc)
    • Is the surrounding area mature or being developed?
    • Are there subdivisions in the area? If so, are they single family houses, townhouses, etc?
    • Sources of noise (commercial, industrial, road, highway, etc
    • Access to a highway
    • Lot size and layout (square, rectangle, pie shape, irregular, etc)
    • Lot grading (flat, sloped, etc) including any topographical constraints (e.g. steep slopes)
    • Zoning
    • Designation under the municipality's Official Plan (may differ from zoning)
    • What density is allowed in the current zoning and designation? What is the existing density in the surrounding area? Does your proposal fit the character of the neighbourhood?
    • Are there any environmentally sensitive features such as woodland, watercourses, etc? If so, are they regulated by any
    • local conservation authorities? What setbacks will be required from these features and how much of the property can be developed?
    • Are there municipal services (sanitary and water) available at the street?
    • Are there any existing buildings? If so, can they be rented out to mitigate costs in the short term? Are the buildings on septic or sewers, well water or municipal water? Are there any heritage designations?
    • Is the property on a major road or side road?
    • History of the site
    • Any possibilities of contamination in the soil?
  • Costs for development
    • Land Acquisition
    • Development Soft Costs and Professional Fees
      • Legal
      • Planner
      • Architectural
      • Landscape Architect
      • Traffic
      • Environmental
      • Geotechnical/Soil Tests
      • Noise/Vibration
      • Stormwater Management
      • Archaeological
      • Marketing
      • Financial Consultants
      • Engineering
      • Surveying
    • Servicing Costs (i.e. Hard Costs)
      • Demolition
      • Tree Removal
      • Silt Fencing
      • Signage
      • Earthworks
      • Miscellaneous Site Works
      • Stripping/Grading
      • Fill Requirement
      • Hydro
      • Street Lighting
      • Road Works
      • Sanitary
      • Water
      • Stormwater
      • Lots/Street Trees
      • Landscaping
      • Entry Features
      • Retaining Walls
      • Fencing
      • Parks
    • Municipal Costs
      • Application Fees
      • Engineering Fees
      • Utility Fees
      • City Development Charges
      • Regional Development Charges
      • Park Levies
      • Special Area Levies
      • Credits/Recoveries
      • Local Improvement Charges
    • Finance Costs
  • Skills a developer needs
  • Tools and resources
    • Google Earth Pro
    • Hamilton Maps (
      • City Of Hamilton’s online interactive mapping tool which contains lots of useful information. For example, not only can you see zoning but you can also view infrastructure on the map such as sanitary and water to see if the land is serviced.
    • MPAC (
  • Advise for novices
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