Wally Gebrael, the 390th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, builds more than 200 granny flats per year with his award-winning business, Granny Flat Solutions.

Wally began life as a designer, before co-founding Granny Flat Solutions in 2011, two years after the NSW government introduced legislation that made it much easier for people to get approvals for granny flat projects.

Most of Wally’s clients are investors, who want to improve the yield on their rental properties. He also works with a lot of owner-occupiers, who use the extra dwelling to house relatives or rent out to tenants.

Granny Flat Solutions also builds tiny homes for city dwellers who don’t have room for granny flats and farmers who want Airbnb rentals. For regulatory reasons, these tiny homes need to be classified as mobile caravans, which means they have strict size restrictions.

In 2015, Wally and his partners founded a new business, New South Homes, which constructs full-scale homes. Sometimes, clients want to simultaneously build a home and a granny flat, which Wally (unlike most other builders) is able to offer. 

Building granny flats involves the same technical process as building regular homes, although the cost per square metre may be higher due to access restrictions. Building tiny homes is more challenging, because the weight needs to be distributed in a very specific way to make them transportable.

Two years ago, Wally co-founded Granny Flat Foundation, which works with industry partners to deliver low-cost housing and structures for women’s shelters and other community organisations.

Wally is a really friendly, down to earth bloke who loves the construction industry and the challenge of running a sustainable business. Times were tough during 2020-22, when the cost of building materials skyrocketed due to the pandemic: that meant Wally and his partners were forced to build numerous homes at a loss, because they’d signed fixed-price contracts with clients before costs escalated. The reason they were able to honour these contracts was because they’d wisely left money in the business, in case of a rainy day.