Letcheck Expands into Liverpool, with Allsop Support

LetCheck Inventories, last year’s AIIC Inventory Company of the Year, are now offering independent property inspection services in Liverpool.  This comes off the back of expansion into Leeds earlier this year.

‘Allsop are delighted to announce that we are now partnering with LetCheck in Liverpool, Oldham and Manchester.  We have been working together in London for many years and appreciate their high level of customer service and value how their detailed and independent reporting, protect our clients and our residents’, says Property Manager Clementina Cat.

LetCheck’s director Adrian Kelly added that ‘We are thrilled to be expanding our relationship with Allsop, one of the country’s leading property management companies.’

Welcome to new members ClearFibre

ClearFibre™ offers a full fibre to the home managed internet service to property developers in both the built to rent sector and homes for sale.

With contract and non-contract options as well as capex and non-capex options, we are the only company in the UK to offer a suite of flexible options across your investments whichever residential market you specialise in.

Our team has over 100 years of experience in the residential market and are expert specialists in the design, installation, delivery and support to some of the UKs largest developers, including a specialist retrofitting team for existing homes that need a zero cost, unobtrusive technology refresh.

We are not just about the internet though, we are about designing operational efficiencies within your building and homes to ensure you get the maximum return on your investment by utilising the skills and knowledge we have around the infrastructure design within your building.

With our Clear Convergence™ system, this allows you to deliver all data, TV and in-building third party network services across a fully managed network that saves time, money, labour and materials through the construction build.

We work with all of the top consultants at the early design stage to make sure your building has a system that is both fit for purpose and future proofs your building for you, your onsite team and your residents.

With cutting-edge technology, ClearFibre™ has a team that drives innovation working with consultants and clients very closely to understand how they want their services ‘shaping’ for their building with our tailor-made suite of services.

Our mission is quite simply to deliver the services we advertise and more, to go that extra mile every time. To ensure that our clients are so proud of the work we do for them, that they tell their industry peers.

Covid 19 – CEO’s Update: Friday 3rd April

Another week and staying at home, apart from my 15-minute lunchtime walk is starting to seem normal (Sadly as is running out of energy at 4pm and being told to put my phone away and rest for an hour) 

The week has just flown by and its actually been full of good things being done by amazing people We’ve been running our Senior Leaders calls for two  weeks now and so many people across the industry have taken part who are working their socks off to support their teams and their customers and residents. I’m really pleased that we are able to provide a place to share these learning. Today we ran our first weekly Operator’s Forum with 45 people sharing real details from the coal face, that will really make a difference in the coming weeks – from virtual wine clubs with real wine for all residents to a focus on how to help residents maintain their health and wellbeing (aren’t they the same things?) 

Next week we launch more forums – for suppliers, lenders and investors and sessions on specific topics. If you’re a UKAA member, either watch out for an invite or drop me a note. Helping our members to sustain and grow their businesses by sharing information and insights is the heart of our mission.  

We are also working with the BPF’s Ian Fletcher to gather data on the impact of COVID 19 and provide evidence to shape government policy changes. The first two pieces of data we are looking at are the reduction in rent roll collected at April 1 and the impact of Council tax on completed but empty units. If you haven’t had an email from me or Ian and have relevant data do contact me urgently We also continue to support Ian and others in getting important issues in front of the Secretary of State and others this week we have continued to work on Lift Safety Inspections and defining critical safety functions carried out be staff and contractors – See the Covid 19 website page for details. 

However other things are still happening  and probably the most stimulating event I took part in this week was the virtual presentation by four teams of post graduate students in the School of Design at the Royal College of Art on their insights into  BTR and projects on“How we might make rental living the preferred model for living?”.  

The projects presented ranged from tokenisation of BTR to linking employment and housing to a radical (but practical) view of how to redesign buildings (BTR 2.0) and an eminently deliverable proposal on how to make BTR work better for the overseas student market.  The students are part way through their projects and will be spending next term turning them into real business proposals – thanks to everyone who has helped esp. Brendan Geraghty. We are looking at how we might get these really exciting projects in front of a wider BTR audience – watch this space.  

We have our first UKAA webinar next Friday at 9.30am hosted by Inventory Hive on performing property management visits remotely. Please try to join as it would be great to see our members engaging on this matter.  More deatils can be found on our events page.

Finally another shout out for  people doing good for the sector, Debra Yudolph’s Do Some Good Initiative is going from strength to strength in its efforts to support the NHS – please do what you can to provide operational support, medical supplies or accommodation 

Don’t forget the BTRs – The Build To Rent Talent Recognition Awards. Recognizing the unique circumstances and that our front line and back office staff will be the ones who make a difference over the next few months, we’re going to hold open nominations until Covid 19 has passed. So if you see someone making a difference, nominate them here. 

More next week, in the meantime stay safe. 

Dave Butler 

2019 Build to Rent round-up – Manor Interiors

With the private rental sector set to grow to 22 percent by 2023, let’s look at the growth achieved in the Build to Rent (BTR) market in 2019.

The British Property Federation (BPF) reported a total of 152,071 BTR properties in the UK at the end of 2019. This figure includes BTR homes that are completed and those under construction and in planning.

Breakdown by development stages

There was a 15 percent rise in BTR properties since 2018, across all development stages:

  • An increase from 30,312 to 40,181 for homes completed – a rise of 33 percent.
  • Properties under construction increased from 34,744 to 36,415 units – a rise of 5 percent.
  • A 13 percent rise in properties in the planning phase, increasing from 66,660 to 75,475 units.

The figures are positive, showing a demand for lifestyle-led living among renters. The ‘co’ concept is not new – there’s been growth in the ‘co’ model in work environments and second homes, and it continues to grow in the sub-sector of the private rental sector.

Top three BTR players in 2019

The top three players in the BTR market in 2019 represent a total of 21,278 BTR homes across all development stages. Combined, they have completed 6,366 BTR homes, have 3,216 under construction and 11,696 properties in the planning stage.

 1. London & Quadrant

London & Quadrant was the biggest player in the BTR market in 2019. Operating across Greater London, the South East and East Anglia. They had 2,404 completed homes, 185 under construction and 4,643 in planning – totalling 7,232 BTR homes.

 

2. Sigma Capital

Offering a wider landscape of options to renters, Sigma Capital have shaken up BTR – building family homes instead of apartments in large developments. They had 2,150 completed homes, 1,749 under construction and 3,274 in the planning stage – totalling 7,173 BTR homes.

 3. Get Living

Get Living, one of the initial companies that headed BTR are well known for their project at Olympic Park in Stratford. They had 1,812 completed homes, 1,282 under construction and 3,779 in planning – totalling 6,873 BTR homes.

Now we’re firmly into 2020, figures are set to grow as BTR players continue to ramp up development, both in key cities and regional locations.

Design at the Forefront of UK’s Leading Residential Market

A new residential design paradigm

The housing crisis in the UK has been at the forefront of the political and financial landscape since the findings of the Barker Review in 2006 shone a spotlight on the overwhelming housing supply shortage. The search for solutions remains a National priority as the attempts to meet housing needs through traditional forms of tenure have fallen short of meeting housing requirements.

The ‘built-to-rent’ (BTR) sector is increasingly considered a viable alternative and has experienced substantial growth both in London and in the regions. The new asset class is forecasted to continue to increase its contribution to the UK housing supply as new institutional investors, developers and local councils look to enter the market.

The advent of the BTR market in the UK has been inspired by several factors including affordability and a ‘return to urban living’ allowing for the convenience of a ‘live-work-play’ lifestyle as well as an increasing demand from institutional investors for long term yield from real assets. This brought with it a change of paradigm in how residential buildings should be designed.

BTR projects are developed as operating businesses to be owned by management companies and institutional investors aiming to create medium to long term value through the maximization of net operating income and compression of yield. The viability therefore is based on balancing the residents experience – who as ‘customers’, are the main source of revenue – with whole lifecycle costs, including both development and operations. For the business model to be successful, projects must suit the people that they aim to attract and be able to develop brand equity. Such model requires design standards and specifications that set it apart from the rest of the residential sector.

Design challenges of build to rent

The design of BTR developments places a greater emphasis on standardization and durability to optimize operations and allow for increased longevity and scalability across multiple projects. However, the design also needs to be flexible enough to allow for multiple uses and adapt to changing lifestyles and evolving preferences of its target tenants. This includes the ability to re-configure layouts, particularly in communal areas as well as provision of enough differentiating design factors relative to the competition and specific to each location and target price point.

In BTR developments, creating flexible communities is often as important as flexible design of the product itself. The provision of flexible amenities and permanent on-site management provides opportunities to generate additional revenues while enabling shared experiences that create communities within the building. For the amenities to stay relevant, they need to retain the ability to reshape the customer offering over the lifecyle of the asset. This is a key competitive advantage as most of the rental stock in the UK is still composed of ‘buy-to-let’ units which are not professionally managed and lack adequate amenities.

BTR developments require additional upfront investment in design differentiation, longevity and customer service. In addition, there is often a preference for urban locations with access to public transport and leisure activities which often have higher land prices and construction costs. However, its viability needs to measure design ratios and lifecycle costs against the long-term trend flexibility and design adaptability. While there is a still a need to optimise the area available for tenants, with the right number of apartments per floor and the right size (or mix of sizes) supported by an effective building shape and core arrangement (including wall-to-floor and net-to-gross ratios) maximizing units per floor/ per core, it is often worth investing more on amenities rather that optional ‘sales differentiators’ in the units themselves to attract prospective tenants and increase retention rates.

Design and build to be rentable

Gradually, as more evidence is becoming available and planning policy and regulation evolves with the growing BTR market Design will be at the forefront of how to best address the key challenges posed by the requirements of the BTR business model:

Create functional separation with gradual transition: BTR developments require a gradual transition between public and private areas. In between the public areas and the private units, common areas of the building need to provide for front of house areas accessible to the public as well; resident’s shared areas which should generate additional revenues; and back of the house which should operate independently.

Emphasize the ‘arrival experience’: the design of the lobby is central to the success of the BTR developments. It should be placed at the center of the building’s functional diagram with direct access to all functional areas and it should emphasize the ‘arrival experience’ through design features, amenities and services which increasingly considered a key factor in attractive prospective tenants. It also provides key opportunities to generate additional revenues not only from residents but the public as well.

Move beyond physical facilities to customer service: Successful designs need to emphasize how residents will live and interact with the building, its facilities and develop strong communities as a priority. There’s a move away from expensive amenities, such as swimming pools and gyms, to more flexible, open-plan space that can be used for a variety of purposes, including co-working, meeting and entertaining areas as well as private open space.

 

BTR development, South Bank Urban Regeneration, Leeds

 

Focus the design on convenience: The convenience factor of BTR developments is often considered a key feature that makes them stand-out over other rental projects. The design should maximize the use of innovative technologies in operations and management, with for example all utility contracts in place, all (or most) shared amenities included in the rent and single point of contact in terms of any queries or issues with each apartment.

Design Buildings with service teams in mind: Customer service is fundamental to the BTR model. It is crucial that managers, concierge and maintenance teams all have dedicated spaces on- site. So, whether tenants are single professionals of a family, they can have interactions with a member of the team from the moment that they first enquire about a space.

Attention to Interior Design through standardization with adaptability: The design of BTR developments should provide for high quality interior design while standardising fixtures and fittings to maintain quality standards and benefit from cost efficiency within and between projects linked to direct programme wide procurement arrangements. This will allow operators to keep a stock of items and speed up repairs to avoid disruptions to tenants and minimise the risk of potential void periods.

Create flexible floor plans: Plans should have built-in flexibility of unit mix depending of the take up, but also reflect the exact requirements of the market based on detailed understanding of the economic and cultural background of the customer. While the majority of the unit mix should be compromised of one and two beds, these should be designed to allow for different users to share the same unit as well as for the possibility to be converted in smaller and larger units.

Match unit sizes and specifications with yield: Unit sizing needs to be aligned with both costs and rental price points to maximize yields. While smaller apartments generate the highest yield, they also cost more per square foot to build and fit out. Apartment specification should emphasize a ‘turn-key’ approach including furniture, fittings and equipment enabling tenants to take occupancy immediately upon completion and offer different furniture packages.

Contribute to placemaking: The design of the external public areas should be considered an intrinsic part of the developments amenities and integrated with the ground floor. By improving the public realm and opening the amenity space to the public, not only can it generate additional revenues and help attract prospective tenants, but it can also provide contribute to placemaking and act as a catalyst for wider urban regeneration.

The need for a BTR vision

The design of successful BTR developments requires an understanding of the business model in order to provide bespoke solutions that address both the short and long terms requirements of its financial viability.  It is critical that design, development expertise and investment funding are brought together at a point early enough in the development programme where the design can be influenced to overcome these challenges. The real challenge is to find developers and investors that recognize the financial benefits of bespoke Build-to-Rent design and can provide the vision to deliver it.

Please click here to download the article: Design at the Forefront of UK’s Leading Residential Market

Software can ease pain of end-of-tenancy process

 

 

 

Inventory Hive aims to bridge the gap between tenants and BTR providers through better engagement

Build-to-rent landlords and managers will know the headache that comes with check- out disputes, most commonly disagreements over deposit deductions, which can sap time and create ill-feeling.

Inventory Hive aims to make what has long been a painful process simpler and more transparent. The company’s software – a paperless reporting platform accessible by desktop or app – enables property managers to effortlessly handle the tenant check-in and check-out process on a cloud-based system in which all reports are stored, creating an audit trail and minimising the likelihood of a dispute when the tenant moves out.

A key function of the software is tenants’ ability to interact and upload issues by taking and uploading a photo of a stain on a carpet that was there when they moved in, for example, which will be saved as proof that the damage was caused by a previous occupant. Launched in the summer of 2015, the software dovetails with the changing relationship between tenant and landlord in which the former is increasingly treated more like a customer than a rent-payer.

 

Bridging the gap

At first, agents were wary of enabling tenants to use the software to provide feedback. Now, many see it as an advantage that bridges the gap between the tenant and landlord or manager, encouraging problems to be dealt with as they arise rather than at the end of the tenancy when they can cause delays and contention.

The software was first developed for the PRS but not long after launch, Inventory Hive began working with universities – including Cambridge, Coventry and numerous student accommodation management providers. Due to the similarities between the two sectors, this led to it also being used by some of the UK’s biggest BTR landlords and managers. They use the software to send new tenants pre-arrival documents such as energy performance certificates and fire safety records, to manage the inventory process and to engage with tenants.

The tenant signs a digital report to confirm they have received the relevant documents before they are given the keys – this feature is built into the Inventory Hive system so there is no need to sign up to a third-party document signing service – and documents needed for pre-tenancy checks are generated based on region to account for the differing laws of England, Scotland and Wales and updated regularly in accordance with compliance changes. These updates are especially important at a time when inventories are moving from being solely about a properties’ cleanliness and condition to a more complex process that includes fire alarm checks and a number of other health and safety requirements and has evolved further still since the Homes (Fitness) For Human Habitation Bill – which incorporates damp and mould checks – set to be rolled out in the foreseeable future.

 

Training is  key

On the inventory side, the software can be integrated with 360° cameras to capture whole rooms, allowing more robust ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison when an occupant leaves the property.

Inventory Hive offers free training to ensure its clients’ employees are aware of all the software’s functions and capabilities and are able to use them and provides support – including an online chat system – to answer any queries users may have. This training element is something the company believes is key, particularly because it sees inadequate training and change management as a barrier to the widespread adoption of proptech.

 

BTR System Integrations

Since launching three and a half years ago, Inventory Hive has grown rapidly. It has moved offices three times in the last 18 months to cater for its growing team; currently generates between 45,000 and 60,000 approval emails each month;stores 18 million images, with more being added all the time; and has recently become a member of the UKAA. It is not resting on its laurels though. The software is updated regularly by its team of in- house developers – often in response to feedback from users – and more change is to come in 2019.

It will introduce an API access platform enabling the software to be integrated across a range of systems in the market. This accompanies integrations already in place with maintenance programme Fixflo. It has further plans to partner with other system providers across the PRS, BTR and student accommodation sectors. New capabilities will also be added that will be available to existing users without extra charge. Detail on exactly how Inventory Hive will evolve is currently under wraps but the plan, ultimately, is for its software to become more than an inventory platform. If the company is successful in its aim to encourage early and regular engagement between tenants and landlords/managers, the disputes that so often mar the end-of-tenancy process will be few and far between.

The Blackmore Group joins the UKAA

The Blackmore Group is one of the UK’s fastest growing real estate investment companies, with offices in Mayfair and Manchester and a vast development pipeline of commercial and high quality homes targeted at the build to rent and build to sell markets. The company has a diverse portfolio which is managed by a team of property and financial services experts. The business prides itself on its core values of quality, flexibility and innovation and works with partners such as Allsop, Grant Thornton and Strutt and Parker.

A young, agile company, with decades of combined experience, The Blackmore Group is on course to become one of the biggest players in the market.

Developing connections

Ricky Poonia is head of real estate at The Blackmore Group alongside CEO of real estate, Patrick McCreesh. Ricky is the former head of the residential capital markets and investment team at BNP Paribas. He was keen to become a member of the UKAA in order to connect with like-minded leaders in the residential rental sector. He is looking forward to hosting round tables and attending networking events to deliver his vision for build to rent in the U.K.

Ricky is responsible for strengthening relationships with key investors and partners, building the company’s reputation in capital markets and growing Blackmore’s real estate arm. He works with a team of six.

Current projects

The Blackmore Group is currently working on many real estate projects from build to rent, to more traditional build to sell developments across the UK, with approximately 500 homes being delivered in the next 12 months.

Ricky says: “As a group, we are leading the way for many emerging markets which is helping shake up the traditional rental sector. As a company, we are starting to think more and more about how we can meet the needs of future generations. This has resulted in a blended approach of build to rent and co-living which will offer young professionals, who are being priced out of the current rental market, or offered little value for their hard-earned money, an alternative route to key centres throughout the UK.”

HomeViews: Residential Review Site Launches in Build To Rent

One of the biggest decisions anyone makes – both financially and emotionally is choosing our home. The mission of www.homeviews.com is to share valuable reviews and insights to support those looking for their new home within a residential development.

We have been fortunate this summer to have met with a wide range of people working within Build to Rent and we are so grateful for the time and advice you have given us. We will officially launch this October and in the lead up are sharing a series of blogs on the UKAA highlighting some of our initial insights – but first, for those members who we haven’t had the opportunity to meet first hand yet, here’s an introduction to HomeViews and an insight into how we believe we will support the objectives of the UKAA.

An introduction to HomeViews

Take a moment to consider – when did you last read a review and what was it for? Maybe your holiday, a restaurant or a new phone? 93% of us find online reviews helpful when making a purchasing decision and 88% of us trust reviews as much as a recommendation from friends and family.

On a daily basis we consume and value user generated content across social media channels – and no one more so than millennials – yet you have to search high and low to read reviews on the property or developer you might be buying from or renting with. Property reviews do exist, yet they are inconsistent, unverified and noncomparable.

HomeViews is launching with an initial focus on developments over 50 units and within London – but we will quickly expand across the UK. We allow developers, BTR operators, reviewers and all users to add their own developments, which we verify the details of before publishing. Reviews are clearly labelled if they are written by an owner, tenant, viewer or property professional and all these perspectives blend together to provide valued insights into what it is truly like to live in that development.

How we will support Build to Rent

Our aim is to create a platform focused on the experience of living within all developments which will allow BTR to be compared against other developments where tenants are not offered the service of a ‘complete landlord’. Below are three ways that HomeViews will help the aims and objectives of the UKAA:

1. Providing clarity to prospective residents
Build to Rent developments are labelled ‘Rental Only’ with an explanation of what Build to Rent means and who the BTR operators are.

2. Raising awareness of Build to Rent
We are profiling and featuring a number of news articles and interviews on the different experiences BTR provides tenants.

3. Giving customers and the industry comparative data
All residents of a development are asked to rate the development against a number of categories as well as rate their property management, and, if a tenant, to also rate their landlord. For the first time the industry will have comparative ratings from residents allowing us to create league tables on developers. From a renting perspective we will also be able to compare the rating of a tenant living within a BTR development compared with a tenant renting elsewhere.

We believe that over time, and as Build to Rent grows, HomeViews will become a powerful marketing tool to differentiate and demonstrate why renting can be better.

“I can proudly say this has been my best living experience throughout my whole life” Fizzy Lewisham resident.

Find your developments at www.homeviews.com and please contact Hannah@homeviews.com if you would like to find out more.

How to challenge the market? Scrap deposits.

A-Very-British-Sunday-in-Victory-Park

How did I know when we’d become a true disruptor? When every industry meeting over the last few weeks has started with ‘Why did you do it?!’.

Last month we announced that deposit-free living is now our norm. We no longer take a security deposit from residents who pass referencing or have a guarantor. We’re also set to return around £3 million to our current residents.

So, why did we do it?

For the first four years, we charged a six-week security deposit because that was what was done. The assumption has always been that residents couldn’t be trusted and – by holding thousands of pounds of their cash – landlords could easily recoup damages.

Well, in the spring I was looking at our figures. On average, we were taking just a few hundred pounds out of household deposits. We were only needing to recover just a few days’ rent.

So why did we hold £3 million of our residents’ cash? We don’t benefit, our residents certainly don’t benefit.

We knew others had reduced the amount required – down to just three weeks in some cases – but if we reference and trust that our residents will pay their rent, why wouldn’t they look after the home or pay for any outstanding damages when they moved out?

Incentive. Some counselled that residents would lose the incentive to not damage their home. I still believe that the majority of residents take great pride in where they live. Instead of incentivising in the negative, we now waive any damages up to one week’s rent. If it goes over a week’s rent, the full amount needs to be paid. So, for most of our residents, there’s no deposit to hand over at the beginning and no charges at the end of their tenancy.

While the industry has been left reeling, we have been overwhelmed by the response from prospective residents. We know we are tapping in to one of the last remaining burdens for renters. In fact, renting with Get Living is a positive, proactive choice and one that means being part of vibrant and exceptionally well-connected neighbourhood.

There have also been celebrations from our 3,000 residents who will start to have their deposits returned in full from next month. We are proud to stand up and say we trust them enough to hand back their money. We can do this at Get Living because we have the scale and track-record to know it will work.

We were the first major institutional mover in PRS, bringing 1,439 homes to East Village, the former London 2012 Athletes’ Village. Our residents benefit from our commitment to delivering incredible service that includes our Relationship Management team on site seven days a week. We don’t use agents or charge fees, we offer three year leases with resident-only break clauses as standard while, within contracts, rent increases are aligned with CPI.

We were the first to revolutionise the rental experience in the UK so why shouldn’t we be the first to scrap deposits?

Key benefits of Get Living’s deposit-free agreement:

  • New residents benefit – Get Living renters who pass referencing or have a guarantor will no longer need to find six weeks’ rent at the beginning of their tenancy – an immediate cashflow benefit
  • Existing residents benefit – Get Living will be returning security deposits to approximately 3,000 residents, releasing around £3 million back into the UK economy
  • Changing renting in the UK – This announcement supports Get Living’s mission to deliver a better way of renting and where Get Living has led, others have followed. Since it launched in 2013 with no fees and longer contracts, all major UK political parties and other large landlords have made similar commitments.