UKAA Roundtable: To Furnish, Or Not To Furnish? Delivered by Roomservice by CORT

Now that UK operators are increasingly comfortable with their amenity and facility proposition, as well as their customer service element, the build-to-rent market in the UK is facing a new and interesting chapter in terms of meeting tenant demand when it comes to providing properties as furnished or unfurnished.

As the leading provider of furniture rental services in the UK and the USA, Roomservice by CORT wanted to explore the challenges this question poses by chairing a UKAA Roundtable on the subject.

One thing is clear; the question is not as easy as the title might suggest, and with a number of experiences and approaches around the table, it was interesting to find out where the challenges are and how we can unite as an industry to develop a solution that works for the institutional landlords and the tenants – and of course, the bottom line.

It was helpful to have David Woodward of GAA give a US multi-family perspective, where the apartments are predominantly unfurnished, with a package provider working with the property company to offer the option to rent or purchase furniture direct to residents. However, in the UK, it’s increasingly obvious that although there is certainty of tenure, the market is still very fragmented.

Encouragingly, David Woodward is of the view that the build-to-rent market is one of the strongest and most appealing property asset classes, with consistent demand and high reward for relatively low risk. He also predicted that in time, as the market develops, unfurnished units will become the norm, particularly when you consider that a large  proportion of tenants are part of generation ‘rent’ and players in the ‘on-demand’ economy.

With a demand for three year tenancies, and in some cases, five years, residents are now showing a greater commitment to renting long term, so can furnishing services or options add value for landlords and encourage or allow tenants to rent for longer? And should there be a premium on properties that are furnished?

There has never been a ‘premium’ concept for rent of furnished units in the UK before. With the offering of high quality, new build apartments, with customer service, community and amenities at the heart, tenants are already getting good value for money.

The US market has already proven that there is very little money to be made in charging more for furnished units, when you consider the cost and time of keeping inventory, moving, storing and replacing furniture, when you have churn of 100 to 150 units every year, it can be a logistical nightmare, and create significant cost.

Property location and the local market requirements also seem to have a huge influence on determining whether properties are offered furnished or unfurnished, with different age groups and demographics having different needs.

Jason Hardman for CBRE added that he is seeing a shift in the market for the landlords and investors in terms of the furniture question no longer being left as a last minute thought, although the market is still a bit ‘suck it and see’ up and down the country, and there is no current evidence to suggest that furniture is an incentive, or can command a premium.

Jason also noted that furniture can vary between being on and off the balance sheet and it’s not clear what’s best in terms of valuing assets.

Building design can also influence how furniture is offered – if these are purpose-built developments, then surely they can be designed and built with service lifts and access and appropriate corridor planning, to allow for a tenant or furniture provider to seamlessly deliver and replace items.

The personal aesthetic is also important, with Woods Bagot reminding us that some of today’s tenants are very focussed on trends and fashion and are living very transient lifestyles, as well as being used to ‘subscription-living’, everything from music on Spotify to car share clubs. Why shouldn’t they be able to curate certain pieces they want and that are ‘on trend’? There is an element of a tenant needing something now, but that may not fit their needs, trends or lifestyle in a year or two, so customisation and flexibility is key to meeting demand.

Initial cost and expected lifecycles of furniture was also raised with one operator saying that they are already going through a cycle of having to replace some furniture in their initial properties.

This raised a further discussion around initial furnishing costs, and whether there are any strategies in place covering the initial cost and the future replacement costs. One view expressed was that for some funders, as they plan to exit in 3 years or so from build, they would anticipate the new owner/ operator cover these replacement /upgrade costs.

The discussions were still continuing when the allocated time was reached, and left lots of other aspects around the topic of furnishing to be explored further,  including the quality and durability of furniture offered; soft-furnishings and accessory packs; storage and removal costs; recycling and disposal; sustainability and wellbeing; dealing with void periods, and accounting for furniture costs.

With so many topics left to be explored, Roomservice by CORT and the UKAA will be holding further roundtables on these specific topics early in the New Year, both in London and Manchester.

Ultimately, it keeps coming back to the heart of the corporate landlord model of real customer service – we need to be flexible enough to be able to give the tenants what they want, when they want it.

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.

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.

UKAA CEO, Dave Butler at HOMES 2018

Homes is dedicated to residential development, strategic asset management and procurement solutions returning to Olympia London. The event runs from 28th-29th November. There are 120 exhibitors, including the UKAA at stand H175, over 150 speakers and over 4000 visitors across 6 theaters. 

UKAA CEO, Dave Butler alongside UKAA Committee Chair, Debra Yudolph  will be joining as speakers on the session – ‘Build to rent for the social housing sector’.

For more information on this session please visit the HOMES website.

All UKAA members are able to attend for free.

Please click here to register to attend for free.

We look forward to seeing you there!

UKAA Build To Rent TV Programme

Build To Rent hits the Big Screen!

 

Many of our members have been a part of a brilliant process for the Build To Rent sector. We have collaborated with Sky TV to produce a programme to find out what Built To Rent is all about.

 

Who is featured?

UKAA members such as; Tipi, Atlas Residential, EcoWorld, CableCom, urbanbubble, Get Living, Dolphin Living, Grainger, Greystar, JLL, Legal and General and Platform. 

 

 

Where can I watch it?

It is available to view on Property TV, Sky 189 at 9.30pm Monday 26th November.

 

Send us a tweet if you watch it!

UKAA Roundtable: Furniture & Build To Rent – Delivered by Roomservice By Roomservice By CORT

The UKAA hosted a roundtable covering the question of furniture and BTR presented by Roomservice By CORT, hosted by Howard de Walden. Many thanks to everyone that joined us, it was a full roundtable!

With so much focus on service and tenant experience, we wanted to discuss the approaches, experiences and opportunities when it comes to furnishing rental units – or not.

What do tenants prefer, and why, and how can we as operators and suppliers ensure we meet those needs and expectations.

This was an incredibly constructive discussion with both sides being explored.

 

Furnishing can create barriers to entry for Build To Rent customers.

Here are some quotes from the day:

Dave Butler, CEO, UKAA:

“Just as the cost of deposits are a barrier for people trying to move in to the PRS sector, so is the cost of furniture.”

 

Tim Swaddle, Roomservice by CORT:

“The cost of purchasing furniture, at a standard that is going to last a good few years is a huge barrier upfront; and the question is what happens when it needs replaced, or the next tenant doesn’t want it? Leasing the furniture shifts the cost to an operating costs. As far as a value, or economising it, a rent premium for furnished properties, as an concept has never existed in the UK market, and uptake of furnished properties reflects what we’re seeing in the US multi-family market.”

 

However, with Build To Rent being such a lucrative investment option, does furnishing really hurt it’s value?

 

David Woodward, GAA:

“As it stands, the build to rent market is one of the most attractive investment options for institutional investor in the property market – the consistent demand means it’s a stable sector, with high return and relative low risk.”

 

Jason Hardman, CBRE:

“The PRS market is still driven by location, and we find that it’s very much ‘horses for courses’ when it comes to furniture. Offering furniture can often be used as an incentive for tenants, and in the last two years, we’ve seen landlords much more focussed on both amenities and how the units are presented in terms of furnishings and options for tenants.”

 

Overall, it can be said that as a sector we have to accommodate what our customers want, which is customisation,

Woods Bagot Europe:

“We are a subscription-living generation; we don’t need to win anything, it’s all about customisation and temporary leasing and subscribing to what we need, when we need it. With furniture, it’s just as important to cater to different tastes, and offer options based on what each tenant wants now, rather than them buying a sofa themselves that won’t be trendy or suitable for their next home.”

Please check back on this page next week for the full write-up of this roundtable.

Why you should use reviews in your marketing

Last year Trustpilot saw their TrustBox widgets surpass one billion impressions. The value and benefits in openly and honestly displaying reviews on your website is clear.

There are a number of studies, data sources and experiences from multiple industries that makes the case for utilising customer voices and reviews within your marketing. Below we have highlighted just a few and how these can benefit the members of the UKAA.

Trust

Consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from your marketing team. Ultimately, your existing residents are your best advocates and sharing their enthusiastic reviews is the best way to build trust with new customers.

Reviews are also a great way of communicating your brand values and emphasising them through the words of your residents. An overwhelming 90% of Millennials say brand authenticity is important, proving that younger consumers prefer ‘real and organic’ over ‘perfect and packaged’. Most aren’t looking for picture perfect ads – they want the authentic and trusted content that their friends, family and peers are sharing on social media every day.

“Our core values are trust and transparency. We feel by inviting all our customers to leave feedback and displaying our TrustScore we can successfully portray our message across. After all, our customers are the best form of advertising.” – Ben Mills, Digital Marketing Manager, Fords of Winsford Ltd, source Trustpilot

Storytelling

When marketeers talk about what a brand stands for they recommend telling a story, painting a picture to your customers of what your mission and brand really means to them. Having met with many Build to Rent operators this summer a consistent message we heard was how the experience of BTR is so different from what a typical renter will have experienced before. From providing a ‘New way to rent’ to ‘Changing the way people live and rent’ to ‘Reinventing renting’ to ‘taking the lord out of landlord’ – storytelling through the voices of your residents allows your marketing team to bring your vision to life with tangible experiences.

“By utilizing TrustPilot reviews we have an opportunity to let our customers tell others their story to not just friends and family, but the country. These stories validate the customer experience…MailMyPrescriptions.com has reinvented the pharmacy experience, and we are using Trustpilot to reinvent storytelling.” – Santo J. Leo, Founder, CEO & President, MailMyPrescriptions source Trustpilot

Converting sales

It is now well documented that user generated content actively drives people to make new purchases. Online shoppers are 105 percent more likely to buy while on a site if they interact with reviews and customer Q&A’s and reviews produce an average 18 percent uplift in sales. For millennials putting your reviews and resident images on your social channels can have a big impact – over half have made travel plans because of consumer-created content they saw on social media.

“Engagement rate is significantly higher when we use reviews compared to a lot of what we share online. Big, happy faces accompanied by a real customer review seems to resonate well with people scrolling through their news feed. Being an online business, our excellent team behind the scenes rarely gets the public recognition it deserves. Our service is far and away the best in the surety industry. It’s easy for us (and our competitors) to make such claims, so we rely on reviews from our customers to drive that fact home to new prospects doing research.” – Michael Henderson, Digital Marketing Director, Surety Bonds. source Trustpilot

HomeViews

We have created a number of widgets to help you promote your reviews on your marketing channels. There are also a number of opportunities to ensure your business is featured or promoted on www.homeviews.com.

“We have always been entirely open about what our tenants think about us – HomeViews can endorse the credibility of our results by showing that they are at arm’s length.” – Harry Downes, Managing Director of Fizzy Living

Next step – ensure you have contacted us to claim your development and can start responding to your reviews. We will then send you our widgets and information on how you might qualify for our awards.

If you have any further questions about using HomeViews branding assets to optimize your marketing campaigns, reach out to Hannah@homeviews.com and we’ll help you make the most impact with your reviews.

UKAA Roundtable: Insurance Needs for Build To Rent – Delivered by Lockton Companies LLP

The UKAA was delighted to host a roundtable event to explore the insurance needs within the Build To Rent sector.  This was presented by Rachel Norris, VP, Lauren Allard, Senior Claims Code Executive and Ben Muller, Account Executive at Lockton Real Estate and Construction.

Please check back here for a full write-up for the roundtable.

For upcoming roundtables and events, please visit our events page.

PropRec Recruit BTR Football Team Supporting Cure Leukaemia

The Copa Del Cure Leukaemia is coming to the home of the England team at St George’s Park – and you can be a part of it!

Our member PropRec who provide recruitment solutions to the PRS and Build to Rent Sector are supporting Cure Leukaemia who are staging a six-a-side football tournament at the England national team’s training base, St George’s Park. Offering players the chance to live like professionals for a day, players will feature in matches on the FIFA-approved 3G pitch and then enjoy an evening dinner with guest speakers at the on-site Hilton Hotel.

The tournament is on the 23rd November and will feature a number of celebrity guest players and managers, guaranteed to add a star-studded element to a great day of football at the FA’s National Football Centre.

Southampton legend and former England midfielder Matt Le Tissier has already confirmed his attendance to grace one of the teams, while former Wolves and England-Under-21 goalkeeper and now respected Sky Sports pundit Matt Murray will be managing a team.

PropRec is looking for budding players from the Build to Rent sector to enter a team. If you would like to attend please email Chris at Proprec – chris@proprec.com. Please note places are available on a first come first served basis.

acasa Joins UKAA as Winners: Most Likely to Change the World of Build To Rent 2018

Who are acasa

acasa’s purpose is to build foundational technology that runs the home, so the world can live better, together. Developing the future of home management, acasa allows you to seamlessly set-up, switch and purchase utilities and on demand services through a single app. acasa is the stress free way to run your home.

acasa has built partnerships with several challenger service providers including broadband company Origin Broadband and green energy provider Octopus Energy, with further partnerships to be announced in coming weeks. Through Octopus Energy, acasa have one of the most affordable and greenest energy options in the country with 100 percent renewable electricity.

acasa also allows you to track and split any shared household cost from rent to Netflix.  With the app you can easily visualise who owes what, and check who should pay for the next thing. You are also able to send and receive money from the people you live with inside the app for free.

acasa Origin story:

Nick Katz worked in commercial real estate for 8 years as an investment broker, leasing agent, and sustainability & building operations in the United States and the United Kingdom. He’s spent the last 6 years working in the prop tech space. He’s done this both as an early employee and executive growing Honest Buildings, and the last 5 years building his own business, acasa. acasa is focused on consumer home management, payments and utilities. Nick was named as the youngest fellow at RICS. Nick’s obsession with property started at an early age as his father is an architect and his mother a landscape designer.

Sky high costs of living largely driven by household costs, student loan burdens and reduced job security is now the status quo for many young professionals. This has deeply impacted how they see their living situation. Welcome to Generation Rent, where household running costs are more than 50 percent plus of their average salary.

Yet when it comes to managing these running costs, it feels like our homes are still stuck in the dark ages. Dealing with home finances, maintenance, utilities and services is a hot mess of incomprehensible spreadsheets, unsettled payments, passive aggressive fridge messages and broken promises.

That’s why we started acasa

To create an unified, frictionless and deeply integrated platform that will bring the home into the digital age. To build the foundational technology for the home, so the world can live better, together. Ultimately, we will create the ability to log in and log out of any home, anywhere in the world with a single click.

We have 3 core features of the app: set up and automate payments for core household utilities including electricity, gas, broadband, tv license, water and council tax; track any household cost to stay on top of your home finances; pay anyone in your home directly through the app. This is built on top of a flexible billing and accounting platform which can scale to be used for any sort of household service that our tenants might want.

We want to continue to focus on helping renters and the utility companies, service providers, agents and landlords that serve them in the United Kingdom. There are 12 million renters in the UK. Now with Nationwide Building Society and a number of other top strategic and venture investors backing us, we’re ready to grow faster and solve more problems for these renters in 2019 than ever before.

Team bios:

Nick Katz, FRICS is the Co-founder and CEO of acasa. Nick has worked in the US and the UK for nearly a decade in real estate and has bought and sold commercial buildings, improved the energy efficiency of hotels, and deployed software to large property portfolios. In 2013 Nick joined the founding team of VC backed Honest Buildings as Head of Europe before launching acasa. Nick loves the idea of leveraging technology to help people live better at home. Hes an expert at dealing with home and relationship issues having rented and shared 17 homes in 4 countries US, Israel, Germany, UK living with over 50 people in the process.Nick’s role at acasa is all about making sure the business well financed, keeping the team happy, and driving the vision forward. It extends more specifically into fundraising; investor management; team and culture building; HR, financial management; growth marketing; business development; supplier relationship management; revenue growth, and commercial contract negotiation.

Vasanth Subramanian is Co-founder and CTO. Vasanth leads the technical development and brings deep development experience from delivering software solutions and improving user experiences for two FTSE 250 technology firms. He loves the intersection of data, property and people and solving real world problems with tech. He has a mission to build technology to make house-sharing less stressful and more delightful. Vasanth has skills in engineering; product management; user experience (UX) design; user interface (UI) design; user research; data analysis; analytics; API development; integrations; data regulation compliance.

 

Saumeel Pachigar (“Pach”) is Head of Integrations and Partnerships. Pach is responsible for and leads the commercial efforts at acasa. Pach was previously CCO and founder of PropTech start-up Dividabill an early stage utility bill splitting business before joining the journey at acasa. Pach brings his knowledge of the utility industry to acasa and leads on integrations with our service and on demand companies. Pach also focuses his time with business development; supplier management; commercial contract negotiation; commercial strategy.

 

Award Winners

UKAA Build To Rent World Changer (October 2018)

Residential Trailblazer (September 2018)

Global Proptech Competition – Finalist (March 2018)

Greatest Social Impact – Residential – Winner (February 2018)

Proptech Competition New York City – Winner (2017)

Proptech Company of the Year (2017)

MIPIM Global Proptech Competition – Finalist

Property Week – Trailblazers Award

 

Why you should ask your residents for reviews

How often do you get emailed a request for a review after purchasing a product or using a service? It is highly likely that a few days after you stayed in a hotel you will have received an email asking you to post a review.

The hotel industry has learnt what many industries have now experienced – that when they ask for a review they are likely to receive a much higher average rating – reports state up to 56% higher – than if they didn’t ask for any reviews at all.

The USA rental market is familiar with the importance of reviews and the impact they can have on your business. Just look on the NAAHQ website and you can find lots of articles talking about the benefits of reviews and how to manage them. Research on renters showed that reviews matter with

  • 70% of renters deciding to visit a property with a higher reputation score
  • 73% said reviews affected their decision to rent
  • 89% used review sites to narrow down their search and make a final selection

However, in the USA, Kingsley Associates found that ratings for apartments on public review sites were consistently and substantially lower than reviews collected directly through customer satisfaction surveys sent via the landlord. They found that if the landlord or building management asked for feedback ratings were higher and these reviews could then be published on the rating sites.

Berger Rental Communities in the US was one of the first companies to proactively engage and request reviews from the tenants of their 2,323 apartments across the 11 communities they managed and ensure these reviews were visible and easy to find. Dan Berger, President of Berger Rental Communities wanted the good the bad and the ugly to be available as “prospective residents are willing to overlook some bad reviews. Not everyone is going to like the same movie and not everyone is going to like the same apartment”. Berger implemented this marketing strategy ten years ago and contributed this to helping them achieve an average occupancy in 2010 of 95.15% with 4.5% rent increases.

Many Build to Rent operators already undertake customer satisfaction surveys and it is easy to invite your residents to add their review to www.homeviews.com as part of this process. Alternatively, we can create a survey for you that includes our HomeViews questions and any additional bespoke questions you would like to ask. As we did with Fizzy Living we will provide you with all the responses, reporting and insights and ensure the results are added to HomeViews.  If you would like HomeViews to support you with a survey please email Hannah@homeviews.com.

Berger also said that reviews made public validates employees hard work, “it means everything to our team members to see nice things residents say about them on a website, it really encourages everyone to work as hard as possible to strive to please our residents”.

ALL Fizzy Living Developments Achieved A Rating of Excellence on HomeViews

Earlier this year HomeViews partnered with the Fizzy Living team and invited their tenants to share feedback on what it is really like to #getfizzy.

With an average overarching rating of 4.32 stars out of 5 and 95% of tenants recommending Fizzy to friends and family the results are a testament to the experience the Fizzy teamstrive to provide for their tenants. Discover the 7 things HomeViews learnt from the tenants of Fizzy Living.


HomeViews created a bespoke customer satisfaction survey which included the HomeViews questions and some bespoke private questions from the Fizzy team. The response was fantastic with 59% of the tenants emailed across their 7 developments writing a review on HomeViews and 23% uploading a photo of what it was like to be #fizzyliving.

“I think initially (tenants) are surprised that they are renting from a landlord who actually cares about them – and then they are impressed by the level of service provided by their Bob.” Harry Downes, Managing Director of Fizzy Living

HomeViews has awarded Fizzy Living the first of our 2018 awards with all 7 of their developments achieving a rating of excellence and additional awards received for design, location and lifestyle.

Visit Fizzy Living’s company page and read all their reviews.

 

 

 

What Is The Average Hotel Rating On TripAdvisor? By HomeViews

Customer reviews are now very much a fact of life for any product or service. Marketers actively plan for how they will obtain and use them to support and improve their marketing and sales efforts.

However, whilst the benefits maybe clear many businesses and marketers are still wary, if not afraid, of allowing the man on the street to have his say about their brand, product or service. According to Econsultancy and Trustpilot, more than half of businesses still fear that negative reviews will bring them unhealthy exposure.

At HomeViews we understand that there will be some within the property industry who feel hesitant about inviting residents to share reviews on their homes. Yet if you look at the hotel and restaurant industry, where London is still the most reviewed city on TripAdvisor, there are many reassuring insights.

After examining over 1.28 million reviews on TripAdvisor, Cornell researchers determined that hoteliers should embrace guest reviews. They found that more than 70% of the reviews had a rating of 4 or 5 meaning very good or excellent. In fact, most of the reviews on TripAdvisor are positive as consumers actually want to share a great experience – the average bubble rating is more than 4 out of 5. In addition, the average rating steadily increases as a property gets more reviews and individual ratings also tend to group together closer to the average rating, resulting in your average rating being a more accurate consensus of guest opinion.

Negative ratings should not be feared. Consumers expect to read reviews talking about the good and the bad – presenting all reviews shows the world you are unafraid and increases their trust in both the content and your brand. It is often the response to less than positive review, that shows how a company or brand deals with such experiences and demonstrates how engaged they are with their customers.  A study by social commerce company Reevoo found 68 percent of consumers actually trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores and customers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67% more than the average consumer.

The importance of increasing trust should not be underestimated – 88% of us now trust review sites as much as a recommendation from our friends or family and 93% of consumers find online reviews helpful when making a purchase decision.

Customer feedback is the best way to improve the day to day performance of our businesses, correct the negative experiences and answer the concerns some customers might have. Over the past 15 years the hotel industry has learnt to embrace review sites and welcome the insights and new conversions they can have with their customers.

On HomeViews developers and operators can ‘claim’ their development giving them the opportunity to respond to each and every review on their developments. Visit www.homeviews.com to find out more and please contact Hannah@homeviews.com to claim your development.

Loft Interiors To Launch New Magazine ‘A Build To Rent Tomorrow’

LOFT Interiors are launching their magazine ‘A BTR TOMORROW’ dedicated to looking at the future of our sector and key players that can make a difference. The magazine features informative insights and ideas from many of our members.

LOFT are hosting a launch party for the magazine on 23rd May from 5.30pm at their London showroom; 52 Fitzroy Street W1T 5JR.

You are able to see a copy of the magazine here: A BTR TOMORROW

Build to rent invitation

How BTR Brands Can Stand Out In A Competitive Marketplace by LOFT

People in the property sector will know the names of main BTR developers, but what about the average tenant? What are they able to say about who’s building their future homes and how are they going to achieve this?

 

Build-to-Rent is not yet a household term and people don’t know the best developers in the market. As the phrase becomes more popular, tenants will become more familiar with the names associated with BTR.

 

Here at LOFT we have analysed the key areas that are likely to become the first “Apple” or “Nike” in the BTR world.

 

Price transparency

 

All consumers want to know what they’re paying for. Emergent sectors, such as this one, have the luxury of keeping their cards close to their chest, for the everyday consumer the idea of something new always inspires curiosity.

 

But as the BTR market takes form, that same market will be more discerning. Tenants will appreciate being told how a rental offer breaks down. Higher costs will equal more acceptance from renters when security, quality design-led furniture, a concierge or on-site gym are put into the picture.

 

Reliable tech and internet

 

It’s frustrating when the toys we’re given don’t work as promised. If a BTR scheme includes things such as smart home devices and electronic door locks, it has to be ensured they function perfectly, from the first to last days of a tenancy.

 

Wi-fi is the prime example – a slow, unreliable connection isn’t good enough. It will weaken the consumer relationship, just like staying in a premium hotel and seeing the wallpaper peeling off. In many respects, luxury stands for consistency.

 

A focus on values over marketing

 

By that, we mean fixing a value in the mind of the tenant, merely from a glance at a billboard or an internet ad, rather than trying to entice tenants with big campaigns. However, it raises the question ‘What does a BTR project represent? How different is it?’ The big brands of the future will prioritise their service aims over huge, flashy ad campaigns, until one can lay ground for the other.

 

Ultimately, tenants love a space that looks good, feels comfortable, and takes care of their unique living requirements. BTR organisations may struggle on how to do this effectively; cost limits are very real with third-party investment. For design aspects like furniture, for example, there’s a balancing act to strike between affordability and stylish and ethically sourced furnishings.

 

Twenty Twenty Living by LOFT offer design led interior solutions for the Built-to-Rent market, offering residents a `life enhancing rental solution` by providing BTR developers with an efficient and cost-effective solution for high-end, large-scale interior fit-outs.  Twenty Twenty Living have a dedicated Interior Design team with specialist knowledge and an understanding of interior design within the BTR market. We work with you to achieve your vision by either working in partnership with your own architects and designers, or creating a concept for you.

 

Fostering a new Working Culture in the Property Sector by Ricky Poonia, The Blackmore Group

I am very lucky that I can genuinely say that I love my job and I know my colleagues feel the same, but I am all too conscious of the reputation that the property and finance sectors have as employers. In the past year alone, we have witnessed the President’s Club scandal, had the true extent of the gender pay gap revealed and seen the high-profile collapse of one of the largest construction companies in the country.

Having worked in these sectors in capital markets and investments for more than a decade, I am hugely passionate about shaking off the ‘old school’ way of doing business and encouraging a more collaborative, flexible and diverse approach to building relationships and brokering deals. Not least because research shows that almost three quarters of business leaders believe their organisation would be more successful if employees were able to work in more flexible and collaborative ways.

In my experience, working in an organisation with a flat structure with no ‘airs and graces’ has paid dividends in terms of team productivity, results and building strong partner relationships. Encouraging this culture can really set a business apart from the old, financial elite and this has been hugely beneficial to us at The Blackmore Group. We are proud to have grown quickly over the past five years to become a significant player in the market and to have retained a ‘start-up’ mentality, something I am passionate about maintaining as part of the fibre of our organisation.

Having a culture of honesty and integrity is also hugely important. It is amazing how many businesses inadvertently take away employees’ power to make their own decisions, do not have open lines of communication and foster a culture of distrust. Ultimately, these are the businesses that fail to diversify and grow and the ones that lose the brightest team members.

People love working with people they get along with. It sounds obvious but fostering an open culture, in my experience, always leads to stronger working relationships, more innovation and more lucrative partnerships.  I would love to see the property and finance sectors leading the way as job creators and responding to new, agile and flexible ways of working with greater diversity in our workforce.

I am not a fan of buzzwords and I keep hearing about ‘collaboration’, but in my opinion, working collaboratively has been key for the success of our business. Our joint venture partners consistently tell us they love working with us because of who we are and our ability to be fleet of foot in the way we structure deals and respond to the market.

I’m proud to work within an organisation that has a noticeably different culture to other big financial and real estate players. Not only is this great for finding and retaining the best talent, our customers and investment partners tell us this is why they love working with us and will continue to do so for the long term.

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.

IRPM Qualification – Meeting The Needs Of The Build To Rent Industry

The UKAA were delighted to host a roundtable on the education needs in BtR presented by Andrew Bulmer from the IPRM. This was hosted at the stunning offices of Savills in central London, putting on a great spread for breakfast and provided the perfect setting around a huge roundtable for this popular roundtable.

The intention of this roundtable was to explore the training needs in the BtR sector with a focus on the IRPM’s BtR qualification. An overview of the IRPM qualification and its context in today’s regulatory environment was presented by Andrew Bulmer, CEO of the IRPM. At the beginning of 2014, the IRPM was approached by the Government’s PRS Task Force to develop a Level 4 qualification and associated learning material for the management of build to rent residential property. The IRPM has been working with the industry to ensure that the syllabus and training material are what the industry needs and has been guided by a working group of sector leaders. The course (mainly online) is taken over two years and, providing candidates pass the on-going assessments, they will gain the IRPM Member qualification.

Following the presentation by Tracy Hartley and Andrew Bulmer, it broke out into a discussion about the success rate and process of the courses and a number of key areas that need attention from the IPRM, for example, the process and requirements for handovers.

This event was a great opportunity to understand the educational offerings within the BtR sector and explore what else ought to be considered beyond the existing qualification framework. Andrew Bulmer was very happy to hear feedback and took onboard suggestions. I believe the outcome of this roundtable will definitely result in an introduction or changes to the current syllabus to include some of the topics expressed by the roundtable today.

Please visit back here for a full write-up of the roundtable.

For upcoming roundtable, please visit our events page.

UKAA Manchester Roundtable: Operating Structures, Recruitment & Talent Management In The Northwest Build To Rent Sector

IN ATTENDANCE
Joe Webb – Bouygues UK – Construction Engineering Company
Matt Halfpenny – Property Recruitment Company – Recruiter
Will Sargeant – Property Recruitment Company – Recruiter
Lee Hill – JLL – Property Management Company
Vicky McCarrick – Dandara – Estate Agents
Susan Bennison – Law Firm
Kevin Watson – PLATFORM_ – Investor, Developer, Operator and Asset Manager
Katie Davis-Maxwell – LGIM Real Assets – Real Assets Managers
Marvin Chik – Hawkins\Brown – Architectural Practice
Samuel Fitz-Hugh – Settio – Estate Agents
Matthew Finch – EcoWorld London – Real Estate Developer
Andrew Egerton – Hunters – Estate Agents
Ashley Perry – LIV Consult – BTR Consultancy
Sarah Quinn – Moda Living – Property Development Company
Jane Yates – Savills – Estate Agents
Jason Weafer – ista Energy Solutions – Energy Management Company
Vivian Hoelzl – Greystar – Integrated Real Estate Company
Jennifer Bendik – Manchester Life – Real Estate Developer
Emma Bonham – HML Group – Property and Estate Management Company
Alison Hague – Chatham Hiller Architects – Architectural Practice
Leanne Hargreaves – urbanbubble – Property Management Company
Ed Howe – urbanbubble – Property Management Company

 

BtR in the North

The emergence of Build-to-Rent (BTR) is reinvigorating the Northern residential property market. With 14 schemes already in operation – and 16 more going under construction – cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool are bracing themselves to operate over 18,000 BTR units by 2020. These institutional investor-owned schemes present huge opportunities to improve customer care for residents. But operating BTR schemes also presents its fair share of challenges, many of which are new to an industry accustomed to the traditional model that focused on managing buildings not people. With this in mind, Michael Howard, Executive
Board member of UKAA and owner of urbanbubble, invited industry players to a round table at urbanbubble’s Manchester Head Office. It was an opportunity to share experiences in managing these operations, discuss what was going well in the sector, and what we need to focus on in order to overcome key challenges…

Following introductions, urbanbubble’s Research Analyst, Ed Howe, set the scene for the Northern Powerhouse by looking at BTR in
key cities across the North. Manchester is a clear front-runner, with nearly 2,000 apartments already complete and 5,300 under construction. However, Liverpool’s market is catching up, with the highest number of schemes in the planning stages. Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle don’t attract as much attention, yet a few prominent schemes from the likes of Dandara and PLATFORM_ – both of whom were in attendance in the room – offer some interesting insights on the roll-out of BTR across the North. So, how are these single ownership schemes being managed?

 

A look at operating structures
As the round table host, Michael kicked off the conversation by sharing his experience engaging with L&G to manage The Slate
Yard. He noted that whilst in the US industry statistics show one full-time employee for every 44 apartments, urbanbubble have one
for every 30-35 apartments. These jobs span from concierge and cleaning to resident services, leasing and property management, all based on-site. Michael points out the significance of this: it’s important to consider operations right from the planning stages so that toilets, changing rooms and refreshment areas are incorporated into the building design for staff.

“These are a place of employment as well as residency.” – Michael Howard, urbanbubble

Having consulted with L&G during the planning for The Slate Yard, urbanbubble then moved into mobilisation and on-boarding.
Appointing a general manager as early as possible was critical to this stage, as they become the anchor of the mobilisation team.
Their recruitment strategy for on-boarding BTR schemes starts with the GM appointment 12 months from practical completion and allows for a three month induction and training programme before going on-site and recruiting key team members such as
the resident services manager and on-site property manager. With the mobilisation team in place, the focus was on getting the building ready for leasing and providing great customer service on-site. But Michael was keen to hear how others approach this…
Lee Hill, Director of JLL, pointed out that not all operators are involved in a scheme from the planning stages. The GreenGate
development was originally a 497-unit Buildto- Sell scheme which was converted to BTR and works well because of its scale and
amenity offering. Currently, JLL are advising on a smaller scheme in build where they have been able to influence changes to be made that have been overlooked, as sometimes schemes look good on paper but not in working principal. Whereas urbanbubble has expanded its offering from block management to include lettings for an all-in-one customer service delivery, JLL currently approach these projects through joint ventures with two block managers nationally. JLL operate the front-end team with on-site property
managers, scheme hosts and support from their offices, whilst the block manager partner is responsible for ensuring all of the other
aspects are covered.

“Whilst we don’t currently have a residential block management arm, we believe that partnering with a preferred agent offers the
client a best-in-class service.” – Lee Hill, JLL

The debate of whether to offer a 360 solution for operations or separate out then different strands stimulated some interesting
conversations around the room.For Matthew Finch, Head of Asset Management at EcoWorld London, it doesn’t make sense to combine them all. He noted from experience that momentum coming in from lettings has a knock-on effect on property management, which can possibly create a conflict of interest. Breaking up the roles and channels has been much more successful in schemes in London. That said, Lee Hill made an interesting point on the scale of the schemes being discussed around the table, with some of the smaller schemes in London being dwarfed by schemes of circa 500 units in Manchester. To put this in context, Jennifer Bendik, Head
of Lettings at Manchester Life, shed light on the model they run across their rental sites. They have a 24-hour concierge controlled by
a front of house manager who sits centrally within Jennifer’s team. The focus is on the continuity of customer service for every
resident and across every building. This 360 view is critical to building a sense of place and community.

“If you can get front of house right – people who are bought in and want to learn – it makes all of the other stuff a lot easier.” –
Matthew Finch, EcoWorld London

Creating community is something that everyone in the room agreed to be the primary outcome, and for this, you need to get the front of house right.

Finding the right people
This turned the conversation to recruitment, and it soon became clear that many people in the room had encountered issues in getting the right people in place. The unique nature of BTR schemes means that experience in property doesn’t necessarily translate to successful placement on-site.

“People underestimate how demanding it can be in a BTR environment. As well as being a fast-paced city for lettings, the added
complexities of working in-house in a largescale scheme can be too much for some property managers and we have seen a few come and go.” – Lee Hill, JLL

When you turn on a new scheme for the first time, only then can you know if it works or not. Dealing with these issues can be
overwhelming, and if the residents don’t like the people on-site, you have an even bigger problem.

“Hiring outside of the norm is indicative that BTR is completely different to PRS.” – Ashley Perry, LIV Consult

For this reason, many employers have begun exploring talent pools outside of property, especially customer-facing ones such as
hospitality, travel and even the police! As it happened, several people in the room reported great experiences in hiring ex-police
officers who are good at thinking on their feet and calming situations down.

“Hiring outside of the norm is indicative that BTR is completely different to PRS.” – Ashley Perry, LIV Consult

In light of this, some companies are returning to competency-based interviews, ditching the traditional route of hiring people in favour
of finding individuals with good people skills who can be trained up for the job.

“You can teach property management – we’re not working in the rocket science industry!” – Jennifer Bendik, Manchester Life

Scaling the BTR model

But how do you scale a team that puts customer service and community at its core? This is a question that Kevin Watson,
Operations and Commercial Director at PLATFORM_, raised and which stimulated some interesting feedback from those around
the table. Vivian Hoelzl, Community Manager at Greystar, put the topic of scale into context by noting that every scheme is different, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. However, she did highlight three key phases in the life-cycle of a building that require very different skill sets and therefore might initiate changes in the structure of a team: mobilisation, leasing and stabilisation. Each phase can benefit from changes in the team – not just to strengthen the skill set, but also to prevent the existing personnel from going stale. This is crucial if a building is to be managed in the best possible way.

“There’s nothing wrong with someone being naturally sales or customer care! Play to the strengths within the team.” – Vivian Hoelzl,
Greystar

Vivian Hoelzl from Greystar quite rightly pointed out that it does get busy on the ground quite quickly – which makes getting the right people in place early important. On this point, Sarah Quinn, Head of Residential Operations at Moda Living, reinforced the importance of recruiting and training a good general manager at the beginning stages who can, in turn, train the rest of the team.

“If that key appointment isn’t made, the building could fall away very quickly.” – Sarah Quinn, Moda Living

Looking to the future

The conversation continued to flow well up until the close of the session – and during the study tour that followed – discussing
everything from policies around pets to educating local authorities on what the sector is and what it needs. As Michael wrapped up the round table, he pointed out the importance of the UKAA in tackling these big question marks surrounding what is a very new industry, and supporting the players within it. The topics raised at the round table will feed into plenty more UKAA events over
the coming 12 months, including the annual conference in October and the trade show in February, and he encouraged attendees to
come forward with ideas on how UKAA can further support the sector.

 

Food Waste, Helping Inform Our Residents

The UKAA was delighted to be host its first ‘customer/resident’ orientated roundtable, on the very important topic of ‘helping to fight food waste’. This was presented by Beko Plc, who are very active in this truly global issue. Many thanks to JLL for kindly letting us host the round table at their stunning central London office, providing the perfect setting.

Introduction

This was an extremely insightful round table highlighting the levels of food waste by our nation and how smart technology could help residents. The introduction highlighted ethics and the level of buy-in required from the residents to follow this through. It was easy to believe Beko are truly at the heart of attempting to address a number of global issues, they even have a giant tree standing in the middle of their office and only work with ethical companies. Owning their own recyclable plant, Beko thinks along the lines of recyclability. If the resident is environmentally conscious then they will be easy to carry along on this journey. Partnership is key, if you can work with your residents then this will have more of a chance of succeeding. Technology can definitely help here. The future will see more smart fridges with features ranging from meat drawers with traffic light systems, telling you when the meat is no longer safe to eat, scanning of fridge contents to then let you know the life span and quantity when you are out shopping through a mobile app. With the left overs, recipes will be recommended. Beko have ranges that are affordable for developments and are current suppliers to many of our members.

How much do we waste

The average British household wastes £720 of food per year and as a country we waste 7 million tonnes of food every single day. Beko suggested cooking any food that no longer looks so fresh and freezing, this should also be done with left overs. The world does not need to produce more food, we just need to get smarter with what food we do have. There is a lot of confusion of ‘use by dates’ and expiry dates. Education of this subject is needed and could be provided by you to your residents.

The round discussed at what stage the most wastage takes place, it became apparent this happens right through the system; farm gate to supermarket to supplier, a system that clearly needs to evolve.

The campaign

Food for soul was a campaign that had a celebrity chief, Massimalon, as an ambassador, helping to carry the concerning message of food waste to the wider public. Having a much further reach than Beko, Massimalon was able to hold talks with the likes of the US president at the time, Obama, putting pressure on leaders to join the movement. As a company, you would have more reach and influence of in your local community. By campaigning on behalf of your residents you could act as the influencer, growing the CSR of your brand.

During the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, as part of the Food for Soul campaign food waste from the athletes village was collected and cooked. This was then taken out in the surrounding streets and offered to people within poorer communities. Just as we attempt to increase the education of Build to Rent, there similarly needs to be the same education around food waste.

How the right appliance impacts food waste

The round table discussed whether residents would pay more for a more technical fridge with the traffic light system or scanning system previously mentioned. Beko have designed a fridge with food waste in mind, some of their innovative technologies include:

  • Super Fresh Zone – low temperature drawer for meat, fish and dairy
  • Vitamin Care Zone – blue LED lights to maintain vitamin content
  • Air Flow Cooling – multiple air vents keeps an even temperature throughout
  • Duo Cooling – two separate cooling systems
  • Ion Fresh – neutralises harmful bacteria
  • Odour Filter – removes odours

The round table made reference to the US, where they take more recommendation to appliances from the design stage and upselling is around appliances installed.

There was a debate around how much response times for maintenance have an impact, the UKAA members who use Beko clearly stated this has not been a problem with Beko. The discussion flowed onto the subject of integrated vs standalone appliances.  This also has a huge impact on the time of repairs, if an appliance cannot be fixed onsite, removing an integrated appliance could bring damage to the appliance. Renters are very concerned about aesthetics and integrated appliance are usually more popular.  The ‘story’ of the appliance is the added value emphasising the positive environmental impacts, this needs to be told at the flat viewing stage, selling a compelling appliance.

Engaging residents

There are a number of events being organized for residents, it could be wort organizing a worthy event around food waste or hosting workshops. Your area may have local charities already addressing food waste, creating a partnership would expand the community involvement. An architect present informed the round table of the increase of allotments being factored into developments and a general increase in sustainability.

Discussions around how developments can get food to Beko to make good use of took place, this could be done through the instalment of a Beko community fridges. The usage of this fridge could go many ways, not solely for Beko to collect food waste to deliver to charities, it could be used to place food in for other residents if for example you are off on holiday.

We can use our role in the BtR sector to get residents excited and inspire a change of behaviour in the tenant. We could create a millennial generation that cares.

There was a wealth of knowledge and ideas discussed, thank you to everyone who attended! Please look out for our next round tables for a chance to attend and get involved.

Please click here to see a copy of the UKAA Respect Food Presentation.

Flat Findings: Market Distinctions & Opportunities in the UK and US by David Danish, RealPage

Aside from the obvious differences between the Queen’s English and whatever it is that we’re meant to speak over here across the Atlantic, working with owners and operators in the build-to-let sector on both sides of the pond is a continuous learning experience.  Adopting a whole new vocabulary, though, has been only one of the many interesting aspects of comparing what we have seen so far in the U.K. vs. the state of the industry in the U.S.

Finding Opportunities: Professionally Managed Flats

Years before RealPage established a permanent footprint in the U.K. with the acquisition of PEX, we began to learn about the U.K. market through the lens of a variety of owners, operators and investors across the country.  There are a few primary differences that have struck me to-date, though – all of which are likely to shift over time given the tremendous rate of change that this fledgling sector is experiencing across the Isle.  While the traveler in me would much prefer to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, the consultant in me finds that what separates the two markets right now offers far more opportunity for growth.

To begin, U.K. schemes have a terrific opportunity to differentiate themselves as “professionally managed flats” – distinct from the privately-held units that in most cases cannot compete with offerings such as on-site caretakers, a dedicated lettings team, and beautifully shared spaces for relaxing, entertaining or exercising.   In addition, anxious private landlords may hesitate to offer a desirable tenancy of 12-months or longer whereas most build-to-rent owners we’ve worked with are happy to provide this stability to their perspective residents.

Finding Opportunities: Flat-Specific Amenity Valuation
Another distinction of the U.K. build-to-rent sector is that the concept of identifying, recording and assigning a value to flat-specific amenities is still in its relative infancy.  Notating which specific flats have the most desirable views or the beautifully upgraded kitchens—and documenting it within the property management software—will afford owners the opportunity to market at the right rate for quicker letting, while still achieving optimal rents.  Building this functionality right into the software ensures that each flat is priced right, relative to others within the building without having to re-walk them every time they become available to let.

U.S. schemes will typically have a thorough list of particulars/amenities assigned to each flat with a dollar amount attached to make each unit equally popular, relative to others within the same scheme.  Common amenities in the U.S. include:

  • Washer & Dryer
  • Balcony
  • Upgrade/Refurbishment
  • Pool View

Snapshot: Amenity Value Impact on Schemes (By Class)

In a Class A scheme, these amenity values average over 6% of the total rent roll.  The popularity of specific particulars will vary across markets.  An outdoor space such as a balcony, for example, may garner a heftier premium overlooking the sea in Brighton than it would in Manchester.

Finding Opportunities: Flexible Tenancies

Finally, another divergence between how our partners in the U.K. operate today and what we commonly see in the U.S. is the approach taken to offer “flexibility” to our residents when it comes to their tenancy. Primary examples of these disparities include:

  • UK. lettings often have the option for a break-clause at the 6-month point, at no additional cost to the tenant
    • The potential for a mid-term lease-break creates uncertainty in forecasting and managing availability for the scheme
    • Off-cycle void notices create barriers to rent roll growth if they occur during the low season in the market
  • US. tenants are typically charged a premium if they desire the flexibility of a tenancy shorter than 12-months
    • The amount assessed will correlate to the increased revenue risk associated with potentially having to redecorate a flat more than once every 12 months
    • Tenancies greater than 12 months may be offered to support adherence to an expiration management schedule that as closely as possible mirrors the seasonal demand patterns of the market
      • In many cases, longer tenancies will be offered at a slight discount to build stability into the rent roll and minimize void periods without impacting offered rents
    • If a U.S. resident does not sign a renewal contract prior to the expiration of their initial lease contract, they will typically incur a significant increase to roll periodically
      • Pricing structures have adapted to incentivize resident behaviors that support stronger revenue performance of the scheme

 

Snapshot: Longer Lease Terms Add Up

 

The accompanying chart is an analysis of over 8,000 stabilized schemes utilizing the RealPage platform in the U.S. from June of 2017 to June of 2018, revealing that nearly 50% of tenancies are 11 to 12 months in length, with a significant percentage of U.S. letters opting for tenancy agreements longer than 12 months.

As we expand our partnerships in the U.K, it remains to be seen just how the build-to-rent sector will evolve.  Without a doubt, some aspects of the industry will mirror common practices in the U.S., while others will take on a uniquely British twist. Look for subsequent market insights shared by our team as we learn more about this burgeoning market and help accelerate its growth, working side-by-side with our clients, colleagues and peers.

Brand Building for Build To Rent by Saurabh Saxena, Houzen

What is a brand?

Over the last year or so, Houzen have had the privilege of working with several prominent BTR operators, all of whom are concerned about their brand. When we ask “what is your brand?”, the answer I hear a lot is “Oh! We are trying to figure it out ourselves”. This article attempts to provoke some further introspection. starting with Philip Kotler’s’ perspective on “branding”:

Too many companies think that their brand building work is done when they have established a brand’s name and logo……. But they won’t mean much to customers who are uninformed. A company should not start by setting the brand’s identity. The company should start by setting the brand’s purpose. Brand purpose answers the question of what job is the brand promising to accomplish for the buyer?

Using this analogy for a prospective tenant “Joe” searching on a property portal – what would swing Joe’s decision to pick a BTR flat over a regular flat (and also pay a premium rent)? On Rightmove, most flats look the same. So (1) how does BTR differentiate its proposition, and then (2) within the BTR sector, how do operators differentiate their brand from one another? The answer lies in Kotler’s recommendation to create a brand purpose first, and then communicate it through user experience stories?

Making the Brand Different

Brands cannot be created overnight, at best you can create “top of the mind recall”. Experiences, which the BTR sector is all about, can’t be communicated through portals, emails, tube ads etc.

Let’s take an example from the Real Estate world: WeWork Vs Regus! Why does WeWork have a $35b valuation with only 1/10th the number of locations (and hefty losses) compared to Regus, which has been around a lot longer and invented the co-working concept? “WeWorkers” (and not just WeWork) swear by the “community” experience, whereas Regus is simply a good functional office space. The answers lie in economic sociology and motivation theory.

We humans have a habit of following aspirational and missionary brands as we aspire for

self- actualisation. We want to be associated with and be a part of strong experience stories. This is why we spend most on experiences, less on services and least on products. Some service (e.g. WeWork) and product providers (e.g. Apple) have been able to attach an experience to their offering. Consumers pay a premium for consuming these brands which move them closer to self-actualisation.

How to Become a Brand Powerhouse

(Fig. 1) Branding strategy evolves with changing times

The customer today yearns for cultural and experiential branding. This does not come from

marketing but creating and telling experience stories. It comes from a deeper understanding of

consumer psychographics, not just demographics and values rather than data.

BTR operators should spend a lot of time talking to their target demographics to understand what their values are, what they like, what they don’t and what they really want (rather than making decisions from research reports).

Brian Chesky famously went around the world for a year sleeping in shared apartments speaking with and hanging out with tenants and hosts to truly understand what guests want – he went on to create one of the most successful and counter intuitive (to common logic) businesses called Airbnb.

(Fig. 2) To win customers, brands need to focus on psychographics

Next Steps for Build-to-Rent

Here are a few steps we followed that might be useful for BTR operators to build their brand:

1) Look inward. What do you want your differentiated residence experience to be? What is your

brand purpose? Why do you exist?

2) Always focus on the customer! Talk to them directly (and talk to hundreds of them) Do not

make assumptions based on research reports.

3) Identify the target tenant demographic and psychographic.

4) Find tenants fast! Fill up your buildings quickly to ease off financial pressure.

5) Expensive marketing campaigns will at best bring “top of the mind” recall. Instead, focus

on curating and communicating experiences. Create video content, make resident

communities, make them share their experiences with their friends and colleagues through

social networks. Though slower, this would be a more powerful and cheaper brand building

platform.

6) Since the proposition is an experience led one, allow potential tenants to participate in the

experiences: perhaps start hosting an Airbnb style accommodation to London based

professionals to showcase the experience.

7) Turn your existing residents into brand ambassadors. It’s the cheapest way to acquire new

customers and create a true brand based on experience stories.

8) Master influencer marketing! Brands like L’Oréal, Adidas, Volvo etc are increasingly moving

their focus towards this.

9) Don’t compete with each other – don’t be Coke vs Pepsi at a time when customers want

orange juice! Instead unite and create an industry wide campaign to educate the market.

Perhaps also pool in marketing monies!

10) Partner with innovative companies, who will challenge and improve your customer delivery.

Don’t do everything yourself, rather have a tight operational control on suppliers and just manage SLAs. Re-allocate this saved time to customer conversations and experiences i.e. your brand purpose

Build-to-Rent is the experience. Make this your mantra and say what your company can to do deliver this experience to your customers.

 

This is an extract from a longer article which is available here: BTR_Brand-building-Houzen

The Vaboo Renter Sentiment Survey: what are the UK’s greatest renting concerns?

The cost of renting in the UK has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. Rents in some places have risen by a staggering 63% over the last decade, and for most, the cost of renting will take up at least a quarter of their income (it is estimated this is two-thirds for Londoners).

To better understand the motivations and concerns of the modern-day renter, Vabooconducted the first-of-its-kind report into the major financial concerns of the UK renting population. The survey was made up of over 1000 respondents, aged between 18 – 65+ who rent privately, through social housing or within the Build to Rent sector. Those surveyed were not Vaboo users.

The survey found 86% of the UK renting population is concerned by the rising cost of living.  It also found that irrespective of age, region or gender, renters are constantly on the look-out for where and how they can save money.

All survey respondents expressed interest in discounts and offers that could help them save money on their daily expenses. Interestingly, where renters are most interested in saving money is on day-to-day necessities; Household bills (79%), Groceries (77%) and Transport (43%).

The survey also found a direct correlation between concerns around the rising cost of living and saving money on the bare essentials. Those aged between 35-44 are the most concerned age group (88%), and those most interested in saving on groceries (79%). The same is true of the South West, the UK region most concerned by the rising cost of living (91%), is the most interested in saving money on groceries (86%) and household bills (87%).

Unsurprisingly, more than half of London renters would like to be able to save money on transport costs (58%).

Even with such high rental costs, in total three-quarters of UK renters would be happy to pay higher rent if this meant they had access to national (43%) and local discounts (32%) or offers that reduce the cost of living.

Across the UK, spending when it comes to leisure activity is less of a priority. As little as 36% renters are looking for ways to reduce spending when it comes to holidays and only 26% looking to save on health and fitness activities indicating that saving on day-to-day necessities takes precedence for UK renters.

Alongside the survey, Vaboo has also developed The Renter Sentiment Map a first-of-its-kind publicly available tool mapping out the opinions of 3,000 UK renters. The Renter Sentiment Survey is made up of data from a balanced set extracted from the Renter Sentiment Map’s 3,000 renter respondents.

Jonathan Stein, CEO of Vaboo, explains, “The rising cost of living has long been an area of concern – and rightly so. Rent prices show no signs of decreasing, so renters are looking for ways to save money in all other areas of their lives. The number of UK renters are on the rise, and so too, is the opportunity for accommodation providers. However, if providers do not implement measures to help counter their renters concerns they will find themselves falling behind the pack.”

Vaboo, develop perks and engagement platforms for rented accommodation providers in order to help their clients give their renters exclusive access to money-saving offers that combat affordability concerns.

The full report can be found here: Vaboo Renter Sentiment Index 2018.

Bisnow: The Future of Bed Birmingham

Bisnow will be hosting yet another event this year ‘The Future of Beds in Birmingham’ with the UKAA as sponsors taking place on Thursday 20th September from 7.30. This event will provide a positive outlook on city living, student housing and of course build to rent. By attending the event you will learn of how local authorities and the property industry in Birmingham work together to deliver on Mayor Andy Streets’ housing plan of 215,000 homes by 2031. Residential developments are booming, so how is the configuration of the city centre changing and forcing developers, architects and contractors to get creative? Explore what will HS2 means for Birmingham and it’s housing landscape.

As generation rent is rapidly growing and people are staying off the housing market for longer, Bisnow will take a look at how we targeting young professionals, as well as families. Are there too many student flats in Birmingham? There will be discussions around how can we encourage students to continue renting in Birmingham after graduation.

If you would like to attend, UKAA members get a 20% off tickets. Please contact us if you would like to join this event.

Bisnow: The Future of Beds in Dublin

The UKAA are sponsoring the Bisnow event ‘The Future of Beds in Dublin’ to learn more about the BTR Irish sector. The event will be taking place on Tuesday 18th September 2018 from 7.30am. Among the speakers will be UKAA member, Liv Group’s Managing Director, Iain Murray with more speakers being added.

There will be insight on how can local authorities and the CRE industry in Dublin work together to deliver on the Rebuilding Dublin housing plan of providing the tens of thousands of homes needed by 2021. With €5B in capital targeted to the Irish BTR sector, discussion how can modern methods of construction and how the right approach to density can speed up the delivery process will be explored.

Representatives will address what types of infrastructure and government initiatives are needed to support residential growth, flourishing neighborhoods and development processes. Get involved in discussions on how the market can avoid further rental spikes and provide the type of housing appealing to young professionals, as well as families. Are there enough and affordable student apartments in Dublin? Find out how can we encourage students to continue renting in Dublin after graduation, and what accommodation the market should be building for them.

All UKAA members will receive a 20% discount on tickets. Please contacts us if you wish to attend.

Bisnow Manchester Build To Rent Boom

The UKAA are sponsors of this years’ Bisnow Manchester Build to Rent Boom event taking place on Thursday 6th September 2018 from 7.30am. UKAA member, Liv Group will have their CEO Graham Bates as one of the speaks with many more to be announced.

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Manchester Crane Survey, 11,135 residential units are under construction in Manchester city centre, up 4,172 from 2017. Build to rent products dominate the supply under construction and offer the prospect to bridge the historic undersupply of residential developments. Exciting installments such as the arrival of HS2, the growing student population currently at 60,000, plus an emergent and diversifying regional economy has primed Manchester as a place people should want to live. Can the city capitalize and deliver on these opportunities? Get the answers and more insight at The Manchester Build to Rent Boom. As we bring the city’s most prominent CRE professionals to discuss major trends and issues facing the market today.

UKAA members are being offered a 20% discount on tickets. Please contacts us if you would like to attend.

Savills Housing Sector Survey 2018

Savills released the findings from their housing sector survey this week which shows the affordable housing sector must do more to help solve the housing crisis. Those working in the affordable housing sector overwhelmingly believe it should be doing more to help solve the housing crisis by prioritising building more new homes to meet the growing needs of those unable to afford market housing.

The report can be seen here: the-savills-housing-sector-survey-2018

Can build to rent help solve the UK’s loneliness problem?

Loneliness in the UK

Our current way of life is leading to increasing issues of loneliness affecting not only older generations but younger too. We believe residential developments designed and built around a rental model can do much to overcome that loneliness.

Tracey Crouch has been appointed as the UK’s first minister for loneliness. The move is the result of work undertaken by the Commission on Loneliness, set up by late MP Jo Cox to raise awareness of the hidden crisis. The UK is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, which found that 200,000 older people had not had a conversation with a  relative in more than a month. The number of single households is already on the rise and due to increase by a quarter (an additional 1.7 million households) by 2039, according to government projections.

How can build to rent help?

Housing plays a key role in our society in terms of building communities, particularly in city environments. Well designed properties can help build feelings of connectivity and community that bring about multiple benefits for residents’ mental health. With  build to rent accommodation taking off in the UK, we have a unique opportunity to use housing to reduce loneliness and bring about positive change. Loneliness is often associated with older people who live alone, but they are not the only group affected. Young people in urban areas often suffer with feelings of loneliness, as do downsizing parents whose children have flown the nest. Students are greatly affected by loneliness as they spend time isolated when studying for long hours. Our changing approach to relationships has also resulted in many people feeling lonely. The average age at which people married in 1971 was 22.6 for a woman and 24.6 for a man; by 2017, it had changed to 30.8 and 32.7 respectively.

The range of ages residing in a build to rent accommodation provides the opportunity to address some of these issues. Downsizers who rent are a growing group, with many enjoying the experience of urban living and the continued connection with younger generations that it offers. With individuals, couples and families all living together in one development, social opportunities are ever present.

The design of the development supports this too, with shared communal facilities such as club lounges, gyms, outdoor space and even the entrance lobby all offering developers the chance to promote social interaction between residents, thus creating a friendly and social atmosphere in the development. The staff  who work alongside build to rent developments also play a big role in promoting community spirit and building social interaction. A friendly, helpful on-site team, made up of people who genuinely care about residents’ welfare, can make a big difference to the lives of those who reside there. So too can the events that the team organise. Social barbecues, Christmas parties and the screening of major sporting events give residents the chance to connect with like-minded individuals, or simply new people whom they might not otherwise encounter. Tackling loneliness is about bringing people together, not about taking an isolated approach.

 

Can build to rent help our ageing population?

The Findings

There have been many reports lately addressing the concern of ageism within society. This has flared up after a report published on 8th June 2018 by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation revealed damning negative ageist attitudes across the UK. This was mainly found in Millennials, who make up a quarter of our population. 30% of Millennials held negative views towards our ageing population, basically writing them off! Such negative attitudes were found to present health issues to the elderly as they live in the mist of such adversity, instigating mental health issues and even shortening life expectancy. The report highlights a number of plans to turn this attitude around including education within schools, promoting age diversity in the workplace, banning the term ‘anti-aging’ on cosmetics and, more importantly to us, the idea of integrating generations.

 

Can Build to Rent help?

Could the Build to Rent sector help to integrate generations? We have schemes of our members where this is already happening, and it is working well! Essential Livinghave a development where they have a 92-year-old tenant and four fellow residents take the time to check on him. They also have a number of other tenants that are aged 60+, happily living amongst the youngsters, families and middle agers. This was not a term of the agreement or the primary intention of the development, this has all happened organically. Many companies also host shows and events for residents, giving all residents an excuse to get together and get to know each other.  This takes people out of their flats and actually ‘integrating’, which is exactly what the report sets out to achieve. BtR is doing this! Mark Flint from Essential Living told us:

“From the very start our aim has been to nurture community within each of our buildings. A diverse mix of residents of all ages makes for a thriving community, which has helped make our developments highly desirable places to live. Build-to-Rent is certainly a viable solution to help the UK’s ageing population. The age range of our residents is vast – from as young as 18 to as old as 92. What’s common throughout though is their shared desire to live in a community where they can have a meaningful connection with their neighbours.”

There is also now a model that is built around the integration of tenants of all ages, incentivising the youngers tenants to carry out the charitable act of becoming a helping hand and friend to the older tenants that are less able. The incentive would offer a discount on rent or other monetary savings of some kind would be offered. We spoke to Justin Shee from The Kohab about their new model:

“At The Kohab, we are creating the first consciously curated intergenerational co-living schemes in the UK.  We are bringing the co-living movement to the retirement market, based upon successful European co-habitational models.  By holding back a number of units in our schemes for younger residents to live in at a discounted rent, we can create the kind of dynamic and energetic communities which traditional retirement living lacks.  Evidence clearly shows that intergenerational living is mutually beneficial to all involved and can have profound outcomes in terms of improving physical and mental wellbeing.”

The PRSim tenant survey released two weeks ago also shows evidence that people seek to live in a place where they are living amongst all different kinds of people, including different age groups. Surely we can all benefit from living around people from a different age group, sometimes it’s enlightening to hear about how life is from a different age perspective.

A positive outlook

Channel 4 aired a programme showing the positive impacts of placing a nursey within a retirement community, the positive effects this had on health and happiness was immense.  What if we just kept the older generations in society for longer, rather than have them move to a retirement home or such? Most of us have the compassion and heart to make sure our neighbours are well and know where to come for help, this is the sense of ‘community’ after all. A safe and friendly environment is surely desired by us all, millennials, families and the elderly alike. This is the aim of many Build to Rent developments, the chance to create a community from scratch, knowing the people around you. The UKAA have many members who have seen evidence of their developments already exercising the integration of generations, and it’s working for everyone.

It can be argued that Build to Rent can bring positive changes to attitudes that our society currently holds towards the elderly. BtR is popular amongst Millennials, this could be our chance to encourage a change in attitudes, working towards providing positive experiences for all in co-living.

The Technological Revolution and the Future of Residential Property

As we see changes in demographics, urbanisation and economic structures, we then see new business models, innovation, creativity and technological advances. Technical revolutions have been adapted to businesses creating a demand for data analytics as the change in pace accelerates.

Houzen released a paper with RICS on deep tech last year. Houzen, a residential lettings and management platform, was asked by RICS to look at the impact property technology may have in the residential property sector, and the lessons the residential real estate industry can learn from it. The paper aims to explain what PropTech means for the residential sector, providing insights from other industries and making recommendations on how technological solutions may be applied within residential firms.

The full report can be viewed here: Tech_Revolution_INSIGHT_PAPER

How can we Improve Customer Service? By Audra Lamoon, Livewire

The experience economy is here to stay…but you have to make the customer/resident experience count financially, as well as physically. At Livewire, we aim to bridge the gap between experience and ROI by crafting tailored learning and performance processes that sustain the brand, your reputation and safeguard the new build to rent landscape.

In the Build to Rent sector most companies survival depends on delivering high levels of hospitality, experience and service. We are all able to swap experiences and discuss trends, but we should engage our staff in bespoke learning and performance activities to stay ahead of the game. It would be more than beneficial to know what your property and your service offering are in reality, and having this critiqued and tested is critical.

Creating advocates through superior customer service is key. As the build to rent sector grows it becomes more and more crucial to identify how to improve on customer service. While the UKAA has identified improving standards at all levels, it is essential to personalise the residential experience, so who could help our members do this? Livewire identifies resident profiles and understands the reality of living with you, crafting a programme that includes dealing with difficult situations and resolving issues while keeping the relationships and brand intact.

Livewire has worked with many major players and Apartment Associations across our industry in the US and UK and have proven positive results. They bring focussed hospitality expertise from the hotel, retail, sport and leisure sectors and those clients include The Braves, The Walt Disney Company, CBRE, Matrix Residential, North American Properties, Sir Robert McAlpine and Hines etc. Your properties feed into communities, adding to the economies and so having your physical presence with knowledge, management skills and the people with the will to serve is critical. Give us your people and we will give you a learning experience that you can take straight back to the workplace.

The UKAA have partnered with us as we are expert training providers, we are offering UKAA members a bespoke training programme to provide excellent customer service. This will be tailored to your company needs, vision and values. If you would like to inquire about putting a package together for your brand, people and service, please contact Emma Henderson by emailing ehenderson@www.ukaa.org.uk or take a look at our Livewire Brochure 2018 UK.

“People pay and stay for stellar service, there are no rewards for mediocrity”

Audra Lamoon, MD Livewire Performance

Build it and they will come…or will they? By Jonathan Stein, CEO Vaboo

Data:- we all know the importance of data in order to make our businesses more efficient and to produce a solid customer proposition.

When developing a building it’s useful to know exactly how many light bulbs we will need or how much communal and amenity space might be necessary, but how do we really know what our customers want? Ask them.

Whilst it’s great to have an onsite gym and other amenities that can be charged extra for, what about helping customers with one of the biggest challenges renters face; affordability.

It’s all well and good trying to get more money out of customers but making renting more affordable has got to be part of the customer service wheel. Our latest data shows that accommodation providers should perhaps be thinking about this more.

We constantly survey our renters to get regular insights into their behaviours and demands. From thousands of renters we surveyed in March 2018, over 90% are worried about the rising cost of living. Whilst this may not be surprising, what’s interesting is that the largest pool of respondents were aged 20-33 and this same demographic are also showing that they are more focused on the service they receive from their accommodation providers versus people aged over 40.

How do we know this? Well from the responses we have received so far, those in the younger demographic are far more vocal when providing feedback about the service they receive and what they want. Net Promoter Scores from this demographic seem to be lower, suggesting they are more focused on the service levels they receive. Given that the sector is only going to grow, do we need to be listening more to this younger demographic entering the market as they are likely to be the ones that shape the future of the PRS? I think so, especially given that by 2040 its forecast that over 60% of the renters in the PRS are going to be those over the age of 50 who have never owned a property.

These days we are all used to receiving pretty high levels of customer service and better customer experiences from the numerous services that have been improved by technology. Our renters tell us they are worried about the rising cost of living and where they would most like to be able to save money, but that their social life is still very much a high priority.

With affordability top of mind for most renters as well as the expectation of the value of service, the smartest of accommodation providers identify where there is an opportunity to provide renters with solutions that counter these concerns. After all, renters are customers and building lasting, long-term relationships with them will only lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.

Competition is increasing as the number of renters grows and more properties are developed, in particular with the impact that the customer focused Build to Rent sector is having. All accommodation providers from private landlords to housing associations, as well as property managers need to think about how competitive their offering is and how they are adding real value to their customer’s lives.

At Vaboo, we work closely with accommodation providers to help them better understand their renters and provide a service that adds real value. Through our pioneering renter engagement platform, our clients are able to offer their renters money-saving offers and discounts to not only ease financial pressures but to also improve landlord/renter sentiment and enhance reputation.

If accommodation providers can cover all bases then they will be keeping their customers today and their customers of the future very happy.

The Changing Face of Renters by PRSim

Renting is not just a young person’s game.

According to the latest PRSim-LSL Tenant Survey 2018, older or rather ‘reconciled renters’ as the survey terms them, are not only happier to rent but are also more committed to longer-term rentals over and above any other life stage group.

PRSim, a PRS and Build to Rent data, consultancy and operational management business, is responsible for undertaking this annual survey in conjunction with its parent company, LSL Property Services Group. The survey invites the opinions of over 40,000 UK residents – making it the largest and most comprehensive resource of its kind in the UK.

The survey, which was conducted throughout March 2018 and completed by more than 3,700 tenants across the UK, identified three core principles that PRSim believes agents, landlords and developers should adopt and how these can be adapted to different lifestage groups, to make the tenant’s renting experience more successful and the decision making process for Build to Rent developers and investors much easier:

  • Redefining the rules of renting to challenge perceptions of the rental landscape and what tenants can expect it to include;
  • Tailoring and targeting new building initiatives to ensure that new ideas resonate with the different lifestyles of tenants;
  • Fostering strong dialogue with tenants to support success and ensure tenants’ expectations are met.

David Bond, Head of PRS & Build to Rent at PRSim commented:

“Following the success of our previous tenant surveys – which unveiled interesting facts about who rents in the UK, and why – we’ve been able to, this year, identify strong evidence that suggests that assisting tenant’s to budget and plan for their future, involving them more in the design of new living concepts and ensuring a strong and open dialogue with them, is vital to the long term health of the lettings market.

What has also become evident is that tenants have different priorities dependant at what lifestage they may be at, and that while many could be guilty of assuming that renting is only for the young, there is vast and growing demand from tenants of all ages and, increasingly, from older renters who are reconciled – and happy – to rent in the longer term.

Overall, as in the past three years, we see our survey as providing important information that will assist in helping the Private Rental Sector grow and evolve for the benefit of everyone within it.”

Alastair Carmichael, PRS Lead at GVA, a strategic partner of PRSim, said:

“The key takeaway for investors from this survey will be the need to cater for a broad range of tenants. This is not just about young people who see renting as a lifestyle choice, as a nearly equal split of tenants across the key lifestage groups confirms that a BTR development needs to meet the lifestyle, location and economic needs of a real cross-section of our society.

Importantly, some of the key discussions we’re having with investors are those that are equally important to tenants. Investors are already considering alternatives to the traditional deposit, such as phased releases, insurance and the ability to absorb these themselves, and with 63% of tenants intending to buy, investors will likely bring forward the structuring of blended ownership products such as Rent to Buy.”

This year’s findings paint a positive picture for the PRS industry, with more residents than ever bought into the communal living and shared services concept. However, it was the older renters (aged 45+) that stood out with their positive and youthful outlook on renting.

PRS housing for the mature market has long taken a back seat to the surge of modern developments geared towards Generation Rent. However, with nearly 1 in 4 of older people expecting to rent for a further 10+ years, the Silver Generation represents an attractive opportunity for the Build to Rent community.

Encouragingly, over a third of residents surveyed were already aware of ‘Build to Rent’ initiatives, particularly older life stages perhaps due to the recent rise of retirement living and over 50’s developments, appeal for which appears to be growing significantly.

When focusing in on the over 45’s, the survey found that more than half are interested in Build to Rent developments and 43% are willing to consider a development targeted at over 50’s, a significant increase from 2017.

It’s clear that future PRS initiatives should be broadened to cater to the needs of older renters and their desire for a more secure and sociable future, but to also encourage inclusive inter-generational communities in new and existing developments.

Please click here to see a full copy of the report: PRSim-LSL Tenant Survey 2018

To view the findings from 2017 please visit the PRSim website www.prsim.co.uk/tenant-survey.

Property Technology Round Table Overview

This month’s roundtable concentrated on Property Technology. A full turnout of over 30 industry representatives met at the fabulous offices of Womble Bond Dickinson with their great views of the Thames and the Tower of London. Our thanks to the team there for their excellent hospitality.
A really informative presentation by John Kenny and Michael Robinson of Grainger highlighted the importance of adapting your business to the right technology for your customers. Technology has to be embraced. We must use it to our advantage but it must not use us. It doesn’t mean that there will be less for us to do, in fact we work harder as we have more information at our fingertips, but it is how we use it.
Our customers all want something different from us. The younger ones just want to know that they have full wifi and wouldn’t care if the roof was off, well maybe they would but you get the meaning. Or cuisines want great but simple service in the most cost efficient manner. That must be all our aims.

wifi spots in main room of house

The major message of the day was :
Technology is here to stay. Embrace it don’t forego it!!! 
 
After the presentation there was a good discussion round the table where many views were shared about the best practises in each organisation.
That’s the benefit of these morning seminars. Good discussion, sharing of information, great networking and back at your own desk by 11am.
Watch out for our next one in June which will be announced shortly. Places are always at a premium so book your seat as soon as you see the email. If you would like to get involved, please contact us.

The Telegraph Reports Positively on BTR

The Telegraph reporter Jack Torrance covered an accurate, positive approach to the BTR industry debating if the sector can save tenants from low quality landlords. He draws attention to the fact that we all know someone with a horror story about renting from buy-to-let landlords. Such horrors could include being left freezing after the boiler breaks down or not having the full deposit amount returned for not dusting properly before moving out. Torrance mentions the struggle for people in their 20’s and 30’s to save enough to buy themselves out of such bad situations by earning and saving enough money to eventually move into their own home, this opens his question of if the BTR industry can be the answer:

“Britain’s burgeoning build-to-rent industry hopes it can be at least part of the answer. Its basic premise is that by building flats on a large scale and then letting them out rather than selling them on a piecemeal basis, corporate landlords can afford to provide a better service than your typical buy-to-letter.”

Evening rirds eye view of Wembley Stadium

Torrance recognises the BTR model is common in other countries such as the US and as we know prompted the need for the NAA. It has only been roughly over the last 2 years the UK BTR industry has started to grow significantly, this is reflected in the growth of the UKAA’s membership levels. A few members are mentioned in the article including Get Living, Be Living, Quintain, Legal and General and includes a quote from The UKAA President, Jonathon Ivory of Atlas Residential.

This is an insightful article providing a positive look forward to what the BTR sector can offer people wanting to simply enjoy renting and how key players in the sector are working to make sure this is fulfilled.

The full article can be found here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/05/05/can-build-to-rent-save-tenants-life-low-quality-landlords/

NB: Readers must register to read the full article.

Bad Debt Round Table Overview

British Bank Notes

Bad debt is a problem we all want to avoid, however in the Private Rented   Sector sector this is a problem many are faced with. It is an important issue to address and combat in the advent of the Build to Rent Sector. The UKAA held a round table on the subject delivered by Mark North and James Attew of Brethertons LLP, hosted at Allsop LLP’s office in London. It was interesting to learn of the problems and conflicts businesses are finding themselves in as a result of bad debt.

Effectiveness of Policies

At the moment many companies have an arrears policy as part of their credit control procedure, however these policies are not always effective. The round table debated when was the best time to present clients with such a policy and how effective it actually is. Even including the policy as part of the tenancy agreement or the welcome pack can be overlooked and generic chasing emails are often ignored.

With regards to deposits, there are planned government schemes to cap rental deposits to 5 weeks, this will have a huge impact on bad debt, however once a tenant has fled, there is little you can do.

a hat on the ground with coins and banknotes

James Attew from Brethertons considered whether deposits may be inefficient in the rental market:

“There are so many legislative hurdles for landlords to overcome when taking and protecting a deposit, which can have significant effects on, for example, recovering possession of a property at the end of a tenancy”.

James also discussed the issue of obtaining payment of arrears from an absconding tenant at the end of a tenancy:

“You need to give a tenant enough time to create a footprint, then tracing agents can help to track them down through lines of credit.”

Mark North of Brethertons suggests going through a process of elimination:

“Find an address for the tenant, determine if/ how far overseas they are, is it worth chasing? Get a judgment, for me this is the key as your options will now start to look a bit better. It all comes down to if you believe you have a realistic chance of obtaining payment at the end of the day.”

Mark has also found when companies use legal representatives such as Brethertons LLP, that element of gravitas generally results in tenants being more responsive. Many disputes are not defended by the tenant. As a business, it is important to consider any potentially negative PR that may come of a case, should it become public.

Good customer service through communication

It was discussed that maybe the right approach is to build a relationship with your clients, communicating verbally initially, with written correspondence should the matter not be resolved in a short time frame. Acting promptly is important, as generally tenants in arrears are probably in debt to other creditors. Recovering arrears can be a lengthy and expensive process and it is good practice to use all information you have regarding the particular tenant, to calculate your anticipated returns against the likely costs of chasing this money.

UKAA hold regular round tables to discuss various topics relevant the BTR industry and everyone is welcome. Please contact us if you would like to participate or find out more about joining our membership.

BisNow’s Build To Rent Annual Conference

The build to rent (BTR) sector is at a tipping point. Institutional investors and government have been pouring billions of pounds into the BTR sector, and there are further investments in the pipeline that will supply the nation with tens of thousands of new homes at a range of prices, driving innovation in construction and quality design.

The question now is what BTR v2.0 looks like? Have the investments and models used so far already proved a sustainable success? What is current data revealing? What has been learned from the sector’s first wave and how can it evolve and thrive from here?

To find out more, BisNow are holding their Annual Conference on 22nd May 2018. Details can be found Here and UKAA members will receive a discount of 20% using the code: UKAA20

Newcastle Residential Hub Meeting

       

‘Enabling Housing Delivery’

11th  April – 2pm – 6.30pm

Newcastle University, Barbara Strange Teaching Centre, Newcastle, NE1 8QB

Buildoffsite Residential Hub provides a valuable opportunity for Northern England with a programme of influential speakers, engaging, topical content and a networking space for organisations within the housing sector to connect and collaborate, with regional information and knowledge sharing.

  • 14:00  Registrations
  • 14:15  Welcome
  • 14:25  Buildoffsite Housing Hub
  • 14:45  Brian Ham, Home Group – Capabilities & Guiding Principles for Selecting Offsite Solutions
  • 15:00  Speaker to be confirmed
  • 15:15  Brendan Geraghty, GTA – How to accelerate housing using good design solutions that suit the use of offsite construction
  • 15:30  Michael O’Doherty, One Public Estate – Opportunities & Challenges of manufactured housing
  • 15:45  Afternoon Tea & Networking
  • 16:30  Political Overview
  • 16:45  Panel Debate: Collaboration. Encouraging & exploring Buildoffsite’s role as enabler of collaborative projects through Innovate UK & the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
  • 17:15  Open Discussion
  • 17:45  Other Business
  • 18:00  Drinks & Networking
  • 19:00  Dinner (£30 per head for non-members)

 

 REGISTER HERE

The UKAA Shortlisted in the Property Wire Awards

We have the pleasure in announcing The UKAA has been shortlisted for the Best Trade Association in the 2018 Property Wire Awards. We have made the shortlist of 3 after contending with many other well deserving candidates in the category. Property Wire provides daily news on residential and commercial real estate from around the world.

We are extremely proud of what we have achieved so far for the BTR industry and receiving recognition of our hard work makes it all worthwhile. We would like to thank all our members for their dedication and hard work over the months. The winner will be revealed on Friday 23rd March 2018, thanks for your support along the way. Be sure to visit back to the website for updates on the winners.

You can view a list of the nominations on the Property Wire website: https://propertywireawards.com/shortlist/

Glimmers of hope but more political backing needed

In the past fortnight, plans, policies and long-term strategies for the housing industry have been established by Sadiq Khan and Philip Hammond to tackle one of Britain’s biggest challenges over the next 25 years. Due to the vast and complex nature of the UK housing crisis, these political events were highly anticipated by industry observers and have since been met with a wave of contrasting reactions.

It is great to see that the Build to Rent sector is now acknowledged by name at a UK and local government level in both the Budget and the draft London Plan, both recognising that the UK can only truly address the housing crisis by increasing supply. This is definite good news for our sector, we’ve come a long way in a short five years.

However, beyond this I was expecting – or at least hoping – to be greeted with overarching measures that would help address the supply factors, notably unlocking more investment opportunities and properly funding planning departments. Yes, certain policies attempt to address some of this, but more needs to be done if the Build to Rent sector is truly to thrive.

It was encouraging that the Chancellor’s Budget was focused on housing but I have been left with the feeling that renters – and more generally people who are not looking to buy a house – have been undermined. It was positive to see the Government announce it will consult on barriers to longer tenancies to see how landlords can be encouraged to offer them but it’s unlikely this will help raise standards across the private rented sector for some time. Large-scale, professional landlords like us at Get Living already offer longer term tenancies and a fairer deal for renter, what we need is more support in building supply.

In terms of Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan, the measures included in the strategy coincide more with what we believe in. The Mayor’s Plan argues that part of the long-term strategy to tackle the housing crisis in London is to build taller and denser buildings in and around the capital, especially around transport hubs. Areas of focus such as this play to the strengths of Build to Rent and it was refreshing to see the sector get the attention it deserves.

At Get Living, we’re also ambitious with our growth targets, but the Mayor’s target to more than double homebuilding output from 29,000 to 66,000 by 2029 looks sadly unlikely against a backdrop of London housing market volatility and Savills’ forecasted fall in housing supply from next year.

Reflecting on the past few weeks, I am pleased that both the Chancellor and the Mayor of London have recognised the strengths of Build to Rent and the opportunities it brings to deliver new homes across the UK with community, great shared spaces and customer service at its core. The Build to Rent sector has a huge role to play and needs to keep speaking up to ensure the supply grows well beyond 100,000 homes so renters benefit in the capital and beyond.

Neil’s full piece can be read on Rent Magazine

PRSim response to the November 2017 Budget

The Chancellors move to abolish SDLT for first time buyers to a threshold of £300k will be seen as a positive move by many who have argued for its abolition for some time. It will also be welcomed by those people currently buying and looking to buy their first home. This is money that in part will find its way back in a small way into our consumer lead economy. It has also seen estate agency stock rise to the news.

The big question however, is what action did the Chancellor take to affect the delivery of the 300,000 homes per annum the government has targeted. The long-term thinking required to fix this ‘broken housing market’ is not compatible with the term in office and it is doubtful that we will ever see anything other than tinkering, posturing and pandering to vested interests.

The backdrop to this budget is quite unlike that of any other we have experienced in recent times and the Chancellor has very little wriggle room.   The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has sharply cut the UK’s growth forecasts with growth predicted to drop to 1.3% by 2020 and to 1.5% by 2021. Whichever way you look at it, Brexit or no Brexit, this is the biggest downgrade in the OBR’s history.  Apparently, we’re looking at the decade of lowest productivity since Napoleon invaded Russia! Clearly, that’s going to impact pay, which, in turn, will widen the affordability gap, both for first-time-buyers and renters.

Beyond the changes to SDLT, there were a few other interesting items:

Introduction of a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT) in addition to CIL similar to the Mayoral CIL in London which contributes to Crossrail. SIT will be an option available to Combined Authorities and planning joint committees to fund strategic and local infrastructure. SIT viability will be examined in public, but will have developers groaning.

An additional £1.5bn for the Home Building Fund to provide loans specifically for SME developers. This is combined with incentives to Local Authorities to bring forward smaller schemes and £630m through the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). So one could say it’s a coordinated approach.

The announcement that had the biggest impact, at least as far as the FTSE is concerned, is the setting up of a review panel, chaired by Sir Oliver Letwin to investigate the delivery gap between planning permissions and housing completions. The target is to provide an interim report for the Spring statement 2018 and a full report for the following budget. With the prospect of compulsory purchase of undeveloped land, The city took this seriously enough to mark shares in house builders down: Barrett’s fell 3%, Berkeley Homes 2.7% and Persimmon 1.7%. Re-emphasis of Help-to-Buy and the aforementioned SDLT did little to raise the house-builder spirits. The LSE recently debunked received, rather negative wisdom about land-banking, So it’ll be interesting to see if Sir Olive Letwin comes up with anything different. Nevertheless, maybe this is an area that has teeth.  The City thinks so.

Of course a further £10bn of Help-to-Buy was confirmed. That was never, ever in doubt.

Council Housing Revenue Caps are to be lifted for areas of ‘high affordability pressure’; (undefined) and councils will be ‘invited to bid’ for increases. This is to help fund build more council houses. But is this sea change? No.

As one would expect, we got a further examination of the planning system, which is often blamed for both the paucity and sluggishness of supply. Commitments to reform the planning system have been oft mooted but tend to get bogged down when it gets to implementation at local level. Perhaps government are serious this time. However, there’s an awful lot of ‘consultation’ to get through before proposals like an expectation to permission land outside the local plan where the scheme offers a predominance of discounted homes to first-time-buyers become binding. (Green belt excluded. Naturally)

The Green Belt got the usual unequivocal support from Government, but nobody’s convinced:  the CPRE insist encroachment is rampant and that we’re about to lose irreplaceable bucolic loveliness to soulless concrete and steel; whereas developers say it’s the next best thing to kryptonite when it comes to disabling growth.

One very positive step was a £2m competition to support FinTech firms in developing innovative solutions to enable renters to use their history of renting to support and underwrite their credit scores.  This is something the Build-to-Rent industry has been championing for a while and it’s good to see the government recognise the need for such a change.

Innovation in the construction industry is desperately needed with many industry experts citing the necessity to completely change working practices and methods. The government proposes to assist by providing £34m in supporting scaling up of “innovative training models” across the country. Rather too little given the speed at which change is desperately required.

Housing Associations are going to be non-too pleased at the government pressing ahead with a stock depleting £200m large-scale regional pilot of ‘Right-to-Buy’ for tenants in the Midlands.

 

What didn’t we get?

We didn’t get unequivocal acknowledgement that housing targets can only be met by blending public and private resources, and there is still an unhealthy reliance placed upon house-builders to deliver government policy. Naturally, their shareholders think differently.

There was no specific mention of capital funding for social or affordable housing in his speech. Just a reference to October’s announcement of £2bn funding towards affordable home, which it said, is “including funding for social rented homes”.

The Build-to-Rent industry got next to nothing. Consultation arising out of the Housing White Paper grinds its gears whilst there still remains that most glaring of SDLT anomalies where BTR investors are liable for the 3% SDLT surcharge which was meant to curtail BTL investors. The government tacitly acknowledged as much in the 2015-16 consultation where it was expected by the residential investment industry, and initially signalled by government, that they would be exempted from the surcharge. It’s an obvious issue that needs to be addressed with some urgency.

Overall, there was little to get excited about. Pre-budget hype was always going to be just that. Hype. Should the government have done more to recognise the contribution that BTR and the Housing Associations could make towards housing targets if conditions allowed? Yes. Has the Chancellor addressed the ‘Broken housing market?’ No. Not in any great measure. And did we really expect him to? No. The political backdrop is too fractured. We have a government in power but not in control and Brexit is adding an unwelcome layer of uncertainty. Not because we are heading for the exit, but because we don’t know where that exit is, where it leads or when.

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.

Countrywide Residential Investments

It’s exciting times here in the office. Having signed a forward purchase agreement on 324 flats in Liverpool and 164 in Manchester two years ago, we are now at the point where these will be handed over for launch in the next few months.

The Fund already has four smaller schemes that are operational, but these new developments will be our first large-scale build to rent assets.

We have spent the last two years defining the proposition we want to offer to our residents. Our aim is to do everything possible to help create a community and a better resident experience.

The Liverpool scheme is in the City Centre on the corner of the Baltic Triangle. Residents will have use of an onsite gym; we have created a plaza; there is a coffee shop and a there’s also a large lounge offering business space and a community dining room. We have a further 2,500 sq ft room that we have purposefully decided to hold back until we can liaise with our residents directly, and give them the opportunity to tell us what they would like to have in the space. Lastly, the scheme includes 6,000 sq ft of commercial space and the retailers we are negotiating with are targeted around providing our residents with local convenience and dining.

Across both schemes our asset manager and furniture advisor have invested considerable time to ensure we get good quality, stylish and sturdy furniture. Residents don’t want bills for broken or flimsy furniture and as an operator it is not in our interest to maintain repairs or, worse, risk damaging our relationships and reputation with our residents. We have also been able to order some bespoke furniture; and the scale of the schemes and orders has meant we were able to do so without incurring additional expenditure.

The onsite team has been largely recruited from customer focused sectors such as serviced offices and travel agency, so they have a strong focus on creating a great customer experience and building lasting relationships with residents.

We are lucky to be part of the wider Countrywide group: we can ask our local letting experts, marketing agents and people with experience of build to rent schemes for advice.

We are also able to realise the advantages of having a build to rent scheme where the whole site can be managed, compared to a buy to let scheme where the investor has minimal control. We anticipate that this will lead to sensible rental premiums, longer leases and better returns all driven by more content customers. A positive outcome for both the investor and the residents.

It has been a large learning curve but we have a great team with diverse backgrounds that has collaborated with the wider business to put in place what I believe is a great proposition with a real focus on customer service.

Why we should back long-term tenancies

The nature of our lives has fundamentally changed in just a few generations. Gone are the days of a job for life, a young family by your mid-20s and a semi-detached to boot. Our existence is more frenetic than ever before: where our grandparents might have had two jobs during their lifetime our children will have 20.

This cultural shift can be viewed from opposing perspectives. You could argue that it is the flowering of personal choice, freeing us from the regimented world of the 1950s. Or you could view it as the rise of insecurity; jobs that only last a couple of years and tenancies that are even shorter. As with many of these supposed dichotomies, the truth is often somewhere in between.

The question of where we reside, where we sleep, where we eat and where we live our lives is of core importance to how we view ourselves. Millennials who rent are nearly half as likely to vote as those who live in their own homes. As the author, Ian Leslie pointed out in the New Statesman last year, this has as much to do with the lack of societal bonds that short-term renters experience as it does with the effort of registering.

Landlords need to change their attitudes to tenancy lengths, just as the government has changed its attitude to the rental market. Not only for the lofty ideals of democratic engagement and social cohesion but also for what Adam Smith branded ‘enlightened self-interest’. Longer tenancies are good for both consumers and for operators.

The British Property Federation has been instrumental in trying to reflect this change. They have accepted that the government wants a different offer for tenants. What’s more, our part of the sector has a strong commercial imperative for longer tenancies. Our backers are long-term, institutional investors who look for consistent, sustainable returns rather than the next quick buck.

The build to rent industry needs to lead the charge to end the culture of insecurity in housing and by offering residents the flexibility of 1-3 year tenancies with fixed rental increases assists greatly. Not least because the current situation damages the image of our industry, but also because empty properties cost money. A good relationship between operators and customers, which takes a longer perspective towards tenancies, is beneficial for both sides. Renters will benefit from a sense of community that can only develop through time.

For us ‘community building’ isn’t some woolly tick box phrase but a fundamental tenet in the way we treat our residents. Rather than renting out the penthouse apartment of our Vantage Point development (valued at about £7m) we have converted it into a communal space, a place where anyone can host a dinner party or unwind after work. This is in addition to the library, roof terrace, workspace and gym we also include. The idea is simple; we want our residents to develop a long-lasting relationship with the place they call home.

The BPF’s pledge to make three-year tenancies the norm in the build to rent sector is both a practical and a noble aim. We should look at tenancy insecurity as investment insecurity, recognising that both the residents’ and operators’ objectives are aligned. The government has asked the private rental sector to take a more active role in the housing market and we should oblige them by making build to rent a genuine alternative, not just the stop-gap it is so often perceived as. Only by changing our approach can we change these culturally ingrained perceptions towards renting.

PRS / BTR and bikes: friends of foes?

“How the humble bicycle could be the secret ingredient that propels residential schemes to the head of the pack…”

It used to be only couriers, students and the occasional bonefide cyclist who took to two wheels to get around on. Now you can barely move for bikes, with commuters, creatives and families all battling for their piece of tarmac.

Consider that the cycling trend is showing plenty of signs that it is only going to grow, meaning bike spaces will become more and more necessary. Using pedal power means cyclist residents can avoid the city’s overstretched public transport, while being environmentally friendly and mixing commuting with fitness.

Why then are some developers reluctant to factor in more quality parking into the design phase, improving schemes to capitalise on the continuing growth of cycling? Including the added value facility of a secure, stylish and easy way to lock up bikes in the development phase of residential properties, could mean the difference between successfully renting out units or not.

Institutional asset class

As a relatively new institutional asset class, the PRS and BTR residential sector has attracted pension and insurance funds, who are ploughing in and making their mark in developing residential portfolios from scratch, often in partnership with developers and specialist asset managers. Others will follow when returns are proven, and shall look to acquire completed schemes that fulfil their institutional requirements.

All this interest has created a rush to entry with now many thousands of residential units in the planning and development pipeline. And following the slowdown of the residential sales sector, particularly at the upper end in London, investors have been fortunate in being able to switch strategies from sales to rentals.

With so much potential competition round the corner, it’s vital to get the design right upfront. This isn’t referring to the funky name or branding behind the scheme that might entice the initial wave of residents to sign up; it’s the design of the fabric of the building that needs to have a longevity to ensure occupancy remains high, and crucially, that running costs are controlled. Commercial property has long had a Grade A specification, and those properties that don’t make the class suffer in terms of value. With the funds entry, residential will also have it’s benchmark of quality and it’s worth bearing in mind when considering the exit strategy.

How much space should you allocate?

There is still no national planning policy guidance regarding the provision of spaces for bike parking within new residential developments. Instead it is up to each local planning authority to draw up plans and provide their own parking ratios. This has provided an ad hoc approach, with parking requirements varying significantly, so investing in meaningful amounts of bike parking may mean going over and above planning policy guidance.

Some canny developers are already “over-providing” bike parking spaces, even if they’re not incentivised to do so. Looking ahead, they can see that bike power is the future. Not only that, when residential investments are being traded, the developers who have fulfilled their Grade A specification requirements and also offer a strong parking ratio, could see their far sightedness reflected in the pricing and saleability of their units.

When cycle spaces become a market-driven necessity, a right rather than an aspiration, offering the bear minimum of spaces (even if in accordance with a particular local plan), isn’t going to cut it. Consider instead the number of bedrooms and their theoretical occupants (two people per bedroom) to give you the full occupancy total, then promote your property as offering one cycle space per x% of residents, which will be a more meaningful universal measure. At a glance, investors can then see whether the scheme is under-parked.

Bear in mind your location too. If you’re on a cycle route, factor in more spaces as it can be a tool to increase density within the scheme. The Housing White Paper released in February 2017 stated that accessibility and infrastructure capacity of an area would be taken into account when assessing housing density; and cycling is an effective transport solution as it can ‘Shrink the Distance’ reducing travel times relative to other modes of transport.

Don’t forget it’s about quality too

It’s not just about quantity – quality is key too. Residents are often precious about where they leave their two-wheeled pride and joy. The results of a cycle parking study by SKM Colin Buchanan* concluded that many parking spaces are underutilised because of the perception and risk of theft.

Bikes are often worth several hundred, even thousands, of pounds, and when the parking is in semi-public areas unattended for long periods of time, then they’re compelled to take them upstairs. Look skywards and you’ll see them on balconies or within the apartments. If yours is a premium property, occupants can afford higher value bikes meaning secure parking is even more essential if you don’t want scuffed corridors and lifts in your property, lowering the perceived quality and adding to maintenance bills (which in turn reduces investment returns).

Paying attention to design attributes that can save running and maintenance costs is in stark contrast to the build for sale sector that doesn’t have the same outlook or responsibilities of ownership that long-term investors have.

Automated cycle parking

If you claim your traditional bike storage seems to be underused, it could be that its design just isn’t fit for the purpose. If the product and the environment are designed well, then the store will be utilised, as there’s an underlying demand for secure bike parking.

Automated cycle parking can offer an alternative solution. Bikes are completely secure, therefore appealing to residents; it doesn’t take up as much footprint, appealing to developers; and is simple and easy to use. Plus the innovative technology used is undeniably cool and fun.

Residents wheel their bicycle up to the access pod and their bike is recognised and swept in, either up (for above ground) or down (for underground) into the spiral storage facility in an interaction that is mesmerising to watch. The improved security means cyclists can safely leave possessions on the bike, like lights, trip computers, pumps, pannier bags and helmets, saving time and hassle. And when you need your bike back, just swipe your card and in only 13 seconds it is in your hands.

The visible access pod and entrance for below ground systems can save up to 95% of traditional cycle store footprints, which on average require 0.70 to 1.15 sqm per bike when within buildings. The stores can be placed within the landscaping area outside the building (saving 100% of the area reserved for parking inside) or within the building with the access pod integral to the façade.

Make cycle parking pay

The value of the footprint saved can be significant, with the option of introducing amenities for the residents, such as self-storage facilities, or perhaps not incurring the cost of building a basement level.

For investors still concerned about costs and returns, as each bike space is uniquely identifiable, spaces can be specifically allocated so that a charging regime can be brought in, potentially offering a valuable income stream. Where residents aren’t charged, surplus spaces can be monitored and made available for a fee to the public or for a bike-sharing platform.

Make cycle parking do your marketing

Large-scale mixed-use projects can share parking solutions between residential and commercial uses as well as for the public. Public cycle parking is often poor quality and in short supply, and provision can be a planning gain, improving the active travel attributes of a scheme and offering social sustainability, while raising the possibility that the Community Infrastructure Levy could be used to subsidise the facility.

Logos, ads and public art funds could be used to decorate the cladding of the access pod and other visible elements. Digital media can be installed to provide information, music and sporting events, adding to the schemes placemaking proposition.

In summary, the provision of automated cycle parking within PRS / BTR offers numerous advantages for all stakeholders; the residents, developers and investors, with the public also able to benefit. Where installed, it can form a tantalisingly high benchmark for other schemes to follow, and will form part of the Grade A residential rental specification.

So if you’re looking for a USP that’s also a potential source of revenue and release of valuable footprint, then automated cycle parking could be it. Make bikes your friends, not your foes.

* The Greater London Authority: Further Amendment to the London Plan released in March 2015.

Anyone for Tennis? – How the UKAA can set the standard for measuring resident satisfaction

Can you imagine the chaos before the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club wrote the rules for playing and scoring the game of tennis in 1877?
The UK Apartments Association (UKAA) has the ambitious aim ‘to improve the standards of service that customers (tenants) receive’ in the private rented sector.

Continue reading “Anyone for Tennis? – How the UKAA can set the standard for measuring resident satisfaction”

Professionalising the rental sector

By Michael Green, Chief Executive of the UKAA

The UKAA aims to become a clear mark of quality INTERNATIONAL and service for the build to rent sector giving brands a badge that customers can easily identify. It is about driving professionalisation through improving levels of service and choice to create a better rental experience for the customer.
Continue reading “Professionalising the rental sector”

International Charter presented to UKAA

mgThe UK Apartment Association (UKAA) has received its official charter marking its foundation as the first trade organisation in the UK focused solely on the rental sector. It was presented with the international charter by the National Apartment Association (NAA) in the United States and becomes the NAA’s first global alliance partner, leading the way for the growing UK’s rapidly expanding professional rental market.
The UKAA seeks to bring together all stakeholders in the build to rent market and help drive the professionalisation of the sector by sharing knowledge and best practice. A key part of this is learning from the experience of the US multifamily industry via the NAA, which encompasses over 72,000 members and nearly 170 affiliates representing more than 8.4 million apartment homes globally.

The charter was presented by NAA Chairman, Marc Ross and President, Doug Culkin to UKAA Founder, Roger Southam and Chief Executive, Michael Green during the 2016 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in San Francisco.

Doug Culkin commented: “The conference we held last November in London was so successful that I am pleased to say it resulted in the launch this spring of NAA’s first global alliance partner, the UKAA. It is with pleasure that we present this charter to the first of what we hope will be many global partners.”

Roger Southam commented: “This international charter cements the fact that the UKAA is established and out there doing business. Attending the NAA conference, we have seen how an industry working together can deliver great service to its customers and how much we can learn working with the multifamily offering in the US. We are confident that we are putting the tools in place to have a home for multifamily in the UK.”

UKAA launches training for the Private Rental Sector

livewire-exp-logo
Recognising that improving standards of service is the key to professionalising the residential rental sector, the UK Apartment Association (UKAA) has kick-started its ambitious training programme with a focus on customer service. The UKAA is the first membership organisation that brings together all stakeholders of the professional rental market and helps share best practice for this fast evolving sector.

Designed specifically for the private rental sector, the training programme will help operators focus on putting the renters at the centre of their business. The training is delivered by the UKAA’s training partner Livewire Experientialists, experts in hospitality and global specialists in property industry training.

Chief Executive of the UKAA, Michael Green comments: “As well as providing a much-needed platform for the professional rental sector, the UKAA’s remit is to drive up professional standards and our educational training sessions are a central part of that. The importance of providing high levels of customer service cannot be overstated, indeed as the UK rental market evolves, customers will become increasingly discerning and will demand a certain standard of service that is not currently being delivered. We are delighted to have partnered Livewire, who have extensive experience in the multi-family market and from whom our members will be able to learn a huge amount.”

The invaluable training programme is aimed at staff at all levels, for operators and suppliers across the rental industry. It focuses on the essential skills that should become second nature to all resident-facing employees. The course is delivered in four modules, each of which takes half a day and builds to an accredited Institute of Training and Occupational Learning Certificate, making it a vital part of professional development for employees. Training is tailored for each company and delivered at their premises for convenience.

Delegates undertaking the programme will learn essential skills through which they will be able to deliver a better level of service that will help strengthen the brand and portfolio. They will also learn how to handle challenging customers and situations, undertake some remote mystery shopping and gain insight through lessons from global partners.

Audra Lamoon, Managing Director at Livewire Experientialists comments: “The property industry can learn a huge amount from the retail, hotel and leisure sectors in terms of providing outstanding levels of service and understanding hospitality and branding. This training aims to empower everyone providing services within the private rental sector to really embrace and deliver on the brand promise and customer experience. Done right, through memorable customer service, operators can make their developments stand out and become the destination of choice.”

To find out more and to book a training course please contact Emma Henderson.

Email: ehenderson@ukapartmentassociation.com
Tel: 020 8387 5497