BUILD-TO-RENT customers are looking for hassle-free living in a lively community according to a focus group co-hosted by Experience Makers and RealService during the UKAA’s BTR Festival.
The festival was a week-long online event run by the UK Apartment Association and included the session “Voice of the Customer Live” which brought together five BTR occupiers who were asked for their views around the Build-To-Rent experience.
Diversity of ideas
It was really refreshing to be involved in an event which heard directly from customers. There was a real diversity of ideas but the key takeaways for developers in the BTR industry were that while the idea of a seamless approach often attracted customers in the first place, they also want to feel connected to their neighbours and their community.
Life outside their apartment is as important as the amenities and services inside.
Build To Rent makes things simpler and avoids emotionally complicated relationships with landlords but customers still want to feel some sort of connection which personalises their experience.
The full pacakge
A common theme among the renters was relief at having all their bills included in their rent.
“I bought a house and stayed in it for about a year, doing up the garden, fixing it up generally and then I decided to rent it out and handed it over to a managing agent,” said Callie.
“I just wanted the convenience of not having to deal with utilities companies and the like. It is expensive renting like this but I will pay money for the convenience.”
Keep it professional
Most did not want a close relationship with their landlord, but did want a professional service with a personal feel.
“I don’t want to know my landlord personally because when the relationship is good it’s fine, but if something doesn’t get done and you need to be a bit critical it can end in conflict,” said Craig.
“I want to be treated as though I am in a professional relationship and have an experience which just flows. If I am paying a high rent, my minimum expectation is that I don’t want to have to worry about fixing things.”
Amenities which found favour included 24-hour concierge service, having retail units incorporated in each scheme, ‘clubhouse’ spaces and events which fostered a sense of community .
The group said amenities were worth £200-£250 per month, which they factored into price
Allowing pets and having a dog park was also seen as positive.
Our focus group also suggested amenities could be more inventive and evolve depending on need. Carpet cleaning and and a garage sale for those moving in or out were a couple of suggestions that came out of the session.
Tanushree said: “When I walk through the alleyway to my flat I just see the same, standard doors. I feel like I am walking into an asylum; the flat could be anywhere, it is not contextualised to living in London.”
More from the focus group:
A thorny issue with the group split on their necessity and noting that the money was hard to come by ‘up front’
Having an App to make bookings, log repairs etc was thought a good idea by most. They were split on the use of Facebook pages. One felt it “unprofessional” while others liked the sense of a shared experience and thought apps to be “cold and impersonal”
Can lead to wind tunnels which ruins the outdoor experience
ON INSPIRATION FROM OVERSEAS:
All the group had experience of renting overseas and felt the UK BTR sector could learn from the US and Canada in particular where multi-family schemes make every building different
ON BTR BRAND:
None of the group had specifically looked for a BTR property. None could name a BTR provider outside their own complex.
ON SEARCH SITES:
All felt operators could benefit from having a listing site specifically for BTR