Smart Living


As renting becomes a more popular lifestyle choice across the capital, L-J Andrew investigates the rise and rise of the Build-To-Rent sector

Cast your mind back 5 years and you may recall then, Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, setting the cat amongst the pigeons at the RESI Conference in Wales, with a barnstorming pro-rental speech that left the audience reeling. At the time, Barwell’s intention was to push for significant investment into the Build-To-Rent market, aligning the UK with Europe in terms of giving due consideration to the concept of long-term renting as a viable alternative to home ownership.

Head across the Channel today, and around 40% of the French population rent their property, with a robust legal framework in place, very much on the side of the tenant, so much so, they have first choice to buy if their landlord decides to take their property to market. Germany and the Netherlands have long embraced the American initiative of ‘multifamily’, which is essentially a version of the Build-To-Rent scheme here in the UK. Multifamily initiatives Stateside encourage long-lease tenants, which leads to a greater sense of community and improved standards of property build and design.

Property agent John Richardson explains: “In the UK, so called ‘Build-To-Rent’ schemes are essentally properties built for the sole purpose of renting, with no option to buy. These projects tend to be managed by a single landlord, although developers can sell part of the site to another stakeholder landlord.” Filling the void in available rental properties left by landlords quitting the sector following regulatory and tax changes; the Build-To-Rent market has successfully taken off across the UK in both second and third tier cities, but London is currently leading the charge.

Industry statistics would appear to support these findings, with the number of households renting privately, having grown to 4.4 million in 2019-20. Adds Richardson: “While traditionally, the UK rental market has been dominated by ‘private landlords’, with most rental properties being designed and built for purchase by individual landlords, over the last five years, the rise of the Build-to-Rent sector has introduced a whole new mindset and new expectations when it comes to what renters are seeking.”

Stephanie Barbabosa, Head of Build-to-Rent for Lendlease adds: “Priorities have certainly shifted, particularly when thinking about where people want to live. A focus on health and wellbeing is at the heart of this new era, with hybrid working likely to remain, changing the way we interact with spaces within our homes. A key indicator, is the uptick in rental searches for homes with gardens, balconies, and pet-friendly properties.”

Danielle Bayless, Chief Operating Officer of Quintain Living, one of London’s leading Build-to-Rent developers, also highlights: “Renting is undergoing a rapid evolution from being a necessity-born stop-gap to an enriching lifestyle choice. Build-to-rent developments are at the heart of this shift and proving to be so much more than just bricks and mortar.”

Amenity Enriched

The proliferation of on-site amenities is a key area where Build-to-Rent providers are light years ahead of the private rental sector. BTR facilities offer residents access to a suite of facilities right on the doorstep. For example, Quintain Living’s Canada House at Wembley Park includes hireable resident allotments and work-from-home garden sheds, not to mention a pet park water feature.

The one-acre private podium garden at the development contains garden-party design features including outdoor kitchen entertainment spaces and BBQs, while the serviced clubhouse provides the perfect spot to relax indoors, with even a library for those who wish to expand their minds. Pet-owners also have access to doggy day care and walking services, whilst parents can use the crèche space for private party hire. There’s also a spacious roof terrace that boasts360° views of the City and the iconic Wembley Stadium arch.

Maintenance Matters

Most new Build-to-Rent developments sport on-site 24-hour concierge and maintenance support. Residents requests are usually responded to within hours and urgent issues are invariably sorted within 24-hours. Other resident benefits include assistance with administration, such as signing for parcels through to collecting dry cleaning. Lendlease’s Park Central East and Park Central West developments for example, boast a resident portal which provides tips and tricks on making the most of resident amenities and bolt-on services.

Community Spirit

“Living in the sociable environment that Build-To-Rent fosters, means that residents have the chance to get to know their neighbours.” explains Richardson. Organised get-togethers include movie nights, wine and food tastings, supper clubs and even art and interior design classes. They deliver a genuine community where residents feel truly invested in where they live.”

Style Sense

Most Build-To-Rent developments now offer full-furnished units, kitted-out with the latest mod-cons essentials. Residents can choose colour schemes and furnishings that suit their tastes and requirements, which offers peace of mind with personality, not to mention significant cost-savings. Danielle explains: “There really are so many benefits to opting for a purpose-built development. It’s very much about the overall experience – and not just a transaction between landlord and tenant.” Barbabosa concludes: “Today’s property environment is a very exciting time for both investors and modern day renters. The combination of a professional landlord and a high-quality home is a compelling one.”

Trend Spotting

  • The Build-To-Rent market has gone from strength to strength over the last 5 years, with a steady stream of new developments in the pipeline notably across London.
  • Today, there are more than 20 operators and just under 200,000 units either completed, in planning or under construction across the UK, according to the British Property Federation.
  • More than £3.5bn was invested in the sector in 2020.
  • Interest is increasing with organisations such as Legal and General now entering the market.

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