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BTR Developers Need To Invest In Community Over Amenities

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BTR Developers Need To Invest In Community Over Amenities

The design and management of build-to-rent schemes has become an intricate balancing act. Owners and developers must offer high-quality amenities and property management, begin leasing as quickly as possible, all while keeping rent levels attractive. The question now is what to invest in and what to forgo.

As the private rented sector grows, it is becoming clear that tenant experience trumps amenities. Rather than a few luxuries like a pool or a gym, BTR owners and developers should invest in the management and services that improve tenants’ daily routines and that help to build community.

"When choosing where to live, tenants firstly consider how the property will suit their personal routine and lifestyle," Cluttons Head of Residential James Hyman said. "These aren't questions about amenities, they're typically matters of responsive, effective property management. Is the internet reliable? Is there a sense of community within the development? How much is the service charge?"

Some service offerings are absolutely essential. A Cluttons study found that fast, reliable broadband was a key specification for 84% of households searching for a new property, and that 76% of BTR tenants would not renew tenure at a property with poor broadband.

But beyond connectivity, tenants are becoming less concerned with physical amenities. Instead, Hyman said, community engagement and wellbeing are the most important factors in creating a place where tenants want to live. 

“Tenants want to feel that their homes are vibrant, diverse and engaged,” Hyman said. “Rather than building units for a homogenous demographic, BTR owners and developers should strive to build a sense of community.”

While “community” may sound like a nebulous goal, there are concrete steps developers can take to achieve it. They can invest in tenant events and programming for children and families, and can offer an on-site management team through Cluttons. Hyman said having trained, tech-enabled staff that know tenants by their first names can go a long way toward making a development feel like home.

Developers can demonstrate their commitment to community in the fabric of the building itself: rather than investing in large amenities like pools and gyms, BTR developers can invest in spaces that foster interaction among customers. At a Bisnow event in May, Michael Allen, head of build-to-rent at Quintain, stressed the importance of social spaces; he cited the post room at Quintain’s Wembley Park development, which surrounds a communal working and social area, as a place where people naturally gather to chat.

Multi-use spaces can save space, keep service charges down and promote tenant retention. Event and conference rooms can be adapted to consumer trends, such as yoga lessons, HIIT workout spaces, Zumba dance classes, children's parties and book clubs, unlike a traditional gym or swimming pool which will increase the service charge but only have one use.

Investing in social and multi-use spaces means that tenants will see each other more often, and that developments can change a space into something else if tenant preferences or needs change. These spaces also typically have low upfront and operational costs, and may even recoup income in the case of conference and private events spaces, which can be rented out. 

Many factors that determine where people choose to live are out of the developers' hands, such as proximity to transport and the standard of local schools. This is all the more reason for developers to invest in community and property management.

"Many people are going to choose a scheme because it's convenient to where they work, or in a neighbourhood they like," Hyman said. "So in order to retain tenants, developers and property managers need create a community and make the development feel like home."

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Cluttons. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.