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Build to Rent industry experts discuss the market post Covid-19

Leading experts from across the Build to Rent sector joined together in a UKAA webinar, hosted by Love to Rent, to discuss how the market might emerge post Covid-19 and lockdown.

Attracting the largest audience to date for a UKAA webinar, Peter Sloane, Chair of Love to Rent started the discussions by examining how society might change after lockdown and what the Build to Rent market might look like. 

Peter said: “People will be looking at the Build to Rent market as a place to live. Its appeal will extend across the work from home culture we have been forced into and as we unlock in stages, there will be an awful lot of people looking to still work from home and use technology in a way we hadn’t seen in the mainstream four weeks ago. The Build to Rent market has this facility already in its design and can manage the demand for internet provision which will make these developments an extremely attractive proposition.”

Sarah Quinn, Head of Operations at Moda Living went on to say: “Here at Moda, there has been a real switch in our resident engagement offer to the virtual world. We have invested a great deal of time developing an app called My Moda which all residents have access to and are able to communicate to each other to share views and concerns and we have been able to keep them regularly updated. 

“We have also teamed up with key businesses to offer sessions on wellbeing, mental health and nutrition which has worked really well and we are getting a lot of positive feedback. We have also had balcony workouts and DJ beats in the courtyard which residents have engaged with as well as free Netflix nights with popcorn and beers”. 

Lizzie Stevens, Director of Rent at Folio joined the discussion: “We have looked at the opportunity to grow our Build to Rent portfolio because there is going to be a focus on living and where you live is going to be more prevalent than ever.”

Sophie Trotman, Marketing Manager at Folio added: “Our marketing strategies have switched to targeting people through digital marketing. Instead of hard selling it is much more about brand awareness, who we are and what we offer. The demand is definitely there but it is different types of leads with people looking at where they want to move, who do they want to rent with and what kind of amenities do they want?  

“We have also created virtual 360 tours for all of our properties, and these have been essential in helping us to secure deals during this time because it means people can have a viewing through their computer screen and see what their apartment actually looks like. These have really helped us in the conversions and getting them moved in.” 

Will Waller, Director of Build to Rent at Arcadis discussed the construction side of the Build to Rent industry. “Before this crisis, BPF research for Q1 showed a 40% increase in Build to Rent units in planning in the UK regions which is one indicator of the strength of momentum in the sector prior to Covid-19. The crisis has created some challenges around the supply chain, in particular social distancing, so there has been a need to rework processes and methods so they can operate safely. 

“We have also looked at what the impact on the product might be in short term because of social distances, any longer term changes in what the customer demands or needs and how that might shift the design and construction of Build to Rent products, for example potentially an increase focus on hygiene generally in the way we use buildings and how they are designed and constructed. Also in terms of access, space, light and ventilation and connectivity which will be even more important going forward.”

David Butler, CEO of UKAA concludes: “This was a great webinar, one of the best I have seen or participated in. There was a genuinely lively discussion combining both expertise from the panellists and engagement with the audience. We have had great feedback and lots of requests for part two.”

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