Q&A with Brendan Geraghty, CEO, UKAA

We speak with UKAA’s CEO about his vision for the BTR Expo 2023 and its headline theme - Better BTR Business.

UKAA BTR Expo 2023, taking place on 20 April 2023 | BTR News
UKAA BTR Expo 2023, taking place on 20 April 2023.

The biggest trade show in the Build to Rent calendar, the UKAA BTR Expo 2023, will be held this month, on 20 April at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London. We speak with UKAA CEO, Brendan Geraghty about his vision for the must-attend event and its headline theme – Better BTR Business. 

The theme of the UKAA BTR Expo 2023 is ‘Better BTR Business’. What does that entail?

The Build to Rent industry has in many ways been a pioneer in residential real estate. It has blended investors’ goals with customer centricity in new ways, unlocking long-term institutional investment in rental properties while nurturing communities with tenants at their heart. The Build to Rent industry has also championed the delivery of high-quality rental homes and amenities. It has embraced new technologies to achieve this, from Modern Methods of Construction to digital platforms that improve operating efficiencies and reduce costs.  

The Better BTR Business theme recognises this innovation while also looking at the social value that Build to Rent delivers. It’s not just about the size of the market opportunity and financial returns, but about how, by doing things differently, the industry is making a rich contribution to the social economy, which in turn will help to nurture and sustain this market.

There will be many opportunities for new and better business as Build to Rent creates a new covenant around rental culture, its customers and their communities.    

Climate change is a thorny issue for those designing and delivering new homes and one which will be discussed at the UKAA BTR Expo. How is the Build to Rent sector addressing this?

Build to Rent is certainly facing a challenging future in the face of the immense threat of climate change and how we will wrestle with the delivery of environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives. Added to this is the emerging regulatory landscape, where we must integrate the requirements of the Building Safety Bill and assess the potential impact of rent control on our industry, all while meeting the design, delivery and supply chain challenges of meeting Net Zero targets.

These requirements are complex and often contradicting. However, the Build to Rent industry has shown itself willing to take a leadership position in seeking solutions and finding the business opportunities that exist within these complexities.

Why is it so important for the Build to Rent industry to think differently as it grows?

Build to Rent in the UK is currently worth around £10bn, with the potential to grow to as large as £102bn by 2028 (Knight Frank). It is still, in part, a start-up industry within the residential sector. Build to Rent provides a catalyst for regeneration and provides additionality with high quality homes. To achieve the scale and speed of growth it needs, the industry must think differently – and it is certainly doing so.

Build to Rent is a long income model. As this model matures, money is increasingly starting to define the nature of a Build to Rent product and its long-term performance with greater detail. We are seeing the rise of the operational brief, as well as the integration of long-term operational requirements in short-term funded development stage briefs.

This increasingly integrated model is shaping a new approach to developing and operating Build to Rent. It demands an evolution, including innovation from the supply chain. This in turn creates new business opportunities. But this is far from ‘wild west frontier-ism’ at play; it is a thoughtful, considered response to a market opportunity that combines creativity, convention and careful innovation to deliver returns on investment. 

How does the need to deliver return on investment dovetail with ESG goals?

Build to Rent is setting new standards for residential real estate through the integration of social, economic and environmental objectives. It delivers investment returns and high quality, low carbon, sustainable homes, hand-in-hand with superior living and community experiences. It embeds digital solutions and advanced analytics in its processes, with a steely focus on quality of design and delivery, along with operational efficiency.

In taking this approach, Build to Rent is well positioned to deliver new business opportunities to its supply chain and to create happy customers, with repayment in the form of loyalty. And that circles back round to delivering return on investment. 

Is there a fixed blueprint for ‘what good looks like’ in the Build to Rent industry?

There is no single, set-in-stone answer. It is the Build to Rent industry’s ability and willingness to evolve, innovate and integrate that allows it to create solutions, generate momentum, find value opportunities throughout the life of a Build to Rent asset and deliver value. 

The industry is invested in legacy and sustainability as a value creation strategy. This is a better business strategy. Whilst it may take time to deliver all that this strategy offers, it will result in better business opportunities for those who are prepared to integrate their businesses into this exciting, fast-growing and dynamic industry.

How can companies seeking to do better Build to Rent business get involved?

The UKAA BTR Expo is a great place to start. It’s the biggest trade show for the Build to Rent industry in the UK, with over 800 attendees from more than 500 companies expecting to be represented, so it’s a real melting pot of information sharing, learning, networking and collaboration. The 2023 BTR Expo is focused on Better BTR business, so it’s an excellent starting point for any business that wants to get involved and get ahead in the sector. 

We are starting the event with a ‘reverse trade show’ (open to exhibitors only), where 60+ exhibitors will be able to connect with major purchasers and operators via a ‘speed dating’ type of meeting format. Then our expert thought leadership content sessions, held throughout the day, will include the Call for Leadership, Whole Life Costing, Meanwhile Strategy, and Optimising Net Operating Income amongst others.

The UKAA BTR Expo is free for UKAA Members to attend – delegates just need to book their place online in advance of the event taking place on 20 April 2023.