Q&A with Carter Jonas’ Head of BTR and PRS

BTR News spoke with Carter Jonas’ Head of Build to Rent and PRS about its Tenant Survey, how the sector will evolve over the next five years and more.

Lee Richards, Head of Build to Rent and PRS at Carter Jonas | BTR News
Lee Richards, Head of Build to Rent and PRS at Carter Jonas.

BTR News spoke with Lee Richards, Head of Build to Rent and PRS at Carter Jonas about the property consultancy firm, predictions for 2022 and beyond, its Tenant Survey, and how the sector will evolve over the next five years.

How does being a part of a national, multi-disciplinary property consultancy enable your Build to Rent team to stand out in the market?

The depth of experience across Carter Jonas allows us to provide expert advice and support across the entire asset lifecycle.

According to the British Property Federation, there are approximately 235,000 Build to Rent homes in the pipeline across the UK, and this is expected to grow to 1.75 million by the mid-2030s. To meet this demand, Carter Jonas can provide support across the full lifecycle, on each stage of the journey, from the initial steps of acquiring investment, land sourcing and feasibility analysis, to the later processes of mobilisation, letting and management. We have experience across a variety of different schemes, such as multifamily, single-family and mixed-use developments of all sizes.

With a large lettings team working across the country, Carter Jonas has a clear understanding of the occupier demands and the newest trends. What are your predictions for the remainder of 2022 and beyond?

The last few years have obviously impacted on occupier demand, and we predict that trends seen over this period will continue. There is still a deficit of good quality stock across all markets and high numbers of enquiries and applications for a range of property types. However, residents aren’t just interested in any property that comes to the market – they are more discerning than ever about tenancy length, professional management, certainty around rent increases, as well as the quality of living and lifestyle benefits available.

I expect these factors to remain prevalent in the longer term, along with increased awareness from our residents around the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) qualities of their homes. Issues, such as the dramatic increases in energy bills that we are currently experiencing, have really brought this to the fore. Also, many prospective tenants now enquire specifically about a landlord’s ESG credentials and their approach to sustainability at a corporate level, not just for an individual property.

Carter Jonas published its latest Tenant Survey. What were the most interesting findings, how have tenant expectations changed since the last report, and how has it impacted your advice to clients?

The Tenant Survey is completed by Carter Jonas every two-to-three years, and it was certainly interesting to compare our new findings with the previous survey conducted before the pandemic. The 2022 survey showed that our residents have a strong desire for space, both outdoor and indoor, and access to external public space, that they hadn’t prioritised in the same way in our previous surveys.

The outdoor communal space wasn’t the only growth area in terms of amenities. High-speed broadband has now become essential for over 65% of residents, and both energy efficiency and the freedom to have pets have also grown in importance.

Resident priorities have certainly shifted over the last two years, so our advice is to look at how you might be able to accommodate these evolving needs. A key part of being a market-leading landlord, or managing agent, involves engaging with your clients and looking at how your property could proactively meet those needs.

What are Carter Jonas’ plans for the next five years, how will the Build to Rent team grow in this time and what role do you see it playing in the firm’s future?

The UK Build to Rent market is still emerging. At present, our team has a wide range of capabilities, and our aim is to expand and grow alongside our residents’ and clients’ needs as they evolve.

We are also strengthening our ability to provide the best possible advice and support around ESG matters, not only within Build to Rent but also across the wider industry. I recently completed a specialist ESG course for real estate professionals alongside other industry advisors. This training reinforced with me the importance of being able to properly guide and steer our clients through these transformative times. Our thinking must be fresh and constantly evolving, building and incorporating sustainable solutions into both new and existing portfolios. The Build to Rent sector is uniquely placed to address and lead on this, and at Carter Jonas, we want to drive this change.

How do you think the UK Build to Rent market will evolve during this time?

This is a very interesting question, as the Build to Rent market is picking up pace across the UK. The pipeline for the next five years is exciting, and the vision ranges far beyond the stereotypical Build to Rent urban apartment building with a conventional approach to design and amenities. The three areas where I expect the most change is in the locations considered viable for Build to Rent, the age and demographic of the residents, and the style of buildings being constructed.    

Over the next few years, we expect to see many more suburban schemes developed in areas such as Milton Keynes or Peterborough, which may have previously been overshadowed by more traditional Build to Rent locations – often the larger cities of London, Manchester or Birmingham. These schemes will have more of an estate feel, with housing and low-rise apartments accounting for most homes in the pipeline. As the market matures, we will see more mixed-style schemes, moving away from apartment buildings to larger terraced houses. These will aim to appeal to young professionals, sharers, families and later living, all within the same wider community.

Finally, I predict there will be an evolution as to how Build to Rent can create long-term sustainable communities. There will be a shift in trajectory from prioritising amenities towards how amenities nurture and create a community. Both are necessary, but whereas amenities tend to attract residents, it’s the creation of community that retains them.