We spoke with Michael Herrington, Related Argent’s Director of Build to Rent Operations at Author King’s Cross about its first Build ot Rent scheme, the rejuvenation of the King’s Cross area, its pipeline and more.
Related Argent recently launched its Author King’s Cross Build to Rent scheme. What makes the scheme different?
Just about any developer can get planning, build some apartments, put in a gym, and call itself a premium rental site. Additionally, there are several providers in the London Build to Rent market that are putting up lots of buildings and growing their unit count at a near exponential rate to capture as much market share as possible. All of these are appropriate business goals for these operators that are aligned to what they want to accomplish.
Yet, Related Argent has a unique approach to what we believe a discerning London renter wants from their Build to Rent experience. Related Argent Build to Rent is a remarkable rental option and complements the world-class placemaking estate skills that represents our company. Our buildings will be in well balanced neighbourhoods with access to a cultivated entertainment lifestyle and transportation connection options that align to our residents’ needs.
In addition to these physical attributes, our staff undergo a month-long training program that exposes them to the offerings of what King’s Cross can provide to our residents, instils in them an exemplary approach to customer services, and adapts the best resident engagement best practices from top performing sites in other markets. This type of commitment to service and readiness to provide our residents with a service that goes above and beyond what they expect, is a market differentiator that sets Related Argent apart from other London property operators.
You have led the redevelopment and rejuvenation of the King’s Cross area for the last twenty years. What’s the end vision?
King’s Cross is approaching its last few years of development with more homes, offices and retail and leisure still to come. It’s regularly heralded as one of the best developments in the world and one of the best places to live in the UK and this remains our focus. Our Author King’s Cross Build to Rent development, which is the only Build to Rent offering on the estate opened this month and we are anticipating strong rental demand.
To deliver a standout resident experience, what is important for Build to Rent developers to deliver?
For us the consistent and steadfast delivery of outstanding customer service is a key component of how we will deliver a standout resident experience. When things go well, just about any London property operator can earn topflight customer survey scores. But the true measure of success and the way that Related Argent will differentiate ourselves is how we engage during two critical touch points – when a resident least expects it and when there is a service break. Here is what I mean; we have a specific set of training courses for our onsite team that provide our team with the skillset to find small ways to anticipate the needs of our residents. Being able to provide our residents with those small surprise and delight moments is a critical building block in how they will perceive the value of the service we provide.
The second way that we deliver a standout resident experience is when something happens. We empower our staff to critically think about unique ways to solve challenging resident issues and allow them to own that interaction with the resident from start to finish. There are exact response time standards and update protocols in place to ensure a resident that is experiencing a service break issue is kept fully informed of the actions being taken to resolve the issue. When you can execute well on these two points, residents will truly have a standout resident experience.
Related Argent has plans to deliver 3,000 Build to Rent homes in three vibrant locations of King’s Cross, Tottenham Hale, and Brent Cross Town. Can you provide some insight into progress?
We are committed to changing the UK rental experience for the better and have plans to expand our Build to Rent portfolio in the UK both within our large-scale regeneration projects and a range of smaller sites. We believe our experience in developing, owning, and operating vibrant places will prove a compelling reason to rent a Related Argent home, and our Build to Rent projects have attracted major investment from The Olayan Group and Invesco Real Estate. Build to Rent is now an integral part of our development pipeline.
Related Argent has a wealth of experience in the US Build to Rent sector, but do you need to take a different approach to the London market?
I absolutely love the perspective of this question. The London Build to Rent market is about ten years old, and while it is not as mature as other rental markets, it is developing its own characteristics that make it unique. This question hits perfectly at what is important for how Related Argent is unique when servicing our residents. When opening a site and starting to deliver service, it is imperative to find the right balance between local expectations of service and application of other best practices from other markets. And this is where I think Related Argent stands out.
As a provider of premium services, we have a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of each operating marketing and the importance of providing exceptional services. For us this means giving our site teams leaders access to the skill set and best practices used in other markets while still allowing them the freedom to apply what works best for their market.
When we consider the options of how Related Argent will uplift the service in our buildings, we approach it from the needs of our residents. For example, we may adjust the frequency or type of resident events at our communities, we may pivot to providing a particular service connection from our local partners in King’s Cross, or we will modify how a particular product offering is provided based on selective feedback from our residents. Having this type of flexibility and local based empowerment allows our Related Argent site team leaders to select and chose the best practices from other markets that really allow for the delivery of outstanding service to our residents.