The UK’s living sector has come a long way in just a few years since Build to Rent was introduced. Over time, Build to Rent has shaped a trend that Greystar’s Harry Downes voiced at a recent breakfast roundtable hosted by Parcel Pending by Quadient: “We are a hospitality business not a property business.”
By Jon Hammond, Head of Real Estate, Parcel Locker Solution Sales, Quadient UK & Ireland
The roundtable was held to mark the launch of HomeView’s 2023 Build to Rent Report, where Harry’s insight is evidenced. The latest iteration of this respected report on residents’ views found that although Build to Rent still achieves the highest ratings of new build homes, the biggest drops in ratings year-on-year were in service-focused categories around management and customer service.
In short, Build to Rent operators still have a way to go to meet the level of customer service that residents expect today. One quote from a resident respondent to HomeViews’ survey said: “I feel as though the management is stretched thin which contributes to a lack of service at times.”
There are many challenges facing Build to Rent operators that may hold them back from being able to offer a high level of service. Costs have increased rapidly amid the cost of living crisis. Staff are having to do more with less.
Costs have inevitably pushed rents up, which has exacerbated the problem. Residents who are paying more rent want to feel as though they are receiving value for money. They have high expectations of customer service. A challenge for Build to Rent operators is to provide the facilities that residents need and to equip staff with the tools to do so.
There are solutions available for Build to Rent operators today, many in the shape of technology. Take the area of parcel deliveries as an example. Without an automated system, it takes about four minutes for a person to receive, log and store a parcel, then inform the recipient and distribute it. In a building of 200 apartments, that adds up to about five hours a day, taking into account average parcel deliveries.
That is a huge amount of time just sorting parcel deliveries that could be better spent meeting residents’ needs. Build to Rent operators can’t afford to have staff tied up handling parcels when they need to make residents happy.
A solution therefore could be to install smart parcel lockers, to allow a resident to easily manage their own parcel deliveries. The property management team can be completely taken out of the process. A delivery person can access the lockers with a digitally generated code, then the resident is informed and can collect the parcel at their leisure. The process is simple, secure and, crucially, doesn’t rely on a busy building manager to facilitate.
HomeViews’ report includes many comments about the value of parcel lockers. One respondent said: “The electronic concierge lockers are brilliant.” Another commented how much they value “onsite security and other useful things like lockers for deliveries”. In contrast, a resident living somewhere without automatic parcel lockers detailed a lost parcel disaster and said: “Please improve the courier collection and delivery system, urgent!”
Automatic parcel lockers can also deal with a growing challenge facing Build to Rent operators: the acquisition and retention of staff. A property manager spending hours sorting parcels won’t be happy. If, instead, they have the time to focus on doing other aspects of their job more thoroughly, their job satisfaction will increase, and they are more likely to stay in their job.
Many UK industries are facing skills shortages in 2023. In the hospitality and construction sectors – both industries that feed into those who work in Build to Rent – vacancies are currently 72% and 65% higher respectively compared to pre-pandemic. This compares to an overall increase of 42% across the economy.
At the breakfast event held to celebrate HomeViews’ report, one of the key issues raised by attendees was how staffing will be a key issue in Build to Rent for the next year. As the sector has moved to become a hospitality business, it has become more important to create a talented body of staff who understand how to deliver customer service.
Now is the time for a Build to Rent operator to invest in the tools that will boost both residents and staff satisfaction. Portfolios will expand, as there is such a need for new homes across the UK, and introducing efficiencies now will have an even greater impact in the future.