Unlocking the full potential of single-family homes with technology

The UK single-family rental market is undergoing a transformation. Ed Tinsley discusses the two significant trends it has been marked by.

Ed Tinsley, General Manager of Residently | BTR News
Ed Tinsley, General Manager of Residently.

The UK rental market is undergoing a profound transformation, marked by two significant trends: an unprecedented growth in institutional investment and the breakdown of the buy-to-let model for private landlords. 

By Ed Tinsley, General Manager of Residently

This evolution is still in its infancy compared to the US, where large-scale institutional investors represent up to 50% of the market. However, unlike the US, which is dominated by multifamily homes and operators, our private rental supply is much more diverse, with the vast majority in the single-family typology. Knight Frank’s 2024 Single Family Housing Report shows that nearly 50% of privately renting households in the UK live in suburban areas, which equates to 2.65 million households that operate as single-family housing. 

The growth in investment in new single-family rental homes is encouraging, with £1bn deployed by September 2023 and projections of a further £25bn invested in the next decade. We predict that the sector will redefine rental living in the UK and add much-needed supply to the market, faster than the alternatives.

While most institutional investment has been deployed by buying new single-family homes from housebuilders, there is also an emerging opportunity for institutional investors to retain the private rental supply being cast off by private owners exiting the market. Operators such as Bricklane, HomeQuarters and GreenResi are creating innovative platforms to capture this shift and create demand for a new type of management operation.

However, more homes across more locations come with greater operational challenges. So, how do you standardise leasing, management operations, and customer experience across geographically dispersed portfolios? 

Technology can empower owners and managers to navigate this evolving landscape. The need for a technology-first approach has never been more acute, as it’s the only path to scale single-family rental platforms to their full potential, streamlining operations and creating a resident experience that differentiates the product from the private landlord model.

The demand for a refined, data-driven management approach intensifies as investors’ financing and cost structures change. Traditional systems, burdened by manual processes and fragmented solutions, do not empower real, data-informed decision-making on everything from unit pricing to void management. 

A platform tailored for the unique demands of single-family housing (SFH) functions as a virtual on-site team, facilitating seamless communication and operations across dispersed properties. Plus, a unified system eradicates data silos, promoting transparency and collaboration. This data means virtual on-site teams can refine operations, enhance the experience, and increase yields.

Building and influencing a community in a SFH environment is no less important than in multifamily, but it requires a different, software-led approach. Specialised platforms can enable operators to create shared experiences and foster a sense of belonging without the high costs associated with fixed amenities.

The most important thing operators can do is simplify all the resident interactions from initial contact to renewals. No one will appreciate amenities and perks if the core experience is messy. ‘Virtual amenities’ can enhance the daily living experience, from local business partnerships to fitness memberships, leveraging the unique position of single-family homes within the community. Similarly, organising events like farmers’ markets and garden parties is a great way to build community.

For contemporary single-family homeowners and operators, the selection and use of systems designed to address the specific challenges of single-family homes is paramount. The adoption of modern, community-focused systems will support the growth of institutional supply in the single-family sector and enable a more efficient, equitable, and connected renting experience in the UK.