The build to rent (BTR) sector continues to see rapid growth following the ongoing housing crisis in the UK, recent house price inflation and change in consumer demand. Consumers of the property market are beginning to idealise living in rented properties for longer and enjoying the sense of community that comes with BTR developments.
With growing demand for a sector that currently makes up less than 2% of the overall market, it is important that BTR providers understand how to differentiate themselves in the crowded market.
Yardi’s regional director, Justin Harley, spoke with industry experts Kevin Watson of PLATFORM_, Tiffany Harrison of Leaf Living and Jackie Robinson of Get Living on how providers can start to differentiate themselves in the crowded market.
Who is the competition that we are differentiating from?
Harley opened the panel by addressing who the surrounding competition is in the market. Both Robinson and Watson stipulated that competition is everything to be seen on property portals, whether it be the growing BTR sector, private rented sector (PRS) or the buying side.
Our panellist Watson added, “it’s not just the rental market. BTR providers are also in competition with the buying side, particularly now with inflation costs and residents wanting to avoid the high cost of home ownership”.
Despite such vast competition, there appears to be some opportune gaps for BTR to become a pivotal sector in the property market.
Who is the BTR market?
For many BTR providers, adhering to a defined target market works well. Our panel experts identified students, young professionals and ‘homemakers’ aged 22-55 as the common target market for those looking to enter the BTR sector.
Albeit true, these common target markets do not have to be the focal point for all BTR providers.
“There is a misconception that BTR is all about young professionals. Operators must focus not only on what their current market is, but what they want them to be. The BTR sector can be for everyone, but we must ensure our product suits this,” said Robinson.
Supported by the latest from BTR News, the build to rent sector has the potential to cater to all demographics and stages of life – from young professionals in their late 20s, families in their 30s to senior residents.
What makes good customer service?
BTR operators must differentiate, not only with their initial offering, but also throughout the tenant lifecycle. Harley asked our industry experts about their plans for great customer service and how they endeavour to stand out with this.
There, came a unite response across all panellists, “we make our customers centric to everything we do whilst operating an efficient business.”
Being customer centric comes with the expectation of good communication, onsite staff, security of tenure, and more – all highlighted by our industry experts. In addition, Robinson raised a point that BTR operators should not forget if they wish to differentiate – “Listen to your residents and never underestimate how important it is to get the basics right.”
For all BTR operators, getting the basics right within your developments is the foundation to offering unrivalled customer service. Once done right, you can build up from there, whether that’s offering more amenities, arranging community events or investing in software to streamline your operations.
How important is technology in providing a great experience?
Technology plays a key part in the BTR sector, as demonstrated in the HomeViews 2022 Build to Rent report, stating that technology plays a big role in how much residents enjoy living in their developments.
Technology continues to contribute towards stronger communities, as well as helping operators grow and differentiate. The use of technology facilitates the leasing journey and overall operations for residents, buildings and providers.
But more than this, technology is the pinnacle asset to increasing operational efficiency – as justified by our panel expert, Watson. “Technology is how you differentiate. It not only streamlines your operations and customer experience, but it also free’s up your operator’s time.”
The use of technology alleviates the pressures of lengthy, admin tasks and instead allows operators to spend time on the things that matter – like customers and business scalability.
What are the challenges faced in BTR?
Being the competitive landscape that is it, BTR providers will face challenges. It can be difficult for operators to keep up with the fast-paced market and endure plans of scaling, whilst competing with cost inflation and change in consumer demand.
To contend with this, our panellist Harrison voiced the importance of operators communicating with their residents and always being clear. “Despite challenges, we like to be transparent with our residents in order to be as ethical as possible.”
Therefore, retaining a strong community within your BTR developments is key is getting operators and residents through challenges that may present themselves.
A single connected solution to bring it altogether
There are lots of factors to consider for BTR providers to stand out and differentiate from the crowded property market. But by looking at the surrounding competition, target markets, consumer demands, technology and the potential challenges, operators can utilise this crowed market to their advantage to find the gaps and scale accordingly.
Rounding all considerations together is Yardi’s purposely designed Build to Rent platform that includes software and mobile apps which delivers a single connected solution designed to automate processes and streamline activities, for an improved resident experience. We at Yardi believe that at the heart of a successful BTR community lay the people that manage it and the human interactions they provide. That is why our solutions are not only designed to digitalise and automate operations but empower teams to free up valuable time to focus on nurturing residents and communities.