I recently took part in an online conference to discuss development and investment in the private rented sector. It was encouraging to hear how positive the speakers were about the outlook for PRS and build to rent, affirming what I had also experienced about the buoyancy of the market. Our current PRS portfolio of 11 developments is running at around 98% occupancy, and this hasn’t dipped. The portfolio is still growing steadily with 15 further sites in the pipeline.
Of course the repercussions of Covid-19 were central to the discussions and have hugely affected our industry. The past months have been a steep and previously unimaginable learning curve, when we had to mobilise sites overnight to make them Covid-safe, putting in place extensive protocols for hygiene, cleaning and staff and resident safety. Other working practices such as virtual viewings allowed lettings to continue. With wide ranging-measures in place across our portfolio and business, we are in a strong position to provide seamless support to our tenants and residents in the event of localised lockdowns and as circumstances remain uncertain.
Despite the difficulties it has presented, the Coronavirus pandemic has provided valuable lessons that apply to the private rented sector. Spending so much time at home has highlighted what people value in the places they live and it will be interesting to see how this influences the design of build to rent schemes. For example access to public outdoor space and communal areas has been more important than ever in recent months, providing places for neighbours to come together and get outside. We have always placed strong emphasis on encouraging a sense of community at our developments and this is also one of the key elements of the PRS experience.
Similarly as we have moved towards a workforce that is working more and more from home, communal work spaces will become more popular for those that don’t just want to be stuck on their laptop at the kitchen table. Shared amenities are integral to the PRS model and while gyms and other facilities have been temporarily closed, having amenities on the doorstep will be more important in the long term. There will be some shifts in priorities for example we expect more demand for on-site creches as parents seek childcare closer to home and in general people seeking a better work life balance.
We are also already seeing early signs of people choosing to move out of London to the regions where they can get more for their money. This would allow them to rent an apartment in a more luxurious build to rent scheme with great amenities that they could not afford in London. Build to rent was one of the property sector’s fastest growing areas before Covid-19 hit and there is every reason to believe that its future is looking strong for the long-term.
by Richard Daver, MD
The residential leasehold sector is unregulated so anyone can set up as managing agent and start collecting service charges without the relevant qualifications or experience. ARMA Accredited managing agents such as Rendall & Rittner must meet the ARMA Consumer Charter & Standards, a set of professional standards aimed at consumer protection and best practice in all areas of residential long leasehold management.
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