Home Property How build-to-rent is changing the face of London’s rental sector

Anyone who’s had half an eye on the property press over the past couple of years will have seen many column inches devoted to the rise and rise of build-to-rent (BTR). But there’s still quite a bit of confusion about what it actually is, both inside the property industry and beyond.

For those that don’t know, BTR apartments are built and managed specifically for rent by developers. However, rather than just paying a deposit and picking up the keys, for the tenants it’s more like joining a club, with communal spaces, social events and great onsite amenities. So why has it captured so much media attention?

One reason is that, for many people, especially among the younger generations, homeownership is no longer a realistic goal. With average deposits for homes in the capital exceeding £80,000, and house prices 14 times the median wage, London is fast approaching a rent-versus-mortgage tipping point (PwC predicts that 60% of Londoners will rent by 2025).

Add to this the fact that fewer of us anticipate a cradle-to-grave job and more of us are working remotely, and it’s clear that life’s becoming more flexible. And a flexible lifestyle often requires a more adaptable living situation. Cue BTR.

BTR is starting to shift thinking about renting in the UK, where it has traditionally played second fiddle to homeownership.

Unlike regular Private Rental Sector offerings, a BTR development treats its tenants like customers; they’re looked after properly by decent management teams, and revenue is leveraged not just from rent but by providing brilliant onsite services, communal spaces and social programmes.

And it’s growing, Savills reports that BTR has seen a 34% boost in the past year alone, with 140,000 homes completed or in the pipeline.

We recently partnered with Canary Wharf Group to launch the first-ever BTR development on the Canary Wharf Estate, Vertus three high-spec apartment blocks with access to a range of onsite facilities. Our branding campaign showcases how Vertus represents something big and exciting: a new way of living that embraces the positives of BTR.

It involves an ‘experience first, product second’ messaging not usually seen in the property industry. We’re not compensating for a lack of ownership here: we’re celebrating a modern lifestyle choice. Leasing a Vertus apartment is something to be proud of, freeing you from the commitment of ownership and providing access to a flexible, experience-driven lifestyle.

Instead of the clichéd imagery and content often associated with property marketing, portrait photography captures fulfilled individuals in their apartments. The brand strapline, ‘Lease It Like You own It’, drives home the fact that BTR isn’t second best to homeownership, and that Vertus empowers renters. It’s quick and easy and, once you’re in, you can access the community-focused Vertus lifestyle.

In order to inspire excitement, BTR brands need to capture that this is all about lifestyle and experience, not fixtures, fittings and facilities. BTR schemes have given the rental sector a facelift, offering an appealing lifestyle in one monthly package. And because it’s still relatively unknown territory, developers have a real opportunity to use branding to capture the attention of potential tenants seeking convenient, flexible lifestyles.

We’re not going to go back to the historic ownership highs of the late 80s and early 90s anytime soon, so it’s time to get on board and celebrate the new positives.

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