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How to distinguish yourself in the build-to-rent game in 2017

The end of 2016 saw the launch of 30,000 new build-to-rent (BTR) projects in London alone. With market growth projected to continue in 2017, competition among agents to secure business from developers will only get fiercer. 

So how can you set yourself apart and attract developers this year?

Acknowledge the BTR market is a completely new ball game

Compared to traditional Victorian conversions, or even flats within apartment blocks, potential renters are unlikely to know much, if anything at all, about the advantages of BTR properties. 

Meanwhile, answering to institutional investors rather than independent landlords presents a whole ream of challenges. The service you offer must take this into account, or will simply be unsuccessful.

For example, when Hamptons International first entered the BTR sector six years ago, working with a Canadian fund in South-West London, they approached their relationship with them, and with prospective renters, the way they would have done with any other rented property. 

It just didn’t work and they struggled to fill the building. Still, they’re working with them again, and having adapted to the needs of the market are experiencing far greater success.

Provide a consultative approach

A major draw of BTR is that it allows renters to enjoy a holistic social experience – with access to communal spaces such as a lounges, offices and dining spaces. In order to make these features worthwhile, developers must take the demographic of an area into consideration. This will determine not only which facilities there should be on site, but also the layout of the apartments themselves. 

For example, if the local area is made up of predominantly single people as opposed to families, it makes sense that each bedroom should be of equal size, rather than having a master suite.

Working with clients early on, before the building process has started, and sharing your insights into the market, is a great way of building your relationship. It also ensures that the final product is shaped around the needs of local renters, maximising the chance of your joint success. 

Invest in a more thorough marketing and PR strategy

The nature of the BTR industry means that a significant number of properties get dropped onto the market all at once – and that’s expensive. From day one, the developer has to pay for electricity and council tax on each vacant flat. So in order to make their investment economically viable, they need to be rented out as quickly as possible. 

Budgeting for a professional team of marketers and communications experts, who will be able to secure you widespread coverage, will be key to helping you get your message out. Which will ultimately mean the properties sell more quickly, secure the developer a return on their investment, and you a return client. 

Dedicate time to showing prospective renters BTR options

People don’t know what they like until they’ve tried it. If renters are searching for traditional options in one area by default, don’t shy away from showing them BTR properties in another postcode if it fits their criteria. 

With mobile-first sites, and dedicated apps, it’s easy to be swiping through images and arranging appointments on-the-move. So you could easily visit a property they’ve requested to view first as a point of comparison.

Provide white labelled on-site services

The additional spaces and services provided by BTR developments increase the need for onsite teams working exclusively for residents. Agents have a strong understanding of what will be needed, so offering to save developers a job by providing white labelled services will distinguish you from the pack. 

Ultimately, if you want to get ahead in the BTR sector this year, you need to know, and be able to quickly adapt to the demands of the market to give both your clients’ developments and yourselves a competitive edge. 

Providing clients with additional offerings, such as on-site and consultancy services, as well as investing time into educating prospective renters about BTR as an option, will be key. 

*Aidan Rushby is the CEO and Founder of Movebubble - an app that empowers individuals to quickly and easily find, view and rent their new home

This article was co-written by Jonathan Pitt, National Director of Corporate PRS and Build-to-Rent, at premier estate and letting agent, Hamptons International.

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