After a few false starts, current signals suggest we are gradually heading back to a more ‘normal’ way of life. Increasingly, when I speak to people over Zoom they are in the office and my favourite restaurants are booked solid.
While there is still an air of caution, we’ve seen a number of positive indicators suggesting people are looking ahead and returning to the office and cities. This past week there were reports of offices achieving an average 50% occupancy for the first time since the start of the pandemic and Zoopla data shows a significant increase in residential rental demand in cities since Easter.
At Grainger, our enquiry levels have risen by almost 100% since January and our two most recent build-to-rent schemes are leasing well ahead of schedule. In cities up and down the UK, there are already more people on the streets and in cafés, bars and restaurants.
While much has been said about the rumoured exodus from cities, a lot has also been said about their strong fundamentals. Cities hold an enduring appeal for those looking for a certain lifestyle that you tend to find alongside the bright lights and the skyscrapers – with the best in hospitality, leisure, arts, culture, all at your feet.
There are so many lessons from the pandemic, not least how we use our homes and what we should look for when choosing one. With our fingers firmly crossed that we are approaching a period of recovery, the BTR sector is well placed to support those changing needs.
The sector offers high-quality homes with good access to the outdoors and green space, with wellness integrated into the design and co-working space as standard; not forgetting the superfast wifi that is included in the rent.
And that’s just the hardware. At a time when many people have never felt so alone, BTR and the community ethos that runs through it provides instant access to a social circle and a support network on the doorstep for those who want it.
At Grainger, our aspiration is to make life easier for residents – to take the hassle out of renting. With the economy beginning to open up, whether it’s a young professional moving back from time out with their parents or someone who has moved further out but is now looking for a base in the city, BTR is attracting a lot more interest.
Furnished, professionally managed and with wifi switched on from the day you move in, the sector provides an easy turnkey solution, helping residents settle in quickly.
This frees them to focus on what’s most important to them: in many cases, getting back to the office and getting back out to socialise and enjoy the freedom and excitement of city living that they have missed for the past 18 months.
High-quality, well-managed homes in well-connected locations help provide the foundations for businesses and individuals to thrive. As we look ahead to what is hopefully a more positive outlook, BTR will support the recovery in our cities and this has to be a good thing.
Helen Gordon is chief executive of Grainger