It will be five years in January since I joined Way of Life, and in that time I have learned that, when it comes to BTR, the ‘Build’ part is only half the story. Our customers are really our guests, and whether they are staying for weeks, months or even years what they want is hospitality, a sense of belonging and seamless access to great services and amenities.


Sowgol Zarinchang, managing director at Way of Life

It’s more like running an excellent hotel – customer service is the key to achieving maximum value from your assets, you can’t just hand over the keys to a new resident and forget about them for six months.

As the BTR market matures in the UK, more and more assets are approaching completion, and the focus of developers is shifting from the build phase to the question of how best to bring their assets to market, and operate and manage them going forward. In-house management has its appeal, but with construction costs soaring and the challenge of recruiting a specialist team from scratch in a market where there is not enough talent to go around, teaming up with a trusted partner is likely to be a faster and less risky option.

That’s why we have decided to offer Way of Life’s industry-leading services to like- minded developers looking for a proven third party management partner – someone who understands their customers and their assets, but also shares their goals, and their ambitions for growth. We already manage over 1,000 apartments, with 500 more coming in the next six months

BTR calls for a very different mindset from Build to sell – a hospitality-led approach that we have invested heavily in at Way of Life. Our industry-leading digital platform allows customers to book viewings, take virtual tours and reserve apartments entirely online. It’s helped us attract 35,000 leads to our database.

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We also know that prospects don’t have to come only via the usual property search websites. They can also be engaged early on social media platforms –. In the past six months we’ve gone from 1,000 Instagram followers to almost 10,000 and are increasingly driving traffic direct to our own website from social media, reducing the cost of acquiring new customers.

Once they are signed up, residents can also use our digital portal to schedule maintenance or repair visits and access add-on services like getting a cleaner. It’s a slick and speedy experience that saves them time and generates additional revenue for us. And letting technology take the burden of many ‘boring but important’ admin tasks that used to be done manually, empowers the team on the ground in our buildings to focus on what people do best – building real communities that they can enjoy and contribute to. Our resident hosts do a lot more than just sign for parcels and let visitors in, they know our residents personally, and what kind of events will interest them and help them feel at home.

Our insight platform – supported by custom-made back end systems, automation specialists and a real-time business intelligence team – can provide asset owners with the same kind of seamless digital experience that our residents value so highly. Key metrics like occupancy, the budget against each unit and overall net operating income are instantly available on a digital dashboard with no need to plough through spreadsheets or manually update figures. Data is broken down at building and apartment level enabling owners and investors to really understand what drives revenue and efficiency for their particular asset.

BTR has a big part to play in providing real homes for real people, and in helping to tackle the UK’s chronic housing shortage whilst also boosting local businesses and revitalizing communities. But it will only fully achieve its potential if it also provides decent, ongoing, returns for investors and developers. And the key to that is innovative, hospitality-led and digitally enabled management.

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Sowgol Zarinchang is managing director at Way of Life