The UK’s build-to-rent sector is booming. In less than a decade, the sector has grown by around 60% and is now worth some £1.5trn. This comes as no surprise. 

Fay Chester

We all have, at some point in our lives, been looking for a place to live, whether it is a house or a flat, and build-to-rent is an alleviation in the midst of the UK’s housing crisis.

The internet has made home searching extremely easy and the advent of the so-called ‘generation rent’ has seen millions of people turning to renting as their model of choice.

The old days of pen and paper, endless phone calls and long rides in your car to view properties are long gone and the search is now almost entirely conducted on the web. Just as shopping no longer means showing up in a store, home searching has become essentially digital.

But even so, the process might be extremely slow. Imagine you are on your lunch break, looking for an apartment on your laptop or smartphone. You are clicking on dozens of different sites, scrolling through pages and pages of dubious websites. Maybe the information provided on the website is incomplete. It lacks floorplans and energy ratings. There are no reviews or pictures. How can you trust this website instead of another one? Is the apartment going to be as good as it is presented? Are you just going to waste your time? Hunting for an apartment can be a very frustrating experience indeed.

Turning to the other side, and looking at the situation from a landlord’s perspective, it is increasingly hard to catch a home-hunter’s attention. Due to the same chaotic web scenario, this challenge is now tougher than ever. How can a landlord make a prospective resident discover their property among thousands and thousands of ads? How can they convince residents of the quality of their properties? And how can they turn that interest into an actual lease?

These are the questions that we had in mind when we launched Yardi RENTCafé, our property marketing and resident services software. The question we ask ourselves through innovation is: how can we make life easier for both landlords and residents?

RENTCafé provides a holistic marketing solution that helps to engage prospective residents, enhance the brand and streamline the leasing process

Used alongside Yardi Voyager 7S, Yardi’s award-winning cloud-based core property management and accounting platform, RENTCafé provides a holistic marketing solution that helps to engage prospective residents, enhance the brand and streamline the leasing process. It makes it painless for prospective residents to find the right homes, while permitting landlords to successfully promote their properties to reduce vacancy rates.

As we know, looking for a place to live involves a number of manual repetitive tasks: calling estate agents, explaining your needs, organising viewings. RENTCafé automates this process, allowing our clients to manage the letting process completely online.

Let’s say that you are looking for an apartment that has special amenities: car parking, a gym, a concierge desk for deliveries and, why not, a view. At the moment, it can be extremely hard – if not impossible – to look for these criteria using traditional methods. Most of the apps on the market simply do not offer this kind of service.

RENTCafé has extremely sophisticated search filters to meet any demand. Our portal is integrated with popular list providers such as Zoopla and Rightmove so that residents can have the best possible choice within a single database.

Searches can be filtered by city, postcode, radius, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, amenities, pets and plenty of other criteria. An interactive map provides information about each property. More importantly, all the apartments within RENTCafé are listed by safe and reputable property managers. One set of information for everyone – a choice that inspires a lot of confidence in our users.

House hunters

Source: Shutterstock/Solis Images

Hunting for an apartment can be a very frustrating experience

Obviously, you still might want to actually view the apartment – human interaction is still key. In fact, we are not planning to replace that interaction; we want to complement it. RENTCafé simply makes the interaction easier, speeding up the process and making it more efficient for the resident and landlord.

For example, we take care of all the legal requirements beforehand, so that the human touchpoint can go smoothly and the resident can move in quicker. We perform credit checks and we can issue a tenancy agreement online, if needed. After move-in, our Yardi Resident app lets residents manage their lease and apartment online – handling a mixture of requests from residents, from online payments to repairs and parcel deliveries. Residents can also submit and track the progress of maintenance requests with photos and voice memos.

At the same time, we offer landlords the possibility to manage residents through the platform, using services such as deposit protection, online inventory and rent processing. RENTCafé is also fully customisable and can be fully branded to the landlord’s corporate style – an essential gadget for successful marketing campaigns. Social media tools and reputation management are included in the package as well, so landlords can maximise their digital presence.

Big data

Behind the scenes of RENTCafé sits one of the most established and inclusive dataset platforms within the property industry: Yardi Voyager 7S. Our clients use Voyager as the cornerstone to real estate management. Big data associated with portfolio management is collected, maintained and digested. We analyse this data to offer the most tailored feedback to our clients. We record day-to-day management of the properties and monitor our users’ behaviours and our applicants’ activities.

These services have proven to be extremely popular. Our clients want to know who the customers in their pipeline are and what their requirements are. It’s a 360-degree process; all of this knowledge ultimately drives business choices and strategies.

It’s a win-win situation for both clients and residents: making it easier for the latter to find their dream apartments, while allowing landlords to rent their apartments out more efficiently.

In the US, where the app was first launched, RENTCafé is already a successful reality. Because of the advanced status of the market overseas, there are ‘no-touchpoint’ scenarios where human interaction is non-existent. You can go and view an apartment without meeting an estate agent, using brand-new technologies such as smart keys and electronic signatures.

Video tours are the next big thing and will radically change the way we do our home searches. If interactive and VR images within the property listings are useful, imagine viewing dozens of apartments while comfortably sitting at home or at work. There is truly no limit to what technology can do.

We believe that nothing can replace the friendly welcoming of residents into their new homes. But technology is designed to improve everyday life.

Fay Chester is pre-sales manager, UK and Europe at Yardi Systems

Yardi logo

About Yardi

Now in its fourth decade, Yardi is committed to the design, development and support of software for real estate investment management and property management. With the Yardi Commercial Suite, Yardi Residential Suite, Yardi Investment Suite and Yardi Orion Business Intelligence, the Yardi Voyager platform is a complete real estate management solution. It includes operations, accounting and services with portfolio-wide business intelligence and platform- wide mobility. Yardi serves clients worldwide from offices in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.