Build-to-rent is seeing prodigious growth as developers look to meet increasing demand for high-quality rental accommodation. Property Week spoke to Roomservice by CORT to find out what we can learn from the US
American multi-family housing is often cited as a model for the UK’s build-to-rent (BTR) sector. The US has had a good head start - over the past 20 years its BTR sector has grown to more than 25 million apartments managed by professional property management companies.
The success of the multi-family market is down to an integration of professionalism, brand, technology and the American customer service ethos. Similarly, here in the UK, flexibility, quality accommodation and customer service are proving to be the defining aspects of the BTR model. Giving customers the option to rent high-quality furniture is just one way that operators can offer an extra level of service.
The buy-to-let private landlord market, which has dominated the private rental sector in the UK for decades, typically offers rental properties furnished, but the image is of the landlord providing poor-quality, often mismatched furniture. By contrast, apartments in the US are usually let unfurnished, but operators often offer a furniture rental package to their residents.
This is provided by a third-party supplier but offered as an extension of the service delivered by the property management company, giving tenants the option of renting furniture of their choice without the operator having the hassle and cost of buying, storing or maintaining it.
Flexibility, convenience and service
As the UK moves towards a professionally run and customer-led private rental sector, offering the option of a flexible furniture rental service allows the operator to capture both the furnished and unfurnished markets, without any costly outlay on furniture.
Furniture services could even be factored in to the design of future BTR blocks, as they are in the US, where rental schemes are designed with separate service lifts and entrances to avoid disruption in reception.
Providing a flexible furniture rental option gives potential customers choice in how they furnish their chosen property. Providers such as Roomservice by CORT offer everything from beds and wardrobes to sofas, cushions and cutlery. As well as getting the benefit of greater choice, renters enjoy the convenience of items being delivered and any damaged items replaced or repaired.
Brand and service are also central tenets of BTR. In the US, at least as much care is taken with the ‘leasing office’ as would be found in a high-end marketing suite for residential sales in the UK.
At Atlas Residential’s first UK scheme Bow Square, in Southampton, Roomservice by CORT is furnishing the show apartments and will offer furniture rental options for customers, giving Atlas the ability to appeal to potential tenants with wide-ranging tastes.
Mark Koepsell, CORT’s executive vice-president in the US says: “We have a wide customer base that includes movie stars, athletes and chief executives along with service members and students. Probably around 80% use CORT because their job has prompted a move or a temporary assignment. The balance fall under the lifestyle category.”
The UK is catching up with the US fast, as developers realise the tangible benefits that additional services and amenities can bring. Onsite or virtual concierges, such as the platform from Pinglocker, offer a way to provide additional services, allowing residents to access services such as dry cleaning and storage and will expand to include furniture rental.
The US has led the way in using technology in residential developments. Every company needs an effective software system, and putting technology at the heart of the business has paid off for suppliers like Roomservice by CORT.
Jeff Rowe, vice-president of CORT, says: “CORT has committed to working with property management software vendors, such as Yardi and Real Page, to drive furniture referrals. We believe there is a strategic shift away from leasing agent referrals in person, towards online and system-driven referrals, which is much more effective and efficient.”
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