We are all facing incredibly challenging times in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and when it comes to the Build to Rent sector, the speed and effectiveness of the operational and management team response will be remembered, rated and talked about by residents for a long time to come.
It’s crucial that all those in the BTR community feel safe and supported at this difficult time.
We recently conducted in-depth research of over 5,000 tenant reviews across our platform. These tenants live in new build Build to Rent (BTR) and Build to Sell (BTS) developments. We found that the topic that came up repeatedly in new build reviews was building management, and alongside this, the quality of repairs and maintenance.
Whilst BTR scores higher than BTS, the bottom rated BTR developments for management had residents describing issues with slow turnaround of repairs and little communication from management.
Looking in more detail at the data, 26 BTR developments (out of the 84 reviewed) are delivering a strong building management service and have been rated 4.5 and above by their tenants, whilst 10 have received a management rating of 3 or below.
BTR management is being handled in different ways, from apps, third party suppliers and building managers all called ‘Bob’. It is clear how passionate tenants can be about the management team on-site; the people employed by BTR developments appear to be their greatest investment and it is paying off - particularly in the incredibly difficult times we find ourselves in.
In the most recent reviews, tenants have talked positively about the way their management teams have responded to coronavirus, with regular communication via email and phone with tenants to ensure everyone is safe and well, extra cleaning of communal areas, as well as 'virtual' events to keep spirits up.
However, what tenants' value most from their building management is reponsiveness to issues and problems. 50% of the reviews on developments in the Top 10 BTR for management mentioned that one of their main reasons for rating their building management highly was how helpful and responsive it was.
Good communication and quick turnaround for repairs were the key factors for high-quality management. This summary is supported by the 43% of reviews in the Bottom 10 BTR rated developments for management, which stated that the reasons for these low scores included slow turnaround of repairs, little to no communication from management, and general unhelpfulness of staff.
Good management was also praised for the general upkeep of the communal areas and grounds. Tenants in the top-rated developments stated that communal areas being regularly cleaned, gardens being well-maintained and repairs in communal areas being fixed were other key aspects in why they rated a development highly.
The tenants in the lowest rated BTR developments for management also mentioned that a reason for the low score was the lack of a concierge to whom they could report issues. Submitting tickets and sending emails were mentioned as not being the most effective method to report maintenance requests, as it is a much harder way to communicate with the building managers.
Having a concierge who could find out when repairs were going to be done and who understood the issue was proposed as a much more favourable system. Developments with a concierge saw on average a +19.42% higher correlation to their management score compared to those that didn’t have one.
In the Bottom 10 BTR developments, lots of tenants commented on recurring problems and issues within their buildings, blaming this on bad repair jobs and inadequate staff.
As well as this, building management was complimented for putting on tenant events to build a sense of community within a development. This is a good way for tenants to get to know their neighbours, but also build trust and friendships with the staff in the building.
This means that when it comes to having to deal with issues, tenants feel more confident in how the situation will be handled. Developments offering tenant events showed a +13.26% correlation to the average building management score compared to developments without tenant events.
With the continuing growth of Build to Rent – the most recent quarterly report from the British Property Federation and Savills revealed that there are now 152,071 homes of this type in the UK and 111,000 new BTR homes under construction or in planning – it is essential to gauge feedback from those living in completed schemes in order to help evolve this emerging sector.
As a relatively new rental option in the UK which is still building its consumer awareness, the reputation of the operator and perceived landlord is going to be critical in retaining and attracting new residents.
It’s important that we learn from the current resident feedback, as well as the innovative responses to the coronavirus from successful BTR operators. One thing’s for sure; get the property management right and the building is likely to prosper - crucial as renting becomes more of a long-term prospect for many.
*Rory Cramer is co-founder of review platform HomeViews and has worked in the residential sector for 15 years. He was previously senior director of residential consultancy at CBRE and head of new homes at Marsh & Parsons.
*The HomeViews Build to Rent Report shares insights on facilities, design, location and value from over 5,000 private tenants – either in “Build to Rent” or “Build to Sell” developments from across the UK.