No more dodgy decor and cardboard walls – how Build to Rent appeals to tenants

Can you remember the first places you rented after moving out of home? What were they like? I imagine many of our memories are far from picture perfect. My first student bedroom was so small the bed touched three walls and the partition wall was so thin I didn’t need to raise my voice to chat to my friend in the next room. Things didn’t improve in my next house where the kitchen floor bounced up and down whenever the washer reached the spin cycle. But I comforted myself that it was a step up from my friend who had a cardboard wall covered in kitchen roll separating her stairs from one downstairs ‘bedroom’.

Build to Rent developments are being developed in many areas Credit: ITV News

These days, one of the newest trends in renting is ‘Build to Rent’. Rather than developers building blocks where each apartment is sold off, the flats in these blocks are retained and rented out by the developer. This is a growing trend with the latest figures suggesting there will soon be almost 200,000 such apartments across the UK.

Build to Rent Facts

Source: Savills, British Property Federation, Molior

One of the major advantages offered by Build to Rent apartments is that they have much longer leases, often several years, enabling tenants to make long-term plans while still having the option to move out earlier if their circumstances change.

Many Build to Rent developments have on-site gyms for tenants to use Credit: ITV News

The other thing that sets these developments apart is the other on-site facilities for tenants. Many include high speed broadband and satellite TV. They may have an on-site gym, communal co-working areas or residents’ lounges. Others have large dining rooms which can be booked for dinner parties.

Communal dining rooms can be booked by tenants for dinner parties Credit: ITV News

Individual apartments can be rented either furnished or unfurnished with a choice of finishes and even packs of other homewares such as crockery, cutlery and bedding, if you have really fallen in love with look of the bright and shiny show flat.

Danielle Chavrimootoo has been living in her new flat since June Credit: ITV News

Danielle Chavrimootoo recently moved into a new Build to Rent apartment. She is a university lecturer and hopes to be able to stay there for at least the next two years.

Her apartment is part of a complex of 376 apartments which are a mix of one, two and three bedroomed properties, alongside six townhouses. There are also several ground floor units which the developer Grainger PLC is hoping to lease to independent businesses. Rents may be higher than some other properties with fewer added extras, but the developer is keen to point out that around a third of the apartments are deemed to be ‘affordable homes’ offered at discounted rents.

The trend for Build to Rent developments is spreading across the UK. They are already common in London but looking at Grainger’s portfolio alone, there are developments either open or planned in places including Derby, Sheffield, Salford, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Southampton and Newcastle. We have spoken to estate agents across England, many who say the increase in Build to Rent properties is a response to tenants demanding longer leases as they delay buying their first home until later in life. But they don’t want to put up with living in poor accommodation.

John Lewis is one of the developers trying to get into the Build to Rent sector with plans to use space on its existing sites to build as many as 10,000 homes across the country. The government recommends that a fifth of homes in new developments should be made available as ‘affordable homes’ at discounted rents. But critics of the Build to Rent model worry that higher rents could push up rents across the market leaving more people unable to afford somewhere to live.

Having looked around such a development they feel a long way from the rental homes I started out in during my 20s. Rather than cardboard walls covered in kitchen roll they are newly built and styled to suit modern tenants’ tastes. It’s easy to see why they appeal to people who know it will be several years before they can afford to get a mortgage. Build to Rent will not solve all the problems people facing the housing market but it is a sector which will continue to grow.

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