"With an increasingly diversified base of customers at its heart, rental accommodation providers in the UK will flex and mold to better meet the needs of a shifting society"
The shape of the UK rental market has changed significantly in recent years. Now, 2018 looks set to mark another year of shifting market fundamentals with PM Theresa May stating only last week that "there's nothing inherently wrong with renting your own home...you're not less of a person for doing so."
Stephanie Smith, UK Portfolio Operations Director, Atlas Residential, says: "2018 is going to be a landmark year for the UK build to rent sector. We're going to see delivery get smarter, slicker and more customer focused. This shift away from 'what's always been' is going to pave the way for a different ethos for the rental sector moving forward."
Atlas Residential UK has identified five trends that will shape the market in 2018.
1. Tech takes over
2018 will be the year that the build to rent sector fully embraces smart solutions; from smart buildings that are more energy efficient and track usage of resources, to streamlining systems that makes teams more efficient and enhance service delivery.
2. Tenants become Customers
One of the most exciting shifts in the build to rent market is the move towards viewing tenants as customers. Friendlier services, better building design and quality developments that put the end users' interests at their heart will all come to the fore in 2018. From offering residents the ability to create their lifestyle through unique touches to their home to deposit free renting, build to rent services are modernising in order to deliver the services that their customers need.
An attitude of 'doing what it takes' is a key part of this. Market leaders will be recruiting and recognising soft skills, enabling accountability across their staff teams in order to ensure that customers can be prioritised appropriately. Job descriptions are becoming guidelines, rather than rule books.
One notable impact of this is flexibility of tenure. Rental agreements will range from six to 36 months, based on tenants' varying needs rather than a fixed standard or continuing the past fears that residents will be served an unwarranted notice to move after a six-month period.
3. Undoing the Millennial
Another 2018 trend will be the long overdue removal of the idea that renting is just for millennials. Increasingly, build to rent delivery will include family homes, with facilities focusing as much on playgrounds and crèches as on fitness centres and swanky, flex workspaces and lush resident lounges. 'Garden style' low density living - similar to that which is so ubiquitous in the US - will address the needs of families who rent.
That's not to say that millennials' needs will be ignored - far from it. The concept of community living will continue to grow, with shared areas seeking to address the 'loneliness epidemic' and the fact that young people are seeking to belong.
4. Housing as a Subscription
A further 2018 trend is the end of ownership. Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Instagram and more have changed the way we access and pay for services. Subscription living is increasingly becoming the norm and the idea of subscribing through renting, without ever needing to buy a home, will really begin to take hold this year as we focus on engaging and educating our customers on the difference between the traditional style of renting and the new face of BTR.
5. Diversity at every level
From millennials to divorcees, widows and downsizers, via young families, married couples and those aged 35 and over, diversity will be the essence of the build to rent sector in 2018. As the build to rent offering expands and improves, so too does the breadth of those that it appeals to. In response, developers will increasingly ditch the cookie cutter mould in favour of innovative, flexible schemes that are shaped to the needs of a wide variety of customers.
Developers and Operators alike will seek to employ greater diversity in the boardroom, throughout key positions in operational teams, and, increasingly, in the contractors that they use. The collapse of Carillion has emphasised the need to consider spreading risk exposure and served as a warning that even the largest contractors don't necessarily have healthy balance sheets.
Stephanie concluded: "2018's build to rent trends mark a new era for the sector. With an increasingly diversified base of customers at its heart, rental accommodation providers in the UK will flex and mould to better meet the needs of a shifting society."