Let no one be in any doubt - something must be done to increase the size and quality of Britain’s private rental stock, fast.
 
Two sets of statistics demonstrate why.
 
The first concerns population: some 225,000 new households are created annually thanks to longer lives, inward migration and more people living alone. Yet in 2014 - a good year for house-building - only 150,000 new homes were completed in England and Wales.
 
The second statistics concern homes. Currently some 9.1m people in England alone privately rent: that’s 18 per cent of the population and forecast to rise to 22 per cent by 2025. Yet the private rental supply for that huge swathe of the population is, almost literally, a cottage industry: 89 per cent of private rental units are owned by landlords, of which just two per cent are truly 'full-time professional' landlords with 10 or more units.
 
Now, no one says most individual buy to let landlords are anything other than diligent and wanting to provide the best for their tenants as well as giving themselves an income.
 
But with the best will in the world, a fast-growing rental sector cannot rely for its supply on an army of individual landlords ranging from parents buying a home for their children at university, to retirees using their pensions to dabble in buy to let.
 
Therefore something like Build To Rent - purpose-built rental units, funded by investment institutions and professionally managed to create distinct 'brands' - was inevitable. And, if we want to house all those new tenants, the Build To Rent sector should be welcomed.
 
But inevitably some people have concerns - although I think they may be unfounded.
 
One worry is that Build To Rent will swamp the lettings sector and lead to the end of the traditional buy to let landlord.
 
Figures produced by the British Property Federation this month, October 2015, show that really is not the case. The BPF says only 3,404 Build To Rent units have been completed in London and a meagre 240 have been constructed elsewhere in the UK. Even if you look at the pipeline - including all Build To Rent flats currently awaiting planning consent or still being built - the figures are only 14,276 in London and 7,112 over the rest of the country.
 
Compared with the scale of the private rental sector, those figures are a mere drop in the ocean; and with Britain’s slow planning system, Build To Rent will not multiply overnight.
 
A second worry is that Build To Rent will set a standard that buy to let providers cannot match. It would be foolish to deny that to some extent this is true - purpose-built units of 60 to 600 will enjoy economies of scale, low-maintenance design and communal facilities like storage, parking and even gyms which traditional buy to let will never be able to provide.
 
Yet it would be naive to think that every private tenant (a) can afford such facilities and (b) will even want them. Many tenants will prefer to traditional design and lower rent of, say, a terraced home, or the greater space in a former local authority apartment, or the style of a city centre townhouse. Build To Rent will complement, not compete, with these properties.
 
The third worry for some letting agents is that the institutions funding Build To Rent blocks manage them centrally, not necessarily using traditional letting agencies and instead using facility managers more akin to those working in commercial properties than in residential.
 
Time will tell on this but it's interesting that many trade bodies - the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the British Property Federation, for example - are keen enthusiasts of Build To Rent. They are unlikely to support the exclusion of professional agents already rich in expertise.
 
Instead, my feeling is that larger letting agencies skilled in block management, and with a profile that complements individual Build To Rent 'brands', will be instructed to manage. Meanwhile traditional buy to let will be the preserve of mid-size and smaller agencies - and the end result will show that there is enough business for all existing agents.
 
Some of this is crystal ball gazing, of course, and my theories may turn out to be just that - a load of crystal balls.
 
But in five years time, once Build To Rent has a presence in several cities, my feeling is that suspicions will subside and this new sub-sector will be seen as a help, not a hindrance, to buy to let.
 
Let's meet again in 2020 and see what's happened.
 
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Zahraa Valu

Zahraa Valu

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Zahraa Valu
By Zahraa Valu