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Build to Rent Properties: Should You Live in One?

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Build to rent properties are housing complexes created by a big developer to rent out to private tenants.

Some consider them the future, while others have their reservations

So, should you live in one?

To help you decide, we’ve taken a closer look at some important information, pros and cons.

Build to rent UK explained

They’re also known as purpose-built apartments, co-living developments, and multi-unit apartment blocks (no one’s come up with a catch-all name yet).

They claim to offer high-quality fixtures and fittings and a better level of management compared to traditional properties within the rented sector.

Are these properties more expensive?

In return, rent tends to be higher than traditional properties in the private rented sector, but the often includes utility bills (electricity, gas and broadband). It also covers shared facilities including resident lounges, rooftop gardens, bike parking, concierge services and gyms.

Many of the providers also promise not to charge any moving in or other fees, offer flexible tenancies, are pet friendly, and do not charge a rental deposit (or charge a much smaller one).

What’s the appeal?

Because of all these services and features, build to rent schemes tend to be more social and more suited to younger tenants and overall. They often have a more ‘student’ vibe to them.

It’s an American concept that’s been imported into the UK and is beginning to take off. If you’ve ever over-paid for a dingy flat and rubbish service from a landlord or letting agent. Then purpose-built rental blocks can be very appealing.

Is build to rent the future of private rented accommodation?

So far 34,000 purpose-built rental homes have been created in the UK. Half of which are in London where the first ones were built, and half outside London. This includes the South of England’s commuter towns and beyond.

They’re springing up in other big cities too, including:

  • Birmingham
  • Cardiff
  • Leicester
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • Southampton
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • York

A further 114,000 are either going through planning or under construction across the UK so there’s probably one planned or under way near you.

Where can I find a build to rent apartment?

Build to rent properties can be hard to spot because they’re mixed in with other types of rental property on portals when you’re finding a rental property. But, one usual giveaway is ‘utilities included in rent’.

Another way to track them down is to look out for the main players in this market who operate the developments. There are two types, roughly speaking.

These are either ‘co-living’ developments, where the apartments can be quite small but there are loads of shared social areas including lounges and dining areas. Or, they can be more traditional developments where tenants have larger apartments and fewer shared amenities.

These include Be:here (Wilmott Dixon), Co-Living Spaces, Essential Living and Get Living, to name a few.

Purpose-built rental developments have several advantages over those in the rest of the private rental market. It’s all about cost and service:

  • Build to rent apartments tend to be rented out and managed direct by their developer. Therefore, because there’s no ‘middle man’, moving in fees are minimal or non-existent. This makes budgeting when renting much easier in the long term
  • The rent a tenant pays is all they have to worry about – everything else is included in the rent and some providers even offer ‘perks’ including free coffees and discounted cinema tickets. This can make it a type of affordable housing on the UK market
  • Most of the larger blocks are serviced by 24-hour concierge teams and therefore getting leaking taps or broken toilets fixed can be much easier and quicker than with traditional landlords
  • Because they have concierge services, parcels for tenants can be delivered and then picked up after work, rather than tenants having to traipse to the nearest Yodel or Royal Mail office
  • Tenancies at many (but not all) developments are flexible and unlike traditional Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements range from a month to ‘as long as you’ like, depending on your circumstances

Are there any downsides?

Although build to rent developments are excellent value for money, they’re not always the most affordable.

Research suggests they are usually within the upper price range ‘per square foot’ for rental properties wherever they are built.

But, this isn’t surprising given the high quality of the apartments and services, and bear in mind the rent usually covers all bills.

Want to know more about an area you’re looking to rent in? Get one of Phil Spencer’s Property Reports today.­

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Last Updated: January 19th, 2024