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The Biggest Investors In BTR Make Money By Changing Their Minds – Bisnow

Bisnow/Caroline Field

DACB’s Gemma Leonard, 3DReid’s Simon Brambles, Lendlease’s Stepha…….

Bisnow/Caroline Field

DACB’s Gemma Leonard, 3DReid’s Simon Brambles, Lendlease’s Stephanie Barbabosa, Urban & Civic’s Richard Coppell, Long Harbour’s Rebecca Taylor and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s Kieran Hobbs.

Behavioural psychologists like Daniel Kahneman have shown people are persistently unwilling to change their minds about a subject, especially when they’ve already invested some money in a project. But in build-to-rent, if you can’t make space to be wrong, you won’t make money in the long term. 

“People’s wants or needs are always going to change,” Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Lead Development Director Kieran Hobbs told an audience of more than 400 people at Bisnow’s Build-To-Rent Annual Conference last week. 

In a world where the cost of living is rising, residents will demand ever more for their money, and developers and operators will need to provide better amenities and better in-home facilities to justify the rents they are charging, the conference heard. But in a nascent market like UK BTR, getting it right the first time is tricky.

A group of senior investors, developers, designers and legal professionals gave insight into how they had innovated schemes, or even entire businesses, to avoid being caught out by the need to change.

The changes in question might seem mundane, but can actually be the difference between someone renting an apartment or not.

Long Harbour BTR Managing Director Rebecca Taylor said that in one of the company’s early schemes, a toilet was put next to the front door. If the toilet door was left open, the first thing a resident would see when they got home was the loo — not necessarily what most want to come home to. The company had to shell out to retrofit. 

The willingness to retrofit assets to put problems like that right is vital, the panel said, but if you can make spaces adaptable in the first place, the cost of changing their use is low.

”In our private dining area in the Gessner in Tottenham, you see four or five people working from home from there during the daytime,” Taylor said. “That’s designed as a private dining room, but it doesn’t necessarily have to define how people use the space.”

Westfield’s Hobbs agreed that the company had seen a growing demand for coworking in its operational BTR schemes in London, and was giving over more space to this use. 

A perennial debate in UK BTR is the level of amenity to put into a scheme — the more amenities you put in, the higher the build cost, and the more rent must be charged to make the money back. But the need for flexibility in schemes, to be …….


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