A swathe of high street brands are entering the UK’s build to rent (BTR) market, from the John Lewis Partnership to Lloyds Bank through its Citra Living arm. These household names bring with them a very different model of consumer engagement and marketing compared with more traditional real estate businesses. What changes could be on the horizon and how will they impact the wider housing sector?
As a newer and relatively disruptive sector within property, BTR has shown us some of its innovation chops. We’ve already seen pioneering new approaches to the customer experience within housing such as accessible chat portals and virtual viewings. And it looks there’ll be more of that to come.
As one of the UK’s leading and most trusted retailers, John Lewis will know the importance of understanding its customers and building an offer around them. It has vast amounts of data on consumer trends and lifestyles at its disposal and can draw on this to ensure the BTR homes and service being delivered really do reflect what customers’ want. We’ve already had a glimpse of the partnership’s proposals for its scheme in Bromley, with designs reflecting its values and built around concepts of nature, wellness, sustainability and community. Just imagine what a John Lewis marketing suite might look like.
Of course that’s not to say that it will all be plain sailing for the BTR entrants. High street brands might have name recognition and intimate knowledge of consumer habits, but what they don’t have is the longstanding experience in property and housing delivery that more established developers bring. BTR is also a very different proposition from the for-sale market.
While some people may feel comfortable choosing a familiar name when it comes to renting, whose products they already trust in other areas of their lives, this may not translate when faced with the cost of buying a home. The potential ‘cross contamination’ of the politically charged housing and BTR market with the retailers’ existing brands may also have broader implications for these high street operators and the values consumers associate with them. This is particularly the case for John Lewis and its widely-loved offering.
We’re set for an interesting ride in housing, not least as the cost of living crisis, rising rents and mortgage rates continue to put pressure on consumers. Competition will be fierce as brands battle to attract customers, particularly younger people who will be considering whether now is the time to buy or perhaps opt for a more professionalised rental experience until the market calms. All in all, some healthy disruption should be positive for the sector and its customers – challenging established thinking and pushing up standards ever higher.
Charlotte Blake is an account executive at Camargue