Prioritize amenities in built-to-let communities

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The fast-growing build-to-rent (B2R) market continues to evolve – and when it comes to attracting potential tenants for this distinctive product, creating and marketing the right equipment can be a game-changer.

Like homebuyers, renters present different but always demanding needs, whether they are young professionals, millennials in training, or empty parents. Understanding the day-to-day lifestyles of your audience, which are largely powered by their current life stages, is key to planning gear that will appeal to and meet their needs while remaining profitable as a developer.

Many people immediately think of swimming pools and hot tubs as standard amenities. But for built-to-let communities, some developers are fine-tuning their offerings and getting creative based on what motivates their potential tenants.


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According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, amenities make communities more valuable. A sense of community, achieved through the right amenities, can improve the rent premium beyond just a dollar-for-dollar basis. According to its B2R community database, John Burns’ current amenities topping the charts include fitness centers, walking paths, swimming pools and clubs.

As the B2R market grows, do your homework and apply what you learn can result in the best-planned amenity packages that go from “one size fits all” to “Hey, this is the place for me.”

Who lives in built-to-let communities? A look at today’s B2R tenants

Recent findings indicate that a significant portion of B2R tenants are women, a group that responds favorably to amenities focused on increased security. Well-lit parking areas, gated entrances, security patrols, surveillance cameras – even small details like deadbolts on front doors – are just a few ways to effectively address their privacy concerns. security.

Another finding, though surprising to many developers, is the influx of families with young children moving into B2R communities, even when a top school district hasn’t been prioritized during selection. of the site for the project.

Potentially fueled by the early days of the pandemic, when many parents faced the daunting challenges of teaching and working remotely, families realized they needed more space to live, work and play at home.

More than ever, backyards are a coveted amenity, as well as well-designed family communities for biking and making friends with neighbors. And while it might not seem as important, a walk-in garage is a highly desirable perk for families who regularly haul kids (and Costco shopping!).

The large number of young families isn’t the only surprising finding in recent B2R audience analytics. Dog owners (and their dogs, of course) also sit near the top of the most likely B2R renters.

Tenants may be very willing to add additional rent costs if it means access to features that stand out for convenience and family living.

The large number of young families isn’t the only surprising finding in recent B2R audience analytics. Dog owners (and their dogs, of course) also sit near the top of the most likely B2R renters.

Developers quickly caught on to this growing trend, and pets became an integral part of a community’s planning and structure. Amenities such as dog parks, fenced-in dog runs, dog wash stations, and even spa-style canine grooming centers are growing in popularity and can often be incorporated into a community without significant investment, compared to d other features, such as swimming pools.

For example, a patch of artificial turf is relatively inexpensive but very valuable to a dog-loving tenant…one who is likely to pay a monthly premium for it. Municipal requirements, such as ensuring there is grass or open areas in certain parts of the community for things like water retention, can be creatively reimagined as dog parks. . After throwing in grass, lighting, fencing, gates, seating, and a dog wash station, you can convert a boring holding area into monetizable gear for probably less than six figures.


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Understand the needs of tenants associated with the different stages of life

Understanding, connecting and responding to the different stages of a tenant’s life can manifest in a number of ways in a B2R community. For example, younger renters (typically 18-23) tend to be more interested in “social” destinations such as juice bars and on-site hangouts, as they offer easy ways to get together. mingle with other tenants without leaving. residence.

And since tenants in this age bracket often live with roommates, features such as additional storage space become more important and may be listed as a separate price category above base rent.

More mature professionals, on the other hand, may only use a handful of community amenities to meet their discrete needs, instead of taking care of centralized ones. They appreciate the convenience of having access to exercise spaces or a pool to swim on a hot day, but generally prefer and prioritize personal spaces within their home footprint over shared spaces.

Remember the Importance of Amenities in Rental Units

Carefully considered amenities are essential at the community level, but they matter just as much inside. Unit features such as washer/dryers, high-end finishes, and additional storage are a few examples of desirable amenities.

And, more than ever, recognizing and accommodating tech-savvy and environmentally conscious tenants, who often fall into the 30-35 age bracket, is paramount. Smart thermostats and smart doorbells are becoming staples, but taking things a step further, some developers are even offering smart device networks that allow tenants to manage and interact with their units, garages, and community amenities through a smartphone.

Garages are another piece of equipment that is high on the priority list of B2R tenants. “Focus groups continue to show that renters want garages – for storage, security and to protect against the elements,” says Vince Barbato, director of Family development, a B2R developer active in the South West. “That’s why even our townhouse product offers a two-car garage.”

A balance exercise

Unlike traditional multi-family rental properties, where only a small portion of the building’s units are considered premium due to their location at the corners or ground floors of the building, virtually every unit in a B2R community is a premium unit of first class.

Tenants will benefit from more windows, ground level access and private space in the backyard. These material comforts are highly valued and are often a driving force for potential tenants, so it’s important to consider them as part of your built-in amenities package.

It’s important to add more, but it’s a balancing act. The pressure is high when planning big-budget centralized amenities such as recreation centers, which can cost up to $250 per square foot (and soar in today’s market), and swimming pools, which can cost up to ‘several hundred thousand dollars and require ongoing maintenance.

It’s also not uncommon to overbuild, like adding a juice bar without analyzing your audience’s needs, but if your research is thorough and you know your demographics, this juice bar could also be a home run. .

The stakes are certainly high, especially since many of these renters might own a home, but have chosen to rent, so developers need to cater to their wants and needs.

“Like people buying homes, renters also appreciate premium design. So we made it our business to design luxury rental communities that exceed the design quality of most rental options today,” says Barbato. “We try to create communities and homes for the way people ideally want to live in their homes, which results in an open community lot plan, beautiful elevations, and best of all, floor plans that live good.”

The takeaway: It’s not always easy to get the returns you want from rents from tenants, and you’re unlikely to see rent increases that justify your increased costs. So plan carefully with an eye on return on investment.

Sometimes that can mean investing less in your equipment and more in marketing it.


Ron Gonski is SVP of Growth at Mosaic, a tech-enabled general contractor that builds homes for the nation’s most innovative developers. Mosaic’s home building platform manages every stage of construction by collecting, using and learning from powerful data. Mosaic standardizes the process, not the houses, allowing developers to make the places people love widely available.

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