BTR: #SubscriptionLiving

Build-to-Rent is a step change in the way we will rent our homes in the future. Subscription Living is just how you want it, when you want it.

That’s a pretty big statement because in my life-time little has changed and it seems to me, that without BTR, not much would change in the future. Vested interests, complacency, 'comfort zones' an’ all that. BTR is not just about the building itself, it’s about the ethos; it’s holistic thinking around management, customer engagement and the absolute conviction that there is a better way.

 

You can’t effect change unless you believe in what you’re doing. Lest the cynics are in doubt, BTR has believers who are doers… That step change is under way and ‘we’ subscribe to it.

 

To digress for a moment: within the sector, there has been constant wringing of hands about what to call ‘us’. this BTR 'thing'.

BTR as a phrase has, from the beginning, seemed cumbersome and not something we could use to identify and convey the essential difference to those whose renting experience we want to elevate. We’ve dabbled with Private Rented Community (PRC), but that didn’t take off. PRS is too loose a phrase and doesn’t differentiate or articulate what BTR is all about. I guess we could defer to the US and go down the ‘multi-family’ route, but that doesn’t seem quite right either.

 

But, BTR has become ingrained as a UK industry moniker, just as multi-family has in the US. So there’s really no reason to change it. And if you think about it, multi-family is not a consumer familiar phrase in the US. So lets keep BTR.

But that still leaves us…..or rather me .. with a bit of a problem. One of my non-exec roles is with Hoamzy, a BTR portal. One’s of Hoamzy’s principle roles is to reach out to the consumer with something that identifies and resonates. We suspect that whilst BTR will become a ‘thing,’ it’ll be more about defining the sector by customer experience rather than some catchy tag.

 

All of which is a rather long-winded way of returning to the subject: #SubscriptionLiving.

 

Thinking about what we do in BTR and how we do it, inevitably leads to comparisons with other industries. Some are closer in nature; hotel or airline perhaps. Others less obvious; the motor industry for instance or perhaps telecommunications. Generally speaking, these comparisons are made to consider our approach to delivering a peerless customer experience and the innovation within those industries that is driving change.

Subscription is what modern life is all about. It offers flexibility and convenience. It gives us ‘plug and play’ ability. As our lives change, we simply lose or change or add another bit of amenity to our existence.  We do this with our smart-phones, with all the apps on our phones, our gyms, our choice of on-line news or information, Uber, Amazon, media and TV and now our cars: as Volvo join Cadillac, Ford & Porsche in offering subscription ‘ownership’

 

#SubscriptionLiving is what BTR offers the consumer. What we do is to make the process of renting efficient, convenient and flexible. We wrap that in a customer focussed ethos backed by highly professional & responsive management intent on delivering an unparalleled  UX. Subscription living is about putting the customer first. To deliver a product that meets their needs; not just in the physical sense but also as an enriching experience. To a traditional property or asset manager, that sounds a bit mad; a bit airey-fairy and I often get the response 'it'll never work' or 'once the big money gets bored these posh blocks will be broken up and sold off and it'll be back to *traditional* management.' There's a frustrating confidence that the 'old' will out and nothing will change in the long run. A pre-emptive sense of schadenfreude. That's just wishful thinking from those who can't or don't want to change.

 

I don't believe that we will go back. We've come too far for that now.

 

Plug and play living is rapidly becoming the norm. Just as it is with nearly every other aspect of how we live. It's telling that major motor manufacturers now understand how society has moved on; how service, flexibility and choice have become central to our lives. How leasing and buying are not the only options. Look how WeWork has transformed the business of working: from innovative tech sub-cultures to major business, they're all taking advantage of subscription working. This revolution is happening in the #PRS and more specifically, #BTR. Currently, it is mainly real estate businesses leading the charge backed by institutional investment. But other disrupters from other sectors are on the way. Notably tech: WeWork has launched WeLive with the promise: 'Move in for months or stay a few nights. WeLive is your home for as long as you need.' What's that if it's not subscription living! Alphabet with their Sidewalk Labs are just a few steps away from becoming landlords. But they'll be reimagining it on their terms. And it'll be incredible. How long before Apple and Amazon look to consolidate customer brand loyalty by providing a fully supported IOT home driven by AI? In the UK we have The Collective with their co-living ideals and Node Living with their 'global community living'; and numerous others from Get Living to Uncle, Fizzy Living to Essential Living, Moda to Platform Life. All of whom offer impressive management, flexibility, wonderful tech, innovation, choice and really great service.

 

Subscription Living offers us the best of all worlds: we can stay for as long as we want, or we can move on. It's our choice. We can choose to subscribe to none, some or all of the services on offer; from parking to car-club, dog-walking to yoga. boot-camp to book-club, high-tech to low-tech or cleaning to parcel collection. If that one bed has got too small, well you can just upgrade to a two bed. But if your sharer gets posted to NY, you can swap your two bed for something a little more manageable. And if you want a place to share with your beloved Persian cat, that's OK too. Apartment too small for that awesome birthday party? A couple of clicks on your subscription living app and you've booked the communal space; big enough for all your friends.

 

Subscribing is more than merely opting in or out of tangible services or shaping your home to your taste. It's also the intangible; an intellectual and emotional process of understanding and intelligence, believing in and agreeing with ideals. A process of collaboration with peers and friends, and a contribution to life. Holistic enrichment. BTR embodies that. Which is why it's here to stay, why it will continue to thrive and why #SubscriptionLiving is the #FutureofRenting

 

Richard Berridge @ResiRichard

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