Be:Here, the private rented sector development arm of construction group Willmott Dixon, is another new brand looking to make its mark as a professional landlord in the blossoming sector.
The company, which is on site with projects in Hayes, west London and in the London Docklands, will build apartments specifically for renters. And speaking at May’s Forge event in central London, the company’s operations director Simon Chatfield explained some of the company’s thinking.
“At the moment, the PRS is not delivering what renters want,” he insisted. Its ideal is to build two bedroom apartments with equal size bedrooms, ensuite bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes. “We’ve got a pretty good idea what renters want,” he added. “It works incredibly well for people sharing.”
The sector will continue to be dominated by small, buy to let landlords, he predicted. “But you are going to see the emergence of branded landlords.” These brands will provide longer leases, create private rented communities, and deliver a range of value added services, taking care of dry cleaning and other community support items.
One issue the sector faces, he noted, is competing with developers building homes for sale. PRS has to fight for sites, bidding against those delivering into a frothy residential sales market. “This is our biggest challenge right now, we think it’s viable, but it’s competing for land in a market that’s overheating.” The lack of any distinction in planning terms is one issue holding back the growth of the sector.
Be:Here believes their market is in London, and in suburban locations with up to a 45-60 minute commute to the centre. However, Chatfield cautioned about trying to build too densely in locations where there would, ultimately, be insufficient value.
The company has just completed a forward sale to long term investment clients of Invesco, at its Hayes development – details here. Speaking at the announcement, Andrew Telfer, who heads Willmott Dixon’s development division, gave a clear commitment to the scale he sees Be:Here developing in the PRS market: “We see this type of investment at scale as an essential part of creating a more sustainable housing market in the UK. It’s also an important milestone for be:here in its plan to create over 5,000 PRS homes over the next few years, something we are well on track to accomplishing with this and further projects now in the pipeline.”