Dressing for PRS success: Changing the look of build-to-rent

The 2015 – 2016 English Housing Survey confirmed the continuing importance of the private rented sector (PRS), which now houses 20 per cent of UK households (around 4.5 million households in total).

The growth of this sector over the past decade, combined with the increase in buy-to-let investment in the UK and the introduction of build-to-rent schemes, has changed the dynamics of the rental sector – and the look of it.

“For many young people, buying a home in the UK simply isn’t an option, so instead they are happy to rent a home that’s better located and better dressed than they would be able to afford to buy.”

– Stacey Sibley, Creative Director, Alexander James Interior Design

Based on Zoopla listings for furnished versus unfurnished properties available to rent (using Manchester as a sample city), some 76 per cent of properties are available furnished, while 17 per cent are available unfurnished (with the remaining homes being part-furnished).

In Birmingham, 60 per cent are furnished and 27 per cent unfurnished. In London (using Clapham as an example area), the same search criteria produce 56 per cent furnished properties, 25 per cent unfurnished and 19 per cent part-furnished.

According to the experts at Alexander James Interior Design, the growth of the private rented sector has led to a keen interest from both developers and private landlords in dressing their properties for maximum impact, as they seek to keep up with demand from tenants seeking stylish furnished homes.

“Quite simply, the better a property looks and the greater the flexibility it offers to an occupier, the more people will want to live there. With this, we see homes commanding higher rents and minimised void periods, making for a better investment for landlords.

“This is a key factor behind the increasing demand for interior design services across the private rented sector. In an environment of competing new build properties, where one apartment can be identical to the next, savvy build-to-rent developers and professional landlords are looking to make their properties stand out from the crowd – interior design can do just that.”

– Richard Angel, Managing Director for London, Alexander James Interior Design

However, it’s not just those owning and managing properties that are placing increasing value on interior design when it comes to the rental sector. Tenants have become more discerning as the sector has expanded.

“People of all ages are struggling more to get on the housing ladder than used to be the case. This has definitely influenced the style of the PRS in several ways. Millennials, for example, are looking for ultra-contemporary rental properties with outstanding design and a whole host of stylish features. They demand the best and the PRS has stepped up to provide that in its efforts to court the spending power of this vast market.”

– Stacey Sibley, Creative Director, Alexander James Interior Design

Clean, uncluttered design, natural elements and bold splashes of colour all work well for this market, according to the Alexander James team.

Paints, furniture and fabrics are selected with durability in mind, due to the nature of the rental sector but not at the expense of stylish design.

With the average tenancy length now just 18 months, according to Direct Line for Business, properties can be refreshed regularly in order to keep up with evolving trends.

As the private rented sector continues to grow, so too will the importance of interior design. Good design can turn a house (or apartment) into a home, ensuring that tenants want to live there long-term and look after the property. This offers longer-term security to tenants while also minimising landlords’ costs and ensuring that their valuable investment is carefully looked after.