David Alexander comment: Societal change leads to ‘four ages of renting’

The rules of renting should be redefined by appealing to new living concepts, says Alexander. Picture: contributed.
The rules of renting should be redefined by appealing to new living concepts, says Alexander. Picture: contributed.
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The popular view of the average tenant living in privately-rented accommodation is that of a 20-something individual or couple, holding down a professional or skilled manual job – and for most of whom renting is a temporary phenomenon.

This, however, is not a wholly accurate description, according to a major survey of tenants by PRSim, the build-to-rent arm of LSL Property Services, which is calling on investors to be more flexible in their approach to tenant aspirations and demographics.

The survey highlights core principles the company believes should be adopted by agents, landlords and developers. It advocates challenging what it calls “age-old perceptions” of the rental landscape and what tenants can expect to include or budget for. Giving them greater choice in how they budget and plan for the future can forge greater trust between tenant and landlord.

Thus the rules of renting should be redefined by appealing to new “living concepts” and involving tenants more heavily in the look ahead will help ensure new ideas resonate with their different lifestyles.

The research actually identified four core renters at various stages in life. There are the “younger independents”, aged 18 to 24. Of these, one in four is in a flat-share situation although 50 per cent live as a couple. Perhaps surprisingly, 15 per cent have children living with them.

Then we have the “flexible professionals”, aged 25 to 44 with no children. A small majority (54 per cent) are a couple but a third live alone, many having previously been married or in a relationship and having once owned a home.

They have the highest average income of the four groups (£30,800). Of similar age, but operating a different lifestyle, are tenants described as “budgeting families”. Unlike the previous two categories of tenant – who mostly rent flats – these live in terraced and semi-detached properties and for them reasonable outdoor space is a priority.

Making up the last category are those who are “reconciled with renting”. Aged 45 and over, one in four lives in a flat purpose-built for rent. Of those, 50 per cent live alone while 43 per cent live as a couple. Although for the majority, children have flown the nest (or they were childless) three in ten still have adult children living at home.

Across the categories there is a desire among tenants for “smart living” facilities focused on cost-saving – 82 per cent want double-glazing and 43 per cent loft insulation, for example.

However, there are non-essential facilities that tenants would be prepared to pay more for in rent, in the following order of preference: pets allowed, high-speed internet, car parking, garden, satellite/cable tv, house-cleaning services, balcony, parcel collection/on-site dropbox, cycle storage, onsite management.

David Bond, the company’s head of Build-to-Rent, said the findings supported the view that renting spans all life stages, and that tenants were seeking solutions that made life easier and more financially manageable.

Consequently, landlords should be aware of differing priorities and remove or remould barriers to renting. He continued: “We would advise landlords and operators to explore how to provide services at a more competitive rate, such as WiFi and contents insurance; how to deliver amenities focused around enhancing everyday life and convenience such as outdoor space and play areas; and to consider how to bring outsourced activity into the home… it’s wise to emphasise the green credentials of your building and how this can help with utility bills. Security (both building and personal) is valued by all life stages, particularly those with families.”

Although some of Mr Bond’s comments could be said to come under the category of “stating the bleedin’ obvious”, the results of the survey provide much food for thought and generally provide a worthwhile contribution to the debate on future rental planning.

David Alexander is MD of DJ Alexander