Countrywide Residential Investments

By Bobby Barnett

‎Investment Director
Countrywide

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It’s exciting times here in the office. Having signed a forward purchase agreement on 324 flats in Liverpool and 164 in Manchester two years ago, we are now at the point where these will be handed over for launch in the next few months.

The Fund already has four smaller schemes that are operational, but these new developments will be our first large-scale build to rent assets.

We have spent the last two years defining the proposition we want to offer to our residents. Our aim is to do everything possible to help create a community and a better resident experience.

The Liverpool scheme is in the City Centre on the corner of the Baltic Triangle. Residents will have use of an onsite gym; we have created a plaza; there is a coffee shop and a there’s also a large lounge offering business space and a community dining room. We have a further 2,500 sq ft room that we have purposefully decided to hold back until we can liaise with our residents directly, and give them the opportunity to tell us what they would like to have in the space. Lastly, the scheme includes 6,000 sq ft of commercial space and the retailers we are negotiating with are targeted around providing our residents with local convenience and dining.

Across both schemes our asset manager and furniture advisor have invested considerable time to ensure we get good quality, stylish and sturdy furniture. Residents don’t want bills for broken or flimsy furniture and as an operator it is not in our interest to maintain repairs or, worse, risk damaging our relationships and reputation with our residents. We have also been able to order some bespoke furniture; and the scale of the schemes and orders has meant we were able to do so without incurring additional expenditure.

The onsite team has been largely recruited from customer focused sectors such as serviced offices and travel agency, so they have a strong focus on creating a great customer experience and building lasting relationships with residents.

We are lucky to be part of the wider Countrywide group: we can ask our local letting experts, marketing agents and people with experience of build to rent schemes for advice.

We are also able to realise the advantages of having a build to rent scheme where the whole site can be managed, compared to a buy to let scheme where the investor has minimal control. We anticipate that this will lead to sensible rental premiums, longer leases and better returns all driven by more content customers. A positive outcome for both the investor and the residents.

It has been a large learning curve but we have a great team with diverse backgrounds that has collaborated with the wider business to put in place what I believe is a great proposition with a real focus on customer service.