UKAA Leeds Study Tour: In Review

By attendee Chloe Sachikonye, Account Executive, Yardi

A few weeks ago, on 27th and 28th September I embarked on an incredible two-day adventure into the dynamic world of build to rent in Leeds, attending the UKAA Study Tour: Leeds, sponsored by Irwin Mitchell and Regal Blinds.  

With one UKAA study tour already under my belt, I fancied myself a bit of a study tour pro. Little did I know that the next two days would be a whirlwind. We clambered onto the coach and set off towards our first destination, catching fleeting glimpses of the Leeds skyline, a tapestry woven with cranes and sporadic rain showers. Our arrival at a magnificent warehouse space left me convinced that this was no typical BTR site. And indeed, it wasn’t!

Fika Interiors Ltd hosted our kick-off meeting, featuring a scrumptious breakfast spread complete with croissants and smoothies—quite the luxury for that time of the morning. Surrounded by impressive furniture and the presence of BTR heavyweights, the atmosphere was electric. Dougie Orton-Wade, UKAA North-West Hub Chair from Native Residential, welcomed us to the study tour. His opening words set the stage for two days of learning and sharing, encouraging us to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

Next in line was Peter Grimshaw from Regal Blinds Ltd, sharing insights into his hometown, Leeds. The city has a rich history and humble beginnings in the world of BTR. It was my second visit to Leeds, and it was evident that the people breathed life into it, while the buildings adorned it.

Ed Howe from Cortland took us on a journey through the evolution of build to rent in Leeds, from 133 BTR units in 2016 to 3,700 units by December 2023 and 11,700 units projected by 2027! Leeds is undeniably a flourishing market, with soaring demand and impressive rental growth. Our host, Graham Bates from Fika Interiors Ltd, offered us a captivating history lesson, reminding us that just 25 years ago, nobody called the city centre home. Now, it’s a bustling hub with fantastic amenities, driven by the desire for a city lifestyle. Quality and sustainability now reign supreme. Although we had yet to explore much of the city, it was clear that Leeds stood at the cusp of remarkable transformation in the property sector.

After the enlightening talks, we hit the ground running, visiting some extraordinary sites:

New York Square by Moda, led by Louise Benatmane, was a luxurious offering with a scent that transported me to a 5-star resort in Dubai. The contemporary furniture and earthy tones made me ponder over moving-in dates as if I were on the verge of relocating to Leeds.

Stuart Henshall from urbanbubble gave us a grand tour of Mustard Wharf and Tower Works, each site possessing its own unique charm. Both sites, situated close to the canal, had a warehouse-like feel. One felt like the cool, older sibling, while the other was the artistic, younger one. I absolutely adored the appeal and creativity in the area, with meticulous attention to flow and style in both buildings.

The first day concluded with a splendid meal in the heart of the city. It was a well-deserved break from our whirlwind tour! The evening allowed for networking and mingling, where genuine connections were forged, with everyone sharing their wins and battle scars from their time in the BTR sector. The dinner opened with insightful talks from Amanda Keane from the UKAA and Michelle Beaumont from sponsors, Irwin Mitchell. We were also privileged to hear an inspiring interview by Graham Bates from Fika Interiors Ltd with Johnny Caddick from Moda, two Leeds natives who played a pivotal role in transforming the city. It was enlightening to delve into the history of the region and engage in a spirited discussion on how far we’ve come.

Day Two was equally jam-packed with excitement. It began with a morning run organised by Motive8. It was a refreshing twist to the stereotype of golf or cycling being the real estate sport of the month. With breakfast and running completed, we explored the historic Tetley site – to be known as Aire Park where Vastint are developing a new mixed-use district in Leeds South Bank. Thanks for David Tomlinson from SAY Property Consulting who shed light on Vastint’s project and emphasised the importance of history to the city.

Leodis Square by Dandara Living, led by Ben Wattam, showcased innovation and a commitment to quality in the Leeds market. Pin Yard by Grainger PLC, led by Samantha Lancaster MIRPM, underscored the diversity of the Leeds BTR scene. Each site had its unique charm and style, representing the thriving Leeds BTR market.

We were also able to pause at the new Realstar/Uncle BTR development – bringing a further 1,000 BTR units to the city. Thanks to Emma Newbery for talking us through the scheme.

Then, it was off to The Junction by Native Residential, where we heard from Oliver McGinn from HomeViews, with whom Yardi frequently collaborate, and The Headline by Grainger and nothing could replace the feeling of sitting in The Headline, listening to Graham Bates serenade us with Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.”

This marked my second UKAA Study Tour and it surpassed all expectations! I met incredible people, gained invaluable knowledge, and made lifelong friends.

I implore all of you to attend the next one. You won’t be disappointed! Birmingham… Here we come!

From the UKAA:

Many thanks to Chloe for sharing her experience of the UKAA Study Tour: Leeds. Further feedback submitted to the UKAA included:

“Well done to the team for organising an amazing 2-day Study Tour in Leeds to visit the BTR schemes in the area. It was very informative, gave me a chance to network, meet new people, understand the Leeds market and what is upcoming in built to rent in the near future. Would 100% sign up to another UKAA Study Tour! Thank you so much for organising.”

“Really well organised, great array of assets to look at, well hosted by the operators themselves, and great to meet other UKAA members on the tour” 

“I started in this sector not knowing a lot of people in the industry since attending the UKAA Study tour, my list of contacts has doubles and I have made some incredible professional friendships. This is my second UKAA Study tour and believe me it won’t be my last!” 

“Very well organised study tour allowing a great foundation for networking and gaining valuable information on Leeds BTR performance”

If you are interested to attend and / or host a UKAA Study Tour, please check the Events page and / or contact emma@ukaa.org.uk.