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Build-to-Rent vs Buy-to-Let - Essential Living

Build-to-Rent vs Buy-to-Let

Blog Guide to Renting

We explore which style of renting in London is the best fit for you.


There are around 2.7 million renters in London right now. And all those renters are faced with a whole heap of important questions:

  • Do I live in North, South, East or West London?
  • Which neighbourhood is best for me?
  • Can I get a good quality apartment?
  • Am I simply paying someone else’s mortgage?
  • Will my landlord help with maintenance? And quickly?
  • Will my landlord kick me out unnecessarily?

These are all issues that London renters have been hit with in recent years. The rise of buy-to-let landlords (people that have bought a property purely to rent it out) paving the way for some pretty shoddy tenant experiences.

You won’t have to search far to find the horror stories…

But the last few years has also seen a rise in an alternative: build-to-rent landlords.

What is build-to-rent?

Build-to-rent is far from an individual buying a second property and renting it out. Instead, it’s an organisation.

In most cases, a build-to-rent landlord is a company that has bought a plot of land in London, designed a building bespoke for renters, built it, and now operates it.

This end-to-end approach means that these homes have been designed for renters from the off; from very location of the building through to the final finishes in each home. We’ll delve deeper into the benefits of that later.

First off, let’s get straight to perhaps the biggest benefit of a build-to-rent home.

The service

By far the biggest plus side of choosing a build-to-rent home over a buy-to-let property is the service you receive.

These companies are not faceless landlords who are immune to reviews. They’re brands with reputations to uphold.

And that means they want to give you the best possible experience of living with them.

For us at Essential Living, this is delivered through our residents’ team.

There’s a team in place at each of our buildings, and they’re on-hand 24/7 to help with any issue — whether big or small. They can:

  • Give you a full welcome to the building when you move in, helping you with any forms and walking you through the controls in your apartment
  • Resolve any maintenance issues, and quickly
  • Help you book the additional services and facilities (more on this later)
  • Collect parcels for you whilst you’re out
  • Recommend the best local places to eat, drink and visit

Or simply be that friendly face when you get back after a long day!

Whatever you need, they’re on-site in the lobby to help when you need them.

This is in stark contrast to living with a buy-to-let landlord, where you’ll have to call or email them about an issue. There are good landlords who will get straight back to you and even live near enough to come see you. But equally there are those who can take days or even weeks to respond and live nowhere nearby.

Or otherwise, you could have to deal with the letting agent rather than the landlord. Whilst these guys may be speedier and have some trusted tradesmen on hand, it’s unlikely they’ll know your property as well as our residents’ teams know our buildings; so how helpful they can be is limited.

The shared spaces

Many build-to-rent buildings have an ace up their sleeve. A benefit that buy-to-let landlords can simply never match. And that benefit is the stunning shared spaces given over for all residents to enjoy, for free.

How happy would you be if you had a gym in your building? With the membership included in your rent.

Would you be quite content to enjoy a drink or two from a roof terrace in the summer? Whilst enjoying panoramic views of London.

How pleased would you be to know that if you wanted to host a get-together — whether a dinner party or a birthday bash — there’s a space you can book for a private party? Without the need to use your home.

Build-to-rent homes offer all this and more through their shared spaces.

Take Vantage Point, for example. Its shared spaces include:

  • A lounge filled with comfy seating for you to relax, study, or socialise
  • A big screen for you to catch the latest game or show
  • A bookable dining room with a full kitchen, seating for 30 and jaw-dropping views of London (you HAVE to see it…)
  • A gym with all the equipment you need to stay fit, as well as on-site personal trainers to take your fitness to the next level
  • A games room with a pool table and games consoles
  • A roof terrace with a BBQ and pizza oven
  • A garden terrace with beautiful sunset views
  • A library that’s the perfect quiet space to study
  • A meeting room to host important appointments

And all of these spaces are an extension of your home. Free to use whenever you please.

The apartments

Even the apartments themselves are extra special.

Now, they’re not bedecked in marble and solid gold trim… But they have been carefully and cleverly designed specifically for renters.

This is the major advantage I mentioned before of the company owning the land and controlling the design and build. They get oversight of the whole process — from end to end — and are able to ensure that the finished product is completed to suit the exact specification of their customer: you, the renter.

So that clever design means things like:

  • Equally sized double bedrooms as standard — so no more fighting over who gets stuck with the box room
  • Maximised use of space and no odd layouts — so you can get the most out of your home
  • Maximised light — large windows so your home is filled with natural light, even if it’s only single-aspect
  • Ample storage — from big cupboards to under-bed storage, so you can find a place for all your bits and bobs
  • Integrated appliances — to tuck your kitchen kit away out of sight
  • Durable flooring — we use wood-effect porcelain tiles that can take a hammering (trust us, we tested it!) and still look good as new

And build-to-rent landlords are usually a lot more liberal with allowing you to decorate. It’s to their advantage if you stick around for the long term. And what would encourage you to do that more than making your apartment into a home?

So hang pictures at will (some build-to-rent landlords will even send a handyman to help you), move the furniture around and even ask if you can paint a feature wall. You’ll find that most build-to-rent landlords will be quite accommodating (no pun intended…).

At Essential Living for example, the core aspects of our apartments — the furnishings, the kitchen design, the flooring — are all designed to look stylish and modern, but also act as a neutral canvas for our renters to add their own personal flair.

So paint a feature wall, hang your art, buy those loud statement cushions and matching blanket. We’re cool with that.

The location

Of course, all these benefits are fantastic but one of the most crucial factors for Londoners is where you live.

Buy-to-let properties are so widespread that you can find them across all areas of the capital; from Zone 1 to the suburbs. So you do have choice here.

But they don’t necessarily have the best placement within their locale…

You might have to endure a 15-minute walk to the Tube station. You might have to scale a hill whilst doing so. Even your local pub might be a little too far away to seem convenient.

And this is where build-to-rent gets another point.

Build-to-rent homes are almost always placed in the heart of the action. They’re close to (or even on top of) key stations on Tube lines that will take you into the best parts of Central London in minutes.

Being in the centre of town also means you’ll never been more than a minute or two’s walk from a bar, a restaurant and a supermarket.

For example, Vantage Point is on top of Archway Tube station, with an M&S out back. Union Wharf has a Waitrose across the road, and a wealth of pubs, restaurants and shops a 4-minute stroll away in the centre of Greenwich.

This proximity will save you a few minutes every time you want to go somewhere. And this will add up to hours and hours saved across the year; giving you more time to enjoy with the things you want to do.


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