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How customer priorities are shaping developments of the future

Kelly Fox FirstPort Business Development Manager

Business Development Manager, Kelly Fox, discusses the impact ever-changing customer priorities are having on the developments of the future and how managing agents are bringing this to life.

The residential property market is constantly evolving – developers want to differentiate their developments, whilst residents have a rapidly-evolving set of priorities that need to be catered for.

But what does this mean for development design and managing agents? How are these factors influencing the look and feel of future sites and the way they are managed?

Every development is different

Over the last ten years, the type of properties that have been in demand has steadily changed. In addition to residential blocks, which are still popular in cities and towns, we’re now also seeing more housing complexes and villages being built, whether new or as part of the many regeneration projects taking shape across the UK to help address the housing shortage. These are typically freehold houses where customers have everything they need on their doorstep and they are becoming increasingly popular.

Rather than being smaller developments made up of tens of homes, these are of a much larger scale, comprising hundreds, or sometimes thousands of homes. Due to their size, they tend to require a higher and more complex level of property management support, which requires an integrated approach across all key stakeholders, including local authorities, social landlords, commercial business owners, schools, parishes and community groups.

Because of the scope of these housing complexes, appointing a professional managing agent is key to take on the day-to-day management, but also to bring to life the vision for the development. This vision has extended far beyond simply providing homes, but providing a setting for community-led experiences that can adapt and move with the times.

Changing customer priorities

Whilst variety can be found in the types of developments being built, customers are more uniform when it comes to their own requirements. For example, customers expect that the technology infrastructure where they live will allow them to stay connected at all times, so enhanced WiFi and 5G phone signals start becoming a pre-requisite.

As expectations evolve, developers are required to be more versatile, both in the design of homes as well as the amenities and open spaces provided. Customers will value adaptable space post-Covid-19, so providing flexible space within each home or within communal areas that can double-up as working space will be important.

Open spaces and amenities that support health and wellbeing are also growing in popularity. We’re seeing more developments designed around communal gardens and greenways where customers can relax and socialise. Some developments are able to take this further by supplying allotments for community planting schemes, nature trails that allow residents to explore the local wildlife, and cycleways to make exercising and commuting all the more easier.

Community engagement focus

There’s an increasing emphasis for developers and managing agents to adopt a more integrated approach among the different tenures, age groups and demographics living within the same development. And there’s a growing expectation for managing agents to help shape this through community engagement, extending their remit beyond the standard duties of management and maintenance.

Ultimately, this is being driven by residents and can be evidenced from what we’re seeing in early consultations prior to construction, especially where new developments are being built within an existing community.

Continual engagement with residents, key stakeholders and the wider community is vital, and when appropriate to do so, social events delivered on site should be accessible to all. Promoting the adaptability of facilities available at a development is also key. In the past we’ve hosted art classes, yoga sessions, cinema evenings and even wildlife surveys at some of our developments.

Making sure these events are sustainable without being reliant on external funding is important, whether it’s a ticketed event or a form of development income, such as a rental fee to hire out a space. Also, as tastes and trends change, and new residents join the community, it’s important that the events programme evolves so that people remain interested.

Of course, community engagement is more than just social events – it can be as simple as creating a safe space for people to meet, connect and share interests, such as gardening or running clubs, or parent and toddler groups.

Considering the long-term legacy

Rightly so, customers have higher expectations than ever before. This has made residential development less about short term value and more about long-term social impact and legacy. Are they places where communities are encouraged to come together? What opportunities are there for residents to feel valued by sharing their feedback? Will the services that are being provided help improve residents’ quality of life?

As a result of this, we’ve seen community buildings and commercial hubs designed for customers to enjoy, as well as making sure the developments are more commercially viable and can sustain themselves.

In the case of mixed-use developments, it’s essential that all of the different elements are working in synergy with regular communication across the different parts of the development. It may be the case that some commercial areas fall under different management, but working together and supporting each other allows for these businesses and the community to flourish.

Creating a new start line

It’s crucial that the customer experience is always front of mind, even before developments have been completed. We frequently advise developers on how to incorporate the customer journey into their vision way before the first customer sets foot through the door. In turn, we find that when we collaborate well with our clients and key stakeholders, our community engagement is much stronger.

Developments are becoming increasingly more complex and customer requirements are adapting and evolving from all angles. One constant among all of this is the fact community integration and customer engagement have, and always will be, central to good residential property design and management.

What’s happening right now, is just the beginning. For practical insight into how customer priorities are driving residential property development design, read our article, ‘Creating customer-first communities’.