Featured in Flat Living, issue 23

The adage ‘bigger is better’ often applies very neatly when it comes to property matters. It certainly seems to have become the case for people choosing to live in larger apartment blocks in cities, as we now witness an increasing trend towards bigger and more complex developments reveals Sue Petri, Managing Director of FirstPort Property Services and Bespoke

Research from the respected Credo organisation suggests that, while the most prestigious, luxury apartments in London currently total twice the number of developments we class as ‘big and complex’ (typically larger-scale developments with complex structural or staffing needs), these statistics are set to change. Pipeline estimates say the stock of big and complex developments is set to treble, while the stock of top-end luxury developments is set for only small growth, partly down to price.

And it’s not only London that will reflect this trend. As prices become more expensive in the capital, the numbers of bigger, more complex developments in neighbouring cities will increase, while de-centralisation and projects such as the Northern Powerhouse will see similar patterns accelerate in regional cities further afield.

While the assumption is that the more luxurious your apartment block, the more facilities you have, the reality is that many large-scale developments,  sometimes with hundreds of apartments,  also have  high standards of amenities such as gyms, swimming pools, parcel receptions, 24/7 concierges and even cinema screens. Indeed, our own independent research at FirstPort has concluded that residents living in apartments generally expect a higher level of facilities and services nowadays, with their satisfaction levels increasingly influenced by the range of services provided.

The trend towards bigger and more complex developments brings with it greater demand for maintenance and support from residents that underline the need for expertise and experience among property managers.

As property managers, our priority is looking after people’s homes and often the bigger the apartment complex the greater our responsibility. For example, large complexes often mean bigger, more sophisticated heating or air-conditioning systems and it’s our role as property managers to make sure that a big development does not experience major problems if something goes wrong. Our own research suggests that residents are understandably becoming more demanding, and with the move towards bigger developments, it’s imperative that our size, experience, expertise and innovation is fully utilised to meet the demands of a changing market place.

Having the expertise to maintain a development infrastructure, largely with in-house expertise, often sets larger property managers apart from smaller providers or even developers who seek to take on their own management of apartment complexes.

That in-house expertise often includes dedicated legal, human resources, surveying and health and safety experts who offer a significant advantage in helping to ensure that residents get value for money. Bigger property managers can also utilise their proven expertise in staff management and recruitment to add value.

Like many of our competitors, we are already investing in technology to match the increased investment in bigger, more complex developments. For example, a new procurement scheme we have recently introduced allows our managers on-site to make more autonomous decisions that mean contractors can be engaged more speedily.

It’s vitally important that, like the developments we manage, property managers put their  size and influence to the best use. That means responding proactively to the increasing demands that come with the changing landscape, to ultimately reassure our customers that each of their homes is in safe hands.

12 February 2016