What Changing Consumer Needs and COVID-19 Tell Us About the Future of BTR

Over 90% of applicants now look online when searching for property. First gen property engines offer a service that is useful, but largely one-dimensional. There is little room for discovery, flexibility, personalisation and nuance – forcing applicants to narrowly focus their search on what they already know, and inhibiting a true match between the lifestyle & demographic needs of prospective tenants, and what their home and neighbourhoods have to offer.


The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated a fundamental change in the relationship between residents  and the locations in which they might consider living. The introduction of ‘work from home’ as a viable and at least partial alternative to traditional office work will mean that a lifestyle-driven approach to property search will continue to become more pervasive. Consumers are increasingly conscious about finding a home within a local neighbourhood that’s better suited to their needs. After months of social isolation, and without the social scene of the workplace, these same consumers are yearning for reconnecting with other local residents. For the BTR sector, we believe that this trend presents a huge opportunity to emerge as the alternative that solves for tenants’ new needs, setting BTR for the next step in it’s sustained growth. 


As more tenants embrace location-flexibility in their search experience, it will become increasingly important for BTR to present itself as the suitable option at the consideration phase of the search experience, when residents are typically exploring multiple different areas. Consumer education is key in this step. 

Here at SearchSmartly, we believe that property as a service has been underserved by traditional portals. In our view, property search is bigger than finding four walls and a bed. Our engine factors in local amenities,  onsite amenities, commute to work, proximity to schools and other – related – lifestyle factors when making recommendations. However, this only scratches the surface of what BTR has to offer. How can prospective residents  learn as much as possible about other differentiating factors such as onsite events, and the intangible value of a vastly improved relationship with their landlord? We believe that deeper integrations with consumer-oriented portals like SearchSmartly are the answer – surfacing propositions such as upcoming events, resident reviews, and rental package customisations to truly bring to life the value of BTR.


As we become ever more urbanised, yet further decoupled from traditional office working due to the changes borne by the COVID-19 pandemic, the BTR sector faces a unique opportunity to leverage changing consumer needs to become the go-to alternative for lifestyle-driven renting. Ultimately, we deeply believe that the future of property rental lies in the property-as-a-service model pioneered by BTR. By surfacing the complete value proposition to consumers at the right point in their customer journey – the consideration phase – this opportunity can become a reality.


About SearchSmartly

SearchSmartly is a proptech platform that matches tenants to homes according to their deep lifestyle needs. The matchmaking platform saves prospective tenants hours of research ahead of their move, by taking into account commutability, proximity to local amenities like schools, parks, gyms, restaurants, and so on when recommending properties. For BTR, the platform generates highly qualified, engaged leads that convert up to five times better than the status quo, and helps prospective tenants discover locations and communities that they may not have encountered via the traditional property search experience. It would be great to hear form you, contact us at [email protected]