Designing the Future of Build-to-Rent Communities

Build-to-rent developers are working to capture both renters-by-choice and residents who are seeking a custom design aesthetic within a community. We are designing homes that can’t be purchased in the traditional single-family market.

Joe Sinnett, AIA, Vice President & Team Leader

Build-to-Rent (BTR) communities represent a paradigm shift in residential living, offering purpose-built homes and amenities tailored to the needs of today's renters. While these communities are diverse in scale, ranging from standalone residences to duplexes and townhomes, they share a common thread of offering robust amenities and fostering a sense of community. 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of real estate development, the BTR sector continues to stand out as a growth market for the industry and our clients.  

Kahler Slater attended the 9th Annual IMN Build-To-Rent Forum in Nashville, TN, where our residential experts exchanged industry insights and discussed the nuances of amenitized, purpose-built communities. Joe Sinnett, AIA and Dan Causier, AIA immersed themselves in the strategic design and operational considerations inherent to BTR developments.   

The Sylvan - A BTR community designed in partnership with Marquette Companies

Amenity Differentiation as a Competitive Edge

Proposed BTR community designed in partnership with Marquette Companies

The cornerstone of a successful BTR community lies in its amenity differentiation. To stand out in a demanding market, it's imperative to offer unique amenities that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of residents.   

“Amenities serve as the heartbeat of the community. They include everything from serene nature trails to picturesque ponds to state-of-the-art fitness centers and pet-friendly facilities. Thoughtfully designed amenities are invitations to connect and foster well-being” said Dan Causier, AIA, Associate Principal, Design Leader. 

The significance of these amenity offerings aligns with the rise of the lifestyle renter.  A lifestyle renter is a “discerning resident whose choices are guided not just by the four walls they inhabit but by the experiences and amenities that define their way of life.” (National Multifamily Housing Council’s Renter Preferences Survey Report)  

To appeal to the lifestyle renter, BTR amenities need to differentiate from the typical multifamily development. These communities provide the benefits of a single-family home without the maintenance and upkeep, which 60% of renters say is the biggest advantage (NMHC). 

Strategic Master Planning for Long-Term Success

A strategic approach to master planning is essential for the long-term success of BTR communities. Since 2022, large city suburbs have seen major inbound migration according to reports featured in Forbes.  By selecting the right location, BTR will see "major expansion due to its ideal suburban community appearance (Forbes)." 

Carefully curating the mix of housing types and amenities, developers and their design teams will create a dynamic environment that appeals to a wide range of residents. While the mix can include standalone homes, duplexes, townhomes, and cottages, it needs to be built with purpose – known as a purpose-built community. These communities “range from 10 homes to over 600. With a purpose-built environment, developers have an 18-20% rent premium over scattered site, single-family rentals”, Sinnett said. 

Strategically including higher density building types on a site offering a diverse mix of housing creates a demand ladder, fostering a vibrant and cohesive community. 

The Sylvan - A BTR community designed in partnership with Marquette Companies

Maximizing Return on Investment through Innovation

In today's competitive market, maximizing return on investment requires a combination of speed, efficiency, and innovation. Speed to market can be a differentiator for our renters and our clients. Our team strategically aligns with our clients by creating flexible prototypes that adapt to varying sites and market preferences.  

Refinement of the site plan and prototypes allows for unique unit features reflective of market needs. Specific unit features such as dedicated work from home space, fenced in yards, view premiums and smart appliances can be applied thoughtfully. These features add rent premiums to provide increased return.  These features positively impact resident experience and are considered both through the built environment and the management process, making collaboration as efficient as possible.   

Proposed BTR community designed in partnership with Marquette Companies

Looking Ahead

As we continue to partner with pioneering leaders in the BTR community, Kahler Slater remains committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation and design. From implementing master planning strategies to enhancing the resident experience, we create spaces that inspire and enrich the lives of those who call them home.    

Interested in learning more about the Future of Build-to-Rent Communities?

Connect with Joe Sinnett on LinkedIn or via email.