It is London's latest property trend — stylish and "branded" new-build blocks of apartments that are designed to attract young renters seeking a dependable standard of features, plus a menu of exciting add-ons.
With mortgages hard to get and large deposits required, a report out yesterday for the Halifax shows demand for rental property increasing two thirds in two years.
People are looking for good-quality accommodation they can rent long-term from a landlord they can trust. Now developers are targeting residential lettings as an investment, with attractive new tax breaks.
Insurance giant Aviva is launching a property fund that will buy new-build flats in London and the South-East for letting, partnering with volume housebuilders such as Barratt and Berkeley Homes.
A raft of recent surveys and reports shows that home ownership has lost some of its sparkle — and not just because of declining affordability.
Property consultant CB Richard Ellis says there are 1.1 million more UK renters than 10 years ago, and many of these are opting to rent for lifestyle reasons — they have no wish to buy a property and never will. The private-rented sector now accounts for 14.2 per cent of all households in England and is set to expand because of population growth.
Private rented housing in London has been the best property market to invest in during the past decade, achieving a return of more than 10 per cent a year, far better than the commercial property sector, according to the British Property Federation.
Rents in the capital increased 16 per cent on average last year and were up 4.3 per cent in east London during the first quarter of 2011, says Savills estate agent.
Rental demand is outstripping supply at every level of the market in London, from cheap studios to luxury houses, from about £120 to £12,000 a week. Niche companies are sprouting up to serve this burgeoning business.
Residential Land, which has a portfolio of 1,200 homes in central postcodes, aims to "smash the stereotype of the typical private landlord" by offering flexible contracts, 24-hour management and maintenance support and furnished or unfurnished interiors. Rents range from £200 to £2,000 a week.
Young London, which manages hundreds of new-build rentals on behalf of developers and investors, targets young professionals who want to live close to the main employment hubs of the West End, City and Docklands. New apartments at The Landmark, 500 metres from the Canary Wharf trading rooms, cost from £350 a week.
At myBASE1, a new apartment scheme in Borough, rents start at £325 a week, while at Strata, Elephant & Castle, rents cost from £320 a week. Call 020 7593 3300 or visit younglondon.co.uk.
Smaller developers are embracing rentals, too, letting flats instead of selling them because this produces a steady income stream "I'm dealing with several developers who are considering holding back a proportion of completed new-build stock for letting," says Mimi Capas of estate agent Knight Frank.
One of the companies it acts for is London & Stamford, which has 146 rental flats in Highbury (rents from £280 to £850 a week) and another 59 at Bridges Wharf, Battersea (from £320 to £750 a week).
Hannah Read, lettings director of Covent Garden estate agent EA Shaw, says: "Demand is always highest for new-build developments, where record rents are being achieved.
Tenants love the finish and prefer homes that have not been lived in before." Six of 10 apartments at a warehouse redevelopment on Stukeley Street are for the rental market. Prices from £525 to £725 a week, available from next month. Another 48 high-rise apartments are for rent at Nido, a funky residential tower in King's Cross. Prices from £320 a week.
At St Martins Courtyard, a new boutique shopping zone in Covent Garden, 30 new apartments above street-level retail units are for rent from the Mercers Company. Prices are from £350 a week. Call 020 7240 2255.
Aristocratic estate landlords such as Cadogan, Grosvenor and Howard de Walden, all past masters at property investment, now routinely offer rentals (rather than granting long leases) as do charitable trusts.
Walcot Estate, in Kennington, benignly gives grants to local community groups from the rents it receives, helping to improve the neighbourhood in which renters live. Three- and four-bedroom houses overlooking garden squares are available for rent at £550 a week. Contact Cluttons on 020 7407 3669.