Creating community is vitally important to developer The Heaton Group, which specialises in repurposing dilapidated buildings to enhance town centres, bring neighbours together and restore local pride. This is why it has chosen to partner with market-leading resident engagement and property management software provider Spike Global, to create a personalised residents’ portal to help foster community spirit in its latest development, Bishopgate Gardens in the centre of Preston, Lancashire.
Spike Global has worked with The Heaton Group to create a white labelled version of its Spike Living portal that is unique to residents of the 130 apartments. The portal, which can be accessed through a smartphone app, is helping tenants connect with their neighbours, make new friends, join clubs, book communal amenities and even receive discounts on local services – as well as taking care of routine practicalities such as reporting faults or keeping track of payments.
John Heaton, Managing Director of The Heaton Group, comments: “From when we were first designing Bishopgate Gardens, it was imperative that we created a community and enhanced what is going on in the local area. Our resident portal is key to us doing this. As well as being functional and allowing residents to communicate with our concierge and maintenance team, it is encouraging residents to meet up and socialise either in the building or at local events. It’s like a modern day message board, but with more functionality.”
Bishopgate Gardens is a development on Ormskirk Road, close to Preston bus station, that has transformed two disused former Department of Work and Pensions office blocks into the town’s first amenity-focused residence, with roof gardens, community lounges and co-working space to encourage a more sociable way of living. Beneath the apartments is a retail space that The Heaton Group has transformed into ready-to-occupy shops for local independent entrepreneurs, including local coffee shop Brew + Bake, deli, hairdresser and barber, to help give the area an instant buzz.
Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO of Spike Global, comments: “Bishopgate Gardens has been designed to create a sense of community spirit, and our Spike Living portal is an important part of that, offering more ways for residents to meet and get to know each other, as well as giving local businesses the chance to promote what they have to offer. We are delighted to be working with The Heaton Group to put modern technology to work on an age-old problem – how to make friends and feel at home when you move somewhere new.”
Bishopgate Gardens comprises 130, one, two and three-bedroom apartments and duplexes, all featuring high-specification kitchens and bathrooms, in the heart of Preston’s regenerating town centre. Over the past decade the area has received a £434 million investment to expand and improve the infrastructure for transport, create 20,000 new jobs and more than 17,000 new homes. The local economy is expected to grow by over £1 billion in the next 10 years, meaning it is bound to be a popular destination for young people looking for a first home, buy-to-let investors and those looking to move to a thriving area for work.
With that in mind, Bishopgate Gardens, in conjunction with Spike Global, provides the technology to help them rapidly turn a house into a home.
Grosvenor Systems and Spike Global have today announced a new strategic alliance, enabling build-to-rent operators to benefit from a complete end-to-end property management and accounting solution.
Propman, Grosvenor Systems’ leading financial reporting and property management product, will be combined with Spike’s tenancy management solution, Spike Lettings, and award-winning resident engagement portal, Spike Living, to create an enhanced, simplified experience for tenants.
Grosvenor Systems’ market-leading product paired with Spike’s solutions will allow the entire tenant management process to be digitalised, helping to reduce costs and streamline communications between management teams and tenants. The online offering will modernise all stages of the tenant experience – from the marketing of properties, taking initial payments and reservations, sending and the signing of contracts, approving references to managing the ongoing management and accounting requirements of tenants once moved in.
Contracts and vital documentation will also be stored digitally, increasing security and making key information easily accessible. Notifications can be sent to tenants via push notifications whenever documents need to be reviewed or signed, allowing for full traceability.
Property Managers will also benefit from comprehensive tenancy management reporting, with automated monthly rent invoices eliminating time spent performing administrative tasks, giving staff more time to focus on value-add activities.
Additionally, the Spike Living portal, which has an intuitive smartphone app, lets tenants view financial information such as service charges or payment history directly. The portal will also allow tenants to view and register for onsite events, reserve amenities, interact with other tenants via clubs and forums, and learn about local retailers they could support.
Sarah Taylor, Managing Director, Grosvenor Systems, comments: “Building on our great relationship with Spike Global, we are excited to offer the first complete end-to-end service in the BTR marketplace, which puts the customer experience at the heart of property management. We’re looking forward to continuing to evolve and innovate our offering for customers.”
Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO of Spike Global, comments: “We are excited to be working with Grosvenor Systems. By combining our leading resident engagement and tenancy management software solutions with Propman, this complete solution will enable property managers to onboard tenants much faster and more efficiently, whilst providing a central place for tenants to manage their everyday needs.”
Resident experience refers to a resident’s living experience in a building. It doesn’t solely rely on trendy amenities, great designs, or flashy decor. Instead, the resident experience encompasses a holistic approach to residents’ wellbeing and fosters a sense of community within their living space. Delivering a great resident experience is an integral component of any successful development.
Resident Experience Impacts Retention Rates
It’s far more cost-effective to retain happy residents. Average turnover costs for an apartment within the industry is around £1,200, however, this number can often be significantly higher, depending on a wide variety of factors specific to the property.
The good news is that nearly 60% of all resident turnover is preventable, according to a report by Zillow Renters, with the most significant contributors being staff performance and dissatisfaction with the building. Whilst some turnover cannot be avoided, such as a resident needing to relocate for a new job, there are still many improvements you can make to keep residents staying year after year.
Here are six ways to improve the resident experience.
Enhance Communication and Responsiveness
Great communication between residents and property managers is important to making everyone feel welcome. Property managers need to be seen as being proactive and keeping residents informed about all the goings on in the development, from maintenance works, onsite events being held, and general resident feedback. No resident wants to get to the lift with an armful of shopping bags, only to discover it’s out of action.
Property managers should also consider the effectiveness of sending emails and physical flyers which can be easily ignored. Instead, having a resident portal that allows for push notifications to be sent directly to a resident’s mobile phone is likely to be a more effective way of keeping residents updated and engaged.
With 31% of residents choosing not to renew their tenancy due to seeking better apartment management according to research by NMHC and Kingsley, this seems the logical place to start.
Make Operations More Efficient
Feedback gained by HomeViews for their 2021 Build to Rent report found that residents that had previous experience using resident portals instantly recognised how useful they would be in their new buildings. Residents who did not have access to a portal also believed it would help issues be resolved quicker. Furthermore, there were also frustrations voiced about having to email reception to book onsite amenities, which makes accessing them a lot more laborious than it needs to be.
Residents want to do things when it suits them, without having to involve anyone else. A mobile portal enables residents to complete important life admin, like paying rent, booking the gym, or reading the latest fire safety policy – without having to rely on anyone else.
Although often overlooked, parcel rooms and delivery solutions also play an important role in the resident experience, with 13% of reviews specifically talking about how useful this was in the 2022 HomeViews Report.
One of Spike’s clients reduced parcel processing time by 75% when switching to Spike Living. Staff are able to scan packages as they arrive which then automatically sends a notification to the relevant resident informing them that a package is ready to be collected, saving staff from having to manually message them individually. This has led to a saving of more than 9 hours per week at each development, freeing up the on-site team to focus on other value-add activities.
Streamline Maintenance Requests
Without an easy and simple way for residents to report issues, maintenance problems can often go unreported, with seemingly small problems at risk of turning into serious repairs.
Resident experience is greatly improved when residents can contact the management team quickly, while your team attends to maintenance requests in a timely manner.
Many residents reference resident apps and how useful they were for reporting issues and having them swiftly resolved in the 2022 HomeViews Report.
Having a residents’ app in place can speed up the reporting of issues, with residents able to quickly provide maintenance staff with better details about the task ahead. Enquiries and defect tickets can be logged centrally, as well as being tracked and shared between teams, keeping the resident informed at all times.
Connect Your Residents to the Surrounding Area
Residents aren’t just moving into your building — they’re also moving into the surrounding neighbourhood. Some residents might be moving across the country while others just across town. Therefore, many may not be familiar with the surrounding area. Connecting them with local shops and services, or details that can bring convenience to their lives is a great way of ensuring they feel engaged from the offset. Even if they are already familiar, receiving a special discount because they are a member of your community makes them feel special.
Many of Spike’s clients team up with local businesses to offer exclusive discounts to their residents on anything from cleaning services, and dog walkers, to local bars and restaurants. All of which can be promoted and driven through Spike Living.
Allow a building to Be Community-Led
Research by Apartment Life found that the more friends a resident have within their building, the more likely they are to renew their tenancy. Without any friends living in their community, residents only have a 29% chance of renewing. That number jumps to 38% if they have 1-3 friends, and if they have 7 or more friends, there’s a 47% likelihood that they’ll renew. Facilitating safe and easy communication among members of the community allows people to get to know each other more easily.
Spike Living allows residents to create their own clubs and forums, allowing residents to find like-minded people who share similar interests. We’ve seen residents start their own book clubs, and even arrange communal BBQs and beer tasting classes, to questions being asked on utilities and hairdresser recommendations to where to find the best pint.
Unlike social media, Spike Living can be building-specific, enabling residents to meet like-minded people in their building, without being at risk from scammers and strangers.
Have a Single Multi-Purpose Portal
To keep residents happy, one multi-purpose management app is a necessity. Besides being inefficient and time-consuming, single-purpose apps also have negative effects on residents’ phones. Devices with multiple apps lack performance and drain batteries faster. And who really wants to remember which app you clicked on to do one of ten different things?
Spike’s resident engagement portal, Spike Living, allows residents to virtually manage every aspect of their lives from a single app. From being notified when a package is ready to be collected from reception, reporting maintenance issues, unlocking their front door, booking a slot at the gym, hiring a private meeting room, interacting with other residents via forums and clubs, or learning about the local retailers in which they can support, Spike Living allows residents to build budding friendships with neighbours and get the most out of their buildings.
With so many different accommodation options now available, many operators and developers have looked to ‘outdo’ one another by providing buildings with increasingly luxurious amenities. Whilst those amenities will undoubtedly make residents sit up and take notice, they become somewhat meaningless if the resident experience isn’t up to scratch.
In such a crowded market, the only way to ensure you remain at the forefront is by providing residents with an easy way to access and enjoy what’s on offer within the development and the surrounding area, something that Spike Living is proven to do.
Creating a home away from home is what Scape is all about – the developer and operator providing accommodation for students through its partnerships with world class institutions, including UCL, Kings College London and RCSI Dublin. Its latest partnership, with industry leading resident engagement and property management software provider Spike Global, will see the roll-out of a bespoke, white-labelled version of its resident engagement portal, Spike Living, across Scape’s portfolio in the UK and Ireland.
Helping students get more from their cities and their studies, residents will be able to manage their daily lives from a single smartphone app, whether that’s being notified when they have a package ready to collect, planning a night out with friends, booking a gym session, or checking availability and hiring out the cinema room to unwind after a busy week studying.
Whilst moving to a new area can be intimidating for some, the Scape app will help students by offering tips for exploring and getting to know their new surroundings. Furthermore, the app will bring students closer to the local community by sharing news, events and partner offers to help them access the best deals possible.
With Spike Living able to be integrated with electronic access control systems, students will no longer have the hassle of remembering – and subsequently forgetting – their key cards. This, alongside the ability for residents and staff to communicate digitally through the portal, allows property management to be practically paper-free, contributing to Scape’s ongoing efforts to protect the environment in its everyday business operations.
Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO of Spike Global, comments: “We are delighted to be working with Scape and know student accommodation is about much more than just a place to stay whilst earning a degree. There are so many important aspects of a student’s life that make the experience what it is, and Spike Living helps reduce the stress and difficulties that can come with moving away for the very first time. The portal provides a one-stop shop that can help the students make the most of their time in accommodation, and fully utilise all that Scape accommodation has to offer them.”
Neil Smith, Managing Director of Scape, comments: “We expect the portal to be one of the most used apps on the phones of the students of 2022/23, thanks to Spike’s streamlining of the student accommodation experience. It is important to us that our residents experience all the benefits of a strong student community, and our residents’ app will help us to foster and enhance this at such an important time in their lives.”