Landlords can maximise their returns as well as keep tenants in their properties for longer by being “smart”, green and flexible. People are more tech-obsessed than ever, and today’s renters are honing in on the mod cons.

As people now spend more time than ever in their homes, it is inevitable that what they expect from their spaces has changed. Smart home technology plays a huge role in making people’s lives easier, and properties that can accommodate home-working are now crucial. What’s more, the population is more environmentally aware than ever before, which can link back to smart home offerings.

A new survey from build-to-rent provider Wise Living has found renters expect much more than just the bare minimum from their homes. And landlords and investors who can provide some added extras could reap higher rents, as well as long-lasting tenants.

1. Be “smart”

On average, private renters would be willing to pay £25 more per month for a flat with smart home technology. That’s around £300 extra per year, says Wise Living. Those renting a house would pay an additional £30 a month, amounting to £360 per year.

Although the age of the average renter is on the rise, it often still attracts a younger demographic. And it is the younger generation who value technology the most, with 99% of 16-24-year-olds owning a smartphone.

Even so, landlords who target families should also consider what they can offer. For example, 62% of parents rated smart locks as important, compared to 50% of those with no children.

2. Go green

Growing numbers of people are assessing their own impact on the planet. With the Cop26 summit approaching, it is a conversation that is difficult to avoid.

In the survey, 69% of tenants said they wanted to do more for the environment. This ties in with smart home technology, as 63% think about saving energy in their homes. Smart thermostats and lighting are one simple addition to a property that can make a big difference. This not only affects carbon footprints, but also household bills, which is a major selling point.

Installing energy-efficient appliances and having a high EPC rating are also factors that are more likely to draw tenants these days. Most new-builds will tick these boxes already, but conversions and old properties can still be upgraded.

3. Keep it flexible

The final findings from the survey looked at how much flexibility tenants now want from their homes. This has of course been hugely impacted by the pandemic, as the way people use their homes has changed considerably.

Almost two thirds (60%) of renters said “flexible space” within the home is important. This could mean a separate room that could be used as an office, or furnishing spaces to accommodate a desk. When marketing a property, a landlord can highlight any spaces in the home that could be used for home-working.

Many build-to-rent blocks have built-in home-working and communal office spaces. The same sometimes applies for owner-occupier and tenanted new-build blocks.

Incremental changes for landlords

Wise Living’s Paul Staley commented: “The increasing focus on sustainability, flexibility and smart technology should serve as a weather vane, showing the BTR sector which way the wind is blowing.

“The importance of smart technology was something that particularly struck a chord with us, reinforcing the idea that broadband is now seen as a fourth utility – especially with so many now working from home.”

“The same is the case with sustainability and eco-awareness, although the balance of responses to the survey suggest that these changes will need to be more incremental. However, it can be done – none of us really thought that charging for carrier bags would make a difference, but now we all have a bag for life in our car boot!”