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SJB comment: The value differentiator in build-to-rent

In this comment piece, SJB director Nigel Morris discusses a test case for amenity-driven living in the build-to-rent sector.

SJB comment: The value differentiator in build-to-rent

Build-to-rent (BTR) is a popular and highly successful property investment model across the globe. Instead of building a multiresidential development to sell to buyers, the investor holds on to the investment and all apartments go up for long-term rent. The idea is simple. The apartment development is designed to attract a renter market, the building is well-maintained with great facilities and renters are afforded greater security in their housing.

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

Its arrival to Australia in the last few years is being fuelled by a weakening commercial property market resulting in large investment looking for a new home, coupled with our enduring housing crisis and never-ending property price increases. Victoria is the early adaptor of the model, accounting for 66 per cent of all national BTR stock in 2022 and some states are offering large financial incentives for BTR to deliver social and affordable housing.

Amenity is the value differentiator in the BTR space – from the location of the development and the convenience of transport networks and metro areas to the in-house building services, like gym and wellness facilities, pool, sauna, private dining rooms, co-working spaces, theatre rooms, hire cars and concierge.

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

Great location and high-end amenity is often reserved for the very wealthy, but BTR is unlocking value for communities who are interested in the model.

SJB first investigated the model back in 2019 when we met with developer Home and Coles Group to undertake an urban analysis on the existing site at the prominent intersection of Church Street and Bridge Road in Richmond. Home had tipped the site as their first venture into the BTR sector and engaged us to reinvigorate the run-down retail offering at the same time. We researched the model and its success in major metropolitan cities like London and New York to understand the target market and best practices in the sector.

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Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

It’s an in-demand rental option for young urban professionals who are unable to break into property ownership but have a medium-to-high income and want to live in a great area in premium accommodation with amenities like a concierge and gym.

In mid-2022, we completed one of Australia’s first BTR projects incorporating 368 dwellings, Home Richmond, above the enlivened new market hall and workplaces, Richmond Traders. Our goal was to create a thriving urban village with a series of sympathetic street faces that enhanced social, environmental and economic conditions for the local Richmond community.

On a site of 12,000 square metres, the project appropriately fits a lot in. The ground plane is made up of a series of revitalised and now-activated street frontages and new laneways to create an integrated and vibrant public realm. Coles as the anchor tenant, along with 16 other tenancies, creates a buzzing hub for Richmond residents to get their groceries. Above in the podium resides a large commercial workplace tenant. A long-life, loose-fit interior language on the retail and commercial levels allows tenants to bump in and bump out at low cost and with low impact.

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

In the two set-back residential towers, generous one-and-two-bedroom apartments come furnished or unfurnished, welcoming tenants to paint their walls, bring their pets and make their new homes an individual expression. The amenities include a 24/7 concierge, pool, gym and wellness centre, private theatre rooms, co-working space, outdoor terraces and Tesla hire cars which are exclusive to the residents. Apartment spaces are refined and minimal while the shared facilities are filled with volume and colour to enhance the social network.

“Build-to-rent really is the new way to rent,” says head of Home, Christian Grahame. “Home is the sole owner and operator which effectively means there is no body corporate or individual owners, everything is centralised and managed by our team. A lot of residents and prospective residents find that element of build-to-rent really appealing – there is a sense of security and comfort in knowing that everything from the ease of the application process to the booking of add-on services, such as the hire of the Tesla EV car share or private dining space, through to the lodging of maintenance requests, will be attended to in a quick and consistent manner that isn’t necessarily the norm in a traditional rental model.”

The individual buildings and street frontages take architectural cues from the industrial, interwar, and period buildings that are synonymous with this part of Richmond. Face brickwork has been used across the ground and podium-level buildings with a series of aperture proportions, corbelled columns and brickwork patterns that reference the local Richmond context. The residential buildings relate to the area’s industrial heritage, incorporating saw-tooth metal roofs above robust, textural concrete forms.

With such a complex program including an underground 250+ car park, the project involved rigorous testing of development options. Stakeholder engagement occurred during both the schematic design and construction to achieve the greatest cost-benefit outcome.

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

The development needed to be completed in stages so that the retail precinct could open quickly to the public. Working with NH Architecture on the retail strategy, and contractor Hacer Group, we overcame many obstacles – negotiating the best use of value management to deliver a sophisticated and well-programmed mixed-use project. Entry points are clearly defined for the retail, commercial, residential and parking zones, and the market hall has many new through-site links between Church and Bridge Streets.

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders demonstrates the potential for BTR in Australia’s metro regions and is a test case for the value of amenities to our renter market. The result is high-density done with purpose, creating value for residents, the community, retailers and our client. With a more porous urban realm, new retail and commercial spaces, and safe and high-end apartments, Home Richmond / Richmond Traders is an impressive offering to the local community.


Aaron Puls, Lisa Cohen, Dianna Snape

Home Richmond / Richmond Traders
Home Richmond / Richmond Traders

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