Here’s to the enemies of the ordinary – The Property Chronicle
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Here’s to the enemies of the ordinary

Residential Investor

Don’t fall into the trap of designing a building people like – design one they’ll either love or hate and you will reap the rewards. As a brand, it’s not good to be vanilla. Like marmite, you want people to either love you or hate you. And when it comes to rental apartments, why would anyone want to spend a large proportion of their disposable income on something that is just okay? Well, they have no alternative, as the majority of newly built apartments are very ordinary.

You want to strive for people to come into your building and either say, “It’s amazing; I absolutely love it,” or: “It’s really not for me at all.” If you’re relying on people just to say, “It’s quite nice,” then they’ll never love living there, they won’t stay there for long, they won’t tell their friends about it. All in all, this is bad for business.

This is becoming increasingly important due to the amount of build-to-rent coming out the ground. Seven years ago, I had the good fortune to do some work with the Fizzy Living team. Their forward-thinking offer, including extras like free broadband and an annual spring clean, with flexible leases, on-site property managers, no agents or fees – and pets allowed – was something very different.

Wind the clock forward and we’re looking at a very different landscape. With 50,000 apartments available now and at least another 120,000 in the pipeline, what’s going to make these feel unique, like Fizzy back in the day? What are the owners of these buildings doing to make them special? Are they falling into the same trap as their private-sale cousins did in the mid 2010s by just looking at each other’s product and trying to go one better, but failing?

It’s not a case of ‘build it and they will come’. You need to design and build something they’ll love– or they’ll go and live in a competitor’s building

Residential Investor

About James Fenner

James Fenner

James Fenner is founder and MD of Silk Road ( and Co-Founder of Optim. He set up Silk Road four years ago to shake up the property marketing landscape. Previously James’s only property experience was running the marketing for the highly successful Fitzroy Place scheme. In the 15 years prior he worked with brands such as: Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Citibank, Schweppes, Southern Comfort, Habitat, Audi, Volkswagen, Rio Tinto and Unilever. He brings knowledge of how other sectors work to property, endeavouring to haul it into the 21st century.

Articles by James Fenner

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