Best Practices in the World of Build-to-Rent | Builder & Developer

Ron Gonski

While the single-family build-to-rent (BTR) market is relatively new, it’s growing quickly – and comes with a comprehensive set of nuances and learning curves unlike any other in the industry. With more builders beginning to recognize the strong and exciting future of the BTR  movement, they’re also realizing that data and localized expertise within this sector is limited and often fragmented. Staying on time and on budget with this type of construction is an intricate and delicate process; even the slightest anomaly can cause unanticipated and often significant setbacks. The common theme: you can’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to BTR construction. A robust combination of expertise, technology and people is imperative. 


Knowledge: Don’t Silo It; Super-Charge It 

In an evolving industry that relies heavily on BTR experience, shared project knowledge within an organization is power. Since BTR developments are so different from traditional construction projects, there are constantly new discoveries to face and challenges to overcome. Sharing the glitches, setbacks and victories among team members creates a dynamic source of intelligence that is vital to guide the next project. 

But in many traditionally operated offices, access to this type of project data among stakeholders is often absent or clunky at best. Breaking out of the siloed environment with a fully-integrated internal platform unlocks invaluable information, insights and learnings to everyone on the team, instantly, and from anywhere. 


Build Trust Through Client-Centered Technologies 

Transparency, predictability and communication build customer trust. Investing in the right tools and technologies that directly support these tenets help facilitate superior client experiences, resulting in more collaborative relationships built on a strong foundation. 

More than ever, there is a growing demand for instantaneous, on-the-ground project site updates. Clients are seeking easy connections and progress reports to give them the confidence that things are on track through powerful digital hubs with seamless access and virtual windows into project sites on site.

From weekly drone tours to VR camera-powered site walks, nimble technologies not only inform and reassure clients, but they also hold trade partners accountable for getting the job done right and on time. Field supervision can now also be managed entirely from a digital app, which means anyone in the field can collaboratively and efficiently run an entire community straight from their mobile device. 

One significant pain point for project owners is reporting accuracy in construction progress. Spreadsheets and Gantt charts with abstractions like numbers and dates are helpful, but they only paint a partial picture and can sometimes be susceptible to data misrepresentation. An orthomosaic is a survey-grade image that offers a more comprehensive evaluation by measuring progress in multiple ways – from the most basic visual view down to the most detailed analysis, like measuring lineal footages of trenches. Project owners can ascertain progress via the only measure that truly matters – actual activity in the field. 


Create a Top-Tier Team of Solid, Local Experts 

Overwhelmingly, the BTR sector is centered on strong relationships. Attracting top talent for these projects is key – and being understanding, consistent, easy to work with and quick to pay  goes a long way toward assembling a rock star network. A successful BTR community  demands “the best of the best” in local trade partners who bring invaluable on-the-ground  experience, geographical expertise, strong trade relationships and, perhaps most importantly, an open mind. Having a people-first approach results in partners prioritizing new projects and opportunities with you.

Solid industry relationships become even more critical when you’re identifying the most important partner in your network: your general contractor. It can be overwhelming to build a national platform and establish a new GC in every market you enter. One solution is having a national residential general contractor platform. This tool gives builders the advantage of accessing a pre-screened contractor’s network across the country, eliminating months of searching and vetting. 

The BTR product is no doubt a viable solution for municipalities facing issues with housing shortages and affordability. In fact, it’s our best shot at threading the needle to address these concerns. Over the next two years, we predict dozens of new markets across the country will be catching up to where Phoenix and Dallas are today. Deep knowledge, hyper-diligence and a truly integrated construction approach – one that combines expertise, technology and people – will result in the most effective outcome for everyone involved.


As published in the September 2022 issue of Builder & Developer Magazine.

Construction as Code.

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