On 16th December 2015, Michael Howard, MD of urbanbubble, was invited by Build Environment Networking (BEN) to present; his findings on the PRS market in New York and Philadelphia, his journey to becoming a PRS thought leader in Manchester and Salford and what he believes the future of PRS holds for our city in comparison to what is currently being done with leasehold management and lettings.


In addition to discussing and answering the attendees’ questions of what Michael thought of the new wave of residential in Manchester and Salford should deliver whilst considering the cities’ constraints with funding, weather and customer priorities, the presentation followed four main themes; PRS facilities and design, PRS amenities, PRS management and PRS services.


Michael’s key message was that the city will need to expand to meet demand. Manchester needs almost 100,000 new homes over the next decade to meet the rising demand and at present, there are only 2,500 homes under construction in central Manchester and Salford. However, it has been proven that there is a need and a desire as latest reports have revealed that 63% of households in the city centre are privately rented.


In the past 18 months Michael and his team have conducted thorough market research to urbanbubble’s existing database to study what the city’s residents desire and require. With the new found knowledge, urbanbubble joined the Manchester Life development team as an advisor. Michael then went onto chairing and hosting several PRS discussions (including MIPIM) to present his findings. Then in November, Michael, newly appointed urbanbubble director Ian Chatburn and FICIM developers went to New York and Philadelphia to explore a number of major PRS developments.


The key discoveries were;

  • A holistic service delivers a better focus on the customer, resulting in the customer feeling valued.
  • Significant cost savings when compared to a leasehold buy-to-let block.
  • PRS is more customer focus and so the relationship is in the right place. The communication exceeds expectations and all services are handled in one place.
  • With a cost structure in place, investment in more important areas such as better onsite services can be achieved.
  • Having a team that know the building and its customers’ needs is what makes a development run smoothly. It is advised that a dedicated property manager and lettings agent is onsite.
  • In order to make cost efficient choices, it is key to have early involvement with the team to ensure what the tenant wants is there and that it lasts.
  • To create the ‘community feel’ that the residents favoured (as demonstrated in the research findings), well designed private outdoor space (e.g. ground lever or rooftop seating area, gas fires / fire pits and a BBQ area) is crucial.
  • Sophisticated security systems are highly desirable when renting a property, it is imperative to install advanced systems with digital access.
  • Digital comms / noticeboards and a concierge are highly desirable as they handle the smooth running of the development, in addition to management of parking and storage space (lockable stores and parcels).


Michael believes that PRS has a firm place in the market and it will deliver affordable homes with a better customer focus.


If you would like to view a copy of the presentation, please email: farah.bahsoon@urbanbubble.co.uk.

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