Buy To Let Furnishings is dead - People First Design is here to stay.
LOFT began life in 2003 as ‘Buy To Let Furnishings’; specialising in cost-effective furnishing solutions to suit landlords and agents who regarded their tenants as a hassle, rather than highly valued residents or customers, as they’re considered as today.
Whilst attitudes towards renting have changed over the years, LOFT would like to see both renters and landlords treated better.
Not everyone dreams of buying a property like their grandparents did. Wasting weekends ‘adding value’. Plenty of us prefer moving into a fully furnished apartment, leaving the interior design and maintenance to the professionals.
Just because a person doesn’t own the property they live in doesn’t mean they have to accept anything less from their home. At LOFT we’ve always understood that.
A home is a home, regardless of whether the resident is paying rent or paying a mortgage.
When furnishing a space, you have to think of “people first”, tune into how the space might be used in practise and what home comforts improve the quality of our human existence.
For us, that lesson started in West Didsbury, Manchester...
Re-Using Furnishings Since 1974
Robert Hall started his second-hand furniture business, Chattels (Didsbury) Limited, in 1974. When his son Benjamin was just 12, he started his on-the-job education in “furnishing for the future”.
Robert’s store on Burton Road, West Didsbury, had an eclectic stock. Estate agents regularly required his removal and house clearance services, but Chattels weren’t just removing pre-used furniture to clear the property. They were in someone’s home, removing furniture that had been loved, battered, used before.
There were sofas that kids had jumped up and down on, coffee tables with bite marks and scratches from the family dog, dining tables where couples had eaten their first Christmas dinner together and accessories, ornaments and antiques that had been passed down through the generations.
These weren’t just old properties with bits of tatty furniture in them. Everything had a story to it, and a lot of pieces still had a story to tell.
Salvageable items were taken back to the shop on Burton Road to be given a new lease of life through furniture up-cycling. They were then put on sale ready for a new home.
Customers and antiques dealers flocked from far and wide, often restoring the furniture to a high quality and selling on, in London or abroad.
This experience evolved to become a cornerstone for LOFT: new furniture is delivered, assembled and installed with old, unwanted items removed, replaced and recycled.
And, when Buy To Let Furnishings was established, in 2003, just as the UK Buy To Let (BTL) boom began; we made it central to our mission - to address the stigmas and negative connotations around the rental market, by staying close to the concept of ‘home’. That’s kept us in-tune with the residential marketplace ever since.
In the early noughties, new apartment blocks were being constructed rapidly across the entire country. The rental market was becoming more competitive, operators and traditional landlords alike needed to improve their properties, providing quality furnishings and interior design to stand out from the crowd.
People weren’t just moving into apartments and rental houses for the short term, “until they could afford to buy”, they were moving into homes, places where they’d choose to live for years; they wanted the property to feel like it was theirs, with style and quality.
And that’s when Buy To Let Furnishings morphed and gave birth to LOFT Interiors in 2004.
Safety In A Financial Crisis
Life is anything but predictable. The 2008/09 financial crash caused banks to lose confidence in residential development. This had a huge knock-on effect, and the requirement for BTL furnishings faded further.
LOFT had to look for a new marketplace that would benefit from our turn-key furnishings solution.
During the recession, institutional investors looked for a safe place to put their cash - high density, Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), with 47 week advance rental payments, became an asset class.
Operators, Universities and facilities managers LOVED our USP - delivered, assembled, installed, removed, replaced, recycled.
Bulk, seasonal and summertime refurbishment requests began to increase exponentially, as student expectations rose and PBSA assets began to change hands quickly.
It wasn’t just the operators and investors who loved what we did. The students did, too - LOFT asked and LOFT listened - quality furniture and on-trend designs sealed the deal.
We wanted students to be happy in their accommodation. At the end of the day, it’s their home-away-from-home and they’d be spending a lot of time there. We paid attention to what everyone was saying, and came up with a solution that worked for all.
People First Design
Providing furnishing and interior design services for the PBSA sector established LOFT as a recognised brand in time for the Build To Rent (BTR) boom that began in 2012.
Operators and developers were looking for experienced design-led, high-volume, high-intensity installation service providers, and our track record in the student sector spoke for themself.
BTR has raised the bar in the Private Rented Sector the same way BTL did back in the Noughties. Tenant expectations had elevated again and rental properties must reflect the highest demands. Every new item installed, colour scheme and interior design, has to be for the benefit and well-being of the residents. .
We weren’t just furnishing properties quickly and cost-effectively anymore. We were doing exactly what we set out to do; furnishing people’s homes and changing attitudes in the rental market.
Residents need to be comfortable, settled and happy. Investors, operators and developers shouldn’t be furnishing a property for themselves, they should be thinking more about the end user. This was the key to unlock not just the BTR sector but our end-to-end offer now.
Long gone are the days when Ebineezer Scrooge was the common representation of the tight-fisted and penny-pinching landlord. If anything, anyone who looks after a rental property these days is more like a boutique hotel operator, making sure everyone is enjoying their stay.
Being a tenant isn’t a bad thing anymore either. In our opinion, it was never a bad thing, but anyone who’s been led to believe the end goal is homeownership might (foolishly) feel that way.
So much effort goes into making residents feel valued today - and that’s precisely how it should be.
So Buy To Let (Furnishings) Is Dead - What About LOFT?
Buy To Let Furnishings died because the market evolved. LOFT is thriving today, because it’s adapted with the times, whilst remaining anchored in a desire to change perceptions of renting.
It’s a mistake to believe that landlords, investors, operators and developers are the only customers when furnishing rental property. It’s the residents that have the final say, because managing and maintaining a long term rental agreement is the key to successfully managing a property portfolio.
Services, too, must exceed tenant expectations to really be successful. There’s too much competition out there for any rental property to fall short. Real people living real lives don’t care about the cost of the sofa in their rental property. They want it to be comfortable, in keeping with the property and easy to maintain.
We’ve learnt so much about the residential sector over the years, but we also know we have to keep asking the right questions, from the right people, listening to the answers and making the relevant improvements.
If you’d like to ask some questions for yourself, all you have to do is get in touch.