Build-to-rent thrives when collaboration is strong

Initially seen as a multifamily housing alternative following the Great Recession when many homes were foreclosed, the build-to-rent (BTR) market isn’t necessarily a new concept. Due to limited housing stock, building costs, supply chain issues, and varying interest rates in recent years, builders and developers have added the BTR housing model to their portfolios as these communities grow in necessity and appeal. The design of homes varies and can include groups of single family detached homes, townhome-style living, duplexes, and row homes.

Trends in build-to-rent

Construction of new build-to-rent homes hit a record in 2022, according to RentCafe. While construction has slowed from peak levels, it’s not due to a lack of demand from consumers. Forbes recently noted that the slowdown can be traced to increasing interest rates and the tightening monetary policy which impacts banks’ lending practices. However, developers can stay ahead of the market by considering and planning for a thriving community project that meets the lifestyle goals of key demographics today.

Consumers of all ages have demonstrated interest in BTR options, with millennials and empty nesters representing the two most significant demographics that have helped drive the BTR market.

    • Many young adults no longer seek being tied down to a location for a decade or more. They are challenged with coming up with the down payment needed for traditional single-family home ownership, particularly with the rise in interest rates seen over the past few years, and they don’t want maintenance and repair costs associated with traditional ownership. Rather than look strictly at traditional apartment living, many appreciate the advantages of BTR communities that offer a wide range of amenities and feel more like single family living.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, more established adults that no longer have a need for as much square footage as their children move out are also attracted to the benefits of BTR. The maintenance-free nature of BTR options allow these long-time homeowners to enjoy the perks and shared amenities of well-designed BTR communities, without the obligation of regularly tackling the home improvement chores that they may have done in the past. Luxury communities that feature high-end entertainment spaces, green spaces, and health services are especially appealing to this desirable rental group.

Build-to-rent homes give the feeling of single-family living without the hassle of being responsible for maintenance and repairs. Photo Credit: Jim Chapman Construction Group.

Supporting BTR projects from start to finish

The Atwell team has supported developers across the country in meeting this important demand and growth. We have teams that offer experience in due diligence investigations, land planning and design, engineering services, land surveying, permitting, and construction support across the country. From concept through completion, our expertise and ability to bring in the right professional for each piece of the project in a cohesive manner, while relieving stress and worry from our development partners. This kind of intentional, thoughtful, and strategic collaboration is key in developing effective BTR projects.

The Cottages at Battlefield Crossing: An example of the value BTR developments hold

A recent example of a well-designed project that benefits from strong collaboration between Atwell and the client is The Cottages at Battlefield Crossing. Located in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, across the border but just ten miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the community developed by Jim Chapman Construction Group (JCCG)  features over 240 townhome style units that bring together contemporary design with comfortable elegance. Each unit includes highly-desired amenities including granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and luxury vinyl tile flooring, creating a beautiful home experience for renters.  Additional benefits for residents include a central clubhouse, fitness center, swimming pool, walking trails, a dog park and open green space, along with 24-hour maintenance support.

The Cottages at Battlefield exemplify what many BTR consumers are seeking. They don’t want to have the long-term financial burden that can accompany home ownership, but they still long for quality design and craftsmanship. Convenience is another draw of BTR communities. The location of The Cottages at Battlefield Crossing is highly accessible, with easy access to I-75, which connects Chattanooga to Atlanta. It is close to nearby shopping options to allow residents a living experience that matches the quality of their homes and community.

Early stages of development of The Cottages at Battlefield Crossing in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Photo Credit: Jim Chapman Construction Group.

The community is conveniently located near major interstates and shopping centers, and will feature green spaces and walking trails. Photo Credit: Jim Chapman Construction Group.

An example of what a completed home may look like at Battlefield Crossing, based on other JCCG BTR communities. Photo Credit: Jim Chapman Construction Group.

Collaboration is essential with internal and external BTR stakeholders

Collaborating with planners and engineers who have in-depth knowledge of this unique residential market puts builders and developers in a position to effectively meet the wants of the renter, the neighboring residents, and the community owner, all before the shovels hit the ground. Atwell supported this project with a wide range of services, such as boundary surveying and topographic surveying of the site, the civil engineering design, permitting, and construction staking.

“The coordination and collaboration between design and function is part of our DNA in bringing the right team members to the table early to avoid any surprises,” said Stephanie Williams, P.E., Associate Project Manager at Atwell.

The Atwell team in our Marietta, Georgia office worked with JCCG to address the right layout of the property, as the area’s steep landscape required added expertise to ensure consistent, successful drainage solutions. From there, the team was able to create stunning landscape architecture with engineering in mind.

Understanding the demographic, selecting the right site, and designing the correct BTR model type is crucial to building a successful project. Equally important is a team with the capabilities to effectively work with local regulations and permitting requirements. By partnering with an organization with national reach and regional talent like Atwell, developers can be confident in knowing that differences in climate, soil, and topography will be addressed early in the planning process rather than at the last minute.

“The community response has been very positive,” said Dan Gibbs, Director at Atwell. “I’ve talked to the mayor and other local leaders, and the area definitely needed this kind of property, so we received positive community feedback.”

Additionally, communication between Atwell and JCCG has been pivotal to the project’s progress. “Atwell worked extremely closely with JCCG throughout the design this project,” Gibbs shared. “From initial meetings with the local stakeholders, through modifications to the site during construction, both sides were always communicating well. Their specific needs for a BTR project and our expertise and experience meshed up perfectly for a project of this type in this specific location.”



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