Sarah Quinn, Head of Operations at Moda, has been working in the Residential and Student Accommodation sectors for over 20 years and is a pioneer of UK BTR. This week, our BTR specialist Martha Kiernan spoke to Sarah about all things Moda, wellness and community.
MK: Why do you think Build to Rent is so attractive to renters?
SQ: We can’t speak about the sector more broadly – as there remains a huge education piece to be done here - but we can share the feedback from our own residents.
Ultimately, taking a high quality, professionally managed, beautifully furnished, fully-serviced apartment, provides freedom, flexibility and cost savings for both young professionals who tend to move around a lot & flat agers who might be looking for luxury living without the mortgage commitment in later life.
Out focus is on offering value for money, an aspirational, high quality turnkey lifestyle product that residents want – with gym, cinema, co-working, private dining, sports pitch, events and more included in your rent. More importantly in contrast to many amateur landlords, we genuinely care about our tenants, both from a health & wellbeing perspective, but also in offering secure tenure and flexible, dynamic rentals (no deposit, no fees) during uncertain times.
Lockdown has been challenging, but has proved that from design to delivery, our buildings must account for our residents’ fitness, wellbeing and happiness. We believe joining the Moda community should enrich your life and we will continue to design and build communities that put wellbeing at the heart of sustainable and ethical living.
MK: What challenges did you face when mobilising Angel Gardens? Was there anything that surprised you about the process?
SQ: A phased building often poses challenges. Our team have worked very closely alongside our construction team to deliver a fantastic building. We found that being transparent and communicating effectively with residents has ensured everything ran smoothly. However, the ultimate challenge and surprise has been Covid -19 which really allowed us to step up our game for the benefit of our residents by being a truly 24/7 operation with health and safety at the forefront despite a global pandemic.
MK: The Angel Gardens development has some of the most luxurious amenities in the market. Why did you decide to go for such high-end communal spaces?
SQ: At Moda we believe in offering our residents a lifestyle reflective of their surroundings, and our amenities and beautiful interiors and furnishings encapsulate this, but ultimately we have produced a product that our diverse community of residents wants. We have to constantly evolve to meet their changing needs. Angel Gardens is undoubtedly best-in-class rental accommodation, supported by professional management – we pride ourselves in being a landlord that cares and it is these qualities that truly define ‘high-end’. Our spaces enable residents to work, play and rest. Moda residents can enjoy Yoga or 5-a-side on the rooftop terrace, have a game of Fifa in the media room, work from home in the Sky lounge, workout and enjoy the views from our well-specified gym and then relax and read a book in the library – all included in their monthly rent. The library is truly the ultimate room to kick back in at Angel Gardens with fantastic views and a relaxing vibe – it’s my personal favourite.
MK: The team at LMRE were very impressed by your activity on-site during lockdown (such as your outdoor workouts that were streamed on social media). Is community more important than ever?
SQ: Sense of community has always been a key differentiator for Moda. We view our neighbourhoods as just that…tight knit communities where residents are able to stay connected, avoid feeling lonely and interact with other residents as much as they want as well as feeling immersed in the wider community (the cities they live in).
During lockdown it was crucial that we took the mental wellbeing of our residents’ seriously during an unprecedented time. We were able to move many of our usual activities online to respect social distancing protocol (seminars, fitness classes, cookery, wine tasting etc.) thanks to the MyModa App, meaning our Moda community never felt isolated. Since moving them online we’ve had more engagement than ever – attendance is up 500%. Residents may find it easier to discuss sensitive topics when not face-to-face but Covid-19 has increased the importance of managing anxiety and coping day-to-day.
We have evolved our brand to put tech-enablement at the forefront, ensure connectivity and innovation enables us to respond quickly to residents ever-changing needs. The MyModa App is really exciting because residents can find people with similar interests and break down barriers when it comes to establishing relationships in our buildings. They can share tips on everything from what’s on Netflix to the latest games. We believe this refreshing sense of technology-enabled, community-minded living will endure beyond the virus.
However, things will be different after lockdown. People will still seek out time with friends and family, perhaps even more so; they will still work, but some will never return to the office; and they will still work out, but how they do so will have been changed forever by this experience. Coronavirus has reminded us how important staying fit and healthy is to happiness and getting the most out of life – and not just physical fitness, but mental wellbeing too.
MK: Wellness seems to be a huge growing trend in Build to Rent. Why do you put such a focus on wellness at Moda?
SQ: Residents’ overall wellbeing is central to Moda’s way of doing things; it’s a cornerstone of our business and we factor it in from the design stage. Our partnership with digital wellness brand Hero is proof that we see mental wellbeing and health as a key part of our brand and we are exploring implementing a digital wellness score into every resident’s onboarding process so we can assess how living in a Moda neighbourhood enhances your general wellbeing. We believe many emerging trends in build-to-rent and the wider housing sector have been exacerbated by Covid-19. As we emerge from that difficult time, we’ve been thinking about how the way we live will change and evolving our brand accordingly.
MK: You’ve got a large pipeline of UK sites underway. What can we expect to see from Moda in the future?
SQ: There are certainly exciting times ahead for Moda. We topped out at The Lexington (324 apartments) in Liverpool in August, with completion expected in Summer 2021. We are on site in Birmingham (The Mercian - 481 apartments), Leeds (New York Square - 515), Edinburgh (The McEwan - 425 apartments), and just received planning in Hove (860 apartments) with ground-breaking expected in January 2021. We have other developments currently at planning committee, and hope to make more positive announcements before the end of the year. In honesty, Covid has been a major catalyst for the BTR sector and 2020 could well be Moda's biggest year to date.