Much has changed in the 17 years since LOFT began as Buy To Let Furnishings in 2003. What began as a father-and-son team with only one van has now become a respected, nationwide furnishing provider, spanning the whole of the UK.
Managing Director, Benjamin Hall discusses the lessons learned and how the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has changed over the last 17 years.
LOFT was established to deliver a service that the PRS demanded.
17 years on this concept still remains the same. LOFT strive to develop and adapt their products and services in anticipation of market trends. LOFT’s achievements and growth are a direct result of providing a solution designed specifically for the marketplace.
LOFT’s original USP – furniture comes delivered, assembled and installed with old, unwanted items removed, replaced and recycled –remains at the core of their service offering today.
The idea for this service dates back to when Ben was 12 years old and was working in his father’s second-hand furniture store in Manchester. His father offered a removal service for estate agents, with items fit for resale being upcycled and resold – a service that LOFT still offer to this day!
The emergence of Buy-to-Let (BTL) in 2003/04 marked the beginning of a dramatic improvement in standards and resident expectations, with a boom in new-build apartment blocks being delivered across the UK. BTL brought a luxury rental solution to the market, forcing traditional landlords to consider the importance of quality furnishings and interior design in order to make their properties more appealing. LOFT’s replenishment service and furniture package solution was exactly what the marketplace needed in 2003 as the PRS began to gather pace and grow.
LOFT benefitted from the BTL boom of the mid-2000s, but when the recession came in 2008/09, and the banks lost confidence in residential development, Ben had to look to take LOFT’s replenishment service to new marketplaces. From studying in Nottingham, Ben felt the student sector could benefit in a similar way to traditional landlords. University and facilities managers loved the LOFT service, and found themselves providing bulk, seasonal, summertime refurbishment solutions almost immediately.
The financial crisis had forced corporate institutions to look for safer places to invest and, with a distinct lack of luxury student accommodation in the UK, another boom ensued: Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).
LOFT fully caught this wave and established Student Furniture, now LOFT Student, a dedicated brand for developers and contractors building university accommodation and PBSA.
The Student Furniture brand helped LOFT to build a reputation in the marketplace for high-volume, high-intensity installation services, laying solid foundations for the next boom: Build-to-Rent (BTR).
BTR is raising the bar of the PRS in a similar way that BTL did in the mid-2000s. This is having a huge impact on the residential marketplace. Today’s residents are expecting a boutique hotel feel to their apartment, and developers are delivering – with co-working and social spaces which help to create a community. LOFT have a dedicated brand designed for BTR developers and operators: LOFT Build to Rent.
LOFT believe that traditional BTL landlords must adapt and invest; it’s no longer viable to have old, unkept interiors when standards have been raised so dramatically.
Improved standards can lead to rewards for those who face up to the challenge. BTR has left a big gap in the ‘affordable’ space. The now-secondary BTL stock is attracting a different type of city dweller. If refreshed and furnished with an emphasis on design, homes that are for rent at affordable prices will always ‘avoid the void’.
In 2003, Ben could not have predicted that the future for LOFT would include having warehousing and showroom facilities in both Manchester and London. LOFT now employ 135 people full-time and have dedicated departments that cater for landlords, agents, student accommodation providers and BTR developers. With an Interior Design team of 11, with specialist skills in delivering large scale builds, Show Homes and Property Staging, LOFT can create bespoke environments tailored to our clients.
LOFT’s future will remain market-driven, with imminent booms on the horizon for forward-thinking co-living, multi-family, and retirement and care spaces. LOFT will continue to provide products and services that equally consider the client and end user alike.
The future is #LOFTlife.
LOFT can transform a rental space on any scale, with inclusive, contemporary design advice and next-day delivery. To find out more about LOFT’s role in a reshaped rental scene and how their service can help any landlord stay competitive within it, visit their website at https://www.loft.co.uk/