Posted on July 08, 2019 by Gordon Smith

In the build to rent (BTR) market, premium facilities are key to attracting and keeping long term tenants. For this reason, many developers are looking to add gym and exercise facilities to their developments.

The UK housing market has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Home ownership dropping from 65% to just 27%. Young people especially are choosing to rent their home. As a result, the build to rent sector is set to grow by 180% over the next six years.

Tapping into this market means focusing on the needs of potential tenants and providing a lifestyle that they can buy into. Exercise facilities and communal spaces are a key part of this lifestyle.

What are tenants looking for in a BTR development?

When planning a BTR development, location, size, parking and transport links are key. However, when choosing between developments, it is often the facilities provided that seals the deal for potential tenants.

The typical BTR demographic includes millennials as well as those aged 50-70 years who are looking to downsize and relieve the burdensome responsibilities of home ownership and maintenance.

Both these demographics take exercise seriously and are keen gym users. In fact, the 2018 LSL Property Services Tenant Survey found that “69% of Younger Independents [aged 18-24] who already have a regular gym or fitness commitment would pay for an onsite gym. It also found that 57% of Flexible Professionals [aged 25-44] would also pay for an onsite gym”.  For older residents a variety of communal areas is important, too.

The type of exercise facilities tenants are looking for

What your BTR gym provides will depend on your target demographic. However, both the younger and older generation of gym users are more likely to sign up to boutique style gyms. This suggests that they are not looking for rows and rows of treadmills, but a more varied, personal experience. Customers from these demographics are also keen on social exercise including exercise classes and group activities.

Many BTR developers are finding that building a sense of community is a key aspect in attracting long term tenants who are looking to put down roots. Communal spaces, including exercise facilities and group classes, are a great way to build this sense of community.

What are the best facilities for a BTR gym?

The exercise sector is an evolving and developing area and different demographics require varied services. Designing a gym is not just a matter of installing sound proofing and laying out equipment. Developers need to understand what customers want from their gym experience and crucially, how they want to feel.

It helps to work with partners who understand the constantly evolving fitness landscape and who can use their expertise to guide your vision. Working with an experienced partner at the conceptual stage can help you work out the design and fit out based on current lifestyle trends and the local demographic.

In addition, it is essential that the gym has similar (or better) standards to other gyms in the local areas, so that customers feel they are getting great value for money. The BTR gym should be a real draw. A drab space with a few pieces of exercise equipment is not going to attract and keep tenants.

However, this does not necessarily means spending huge amounts of money on equipment. As we have seen, rows of cardio machines are not always what customers want. They are looking for variety, group activities and an all round health and wellbeing experience. This may include functional equipment, movement studios, therapy rooms, personal trainers and a range of classes.

In order to build on the community aspect, it is worth considering a café, creche, play area, recreation rooms, lounges, games rooms and other social spaces in your scheme.

To create the right facilities to attract high-paying, long term tenants, is it essential to understand the customer journey as they move through a gym and this includes everything from the spaces and equipment provided to the décor, mirrors and lighting.

Of course, all developments are different, and if you are looking at the higher end of the market then more luxurious facilities may be in order. These may include swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, spa facilities and treatments rooms and perhaps a shop selling gym essentials.

Staffing and maintaining your BTR gym

It is essential to factor in gym maintenance and upgrades into your plan so that the leisure facilities you provide continue to offer a desirable place to be. With tenants paying for a premium service, regular maintenance is essential to providing a well-run gym.

A residential gym does not necessarily require a lot of extra staffing. However, providing fitness instructors and therapists can increase the value of the services provided. Additional services can be charged to residents offering them plenty of choice in their exercise options.

Working with a partner that is experienced in the maintenance, management and staffing of residential gyms can ensure ongoing success and tenant satisfaction.

Talk to the experts

At motive8, fitness is our reason for being. With twenty years’ experience in the industry, motive8 is the market leader in residential gym and spa design. We have worked with companies such as Barratt Homes and Savills on 140 residential sites in cities across England, many of which are designed, built and managed by our 49-strong team. To learn more please contact us on 020 8481 9700 or email