Interview: Sarah Waller of The Knightsbridge Estate on the rise of luxury build-to-rent

Earlier this week, PrimeResi took an exclusive look at The Olayan Group’s plans to deliver a major new super-prime BTR scheme in the middle of Knightsbridge. Here, Sarah Waller, senior asset manager for The Knightsbridge Estate, discusses the decision to aim Knightsbridge Gardens specifically at HNW tenants, and how this could set off a big trend in PCL…

Earlier this week, PrimeResi took an exclusive look at The Olayan Group’s plans to deliver a major new super-prime BTR scheme in the middle of Knightsbridge. Here, Sarah Waller, senior asset manager for The Knightsbridge Estate, discusses the decision to aim Knightsbridge Gardens specifically at HNW tenants, and how this could set off a big trend in PCL…

Knightsbridge Gardens is being billed as the most prominent offer to come to London’s luxury rental market; what are the advantages of renting over buying for a HNW individual?

Renting is already particularly common in higher priced neighbourhoods in London inhabited by HNWs and IHNWs, who either own or rent a number of properties around the world. Whilst affordability might not be an issue for HNWs, HNW renters want professionally managed, purpose-built properties with a range of lifestyle amenities in the neighbourhood.

The desire to offer the residential element of the scheme to the rental market has been planned since the scheme’s inception. Our experience of the rental market in Knightsbridge shows that properties of this type appeal to both domestic and international customers, and that the ages of potential tenants can vary from students, right up to retirees who enjoy being in the cultural heart of London.

There are many reasons why these apartments will be successful in the luxury rental market. Aside from the obvious advantages of being able to walk into a brand new, fully finished property delivered to the highest standards in a secure, serviced and well-managed environment, residents will have easy access to all that Knightsbridge has to offer, including the stores, restaurants, cultural hubs and Hyde Park. With its roof top restaurant, casual dining and world class shopping, the lifestyle on The Knightsbridge Estate will be hard to beat.

Proposal for the corner of Brompton Road and Sloane Street

Why haven’t there been many other luxury schemes aimed at this market to date?

Actually, demand for rental apartments is soaring across the UK and the build to rent sector attracted record investment in 2020. Previously, this was mainly focussed on the mid-market sector, but the same principles apply to the luxury sector. The redevelopment of the northern end of The Knightsbridge Estate provided its owners The Olayan Group with a unique opportunity to develop a select number of luxury residences as part of its mixed-use scheme in the heart of historic Knightsbridge, providing tenants with an unparalleled lifestyle and location.

We believe we may well see more schemes of this sort as interest in renting grows, fuelled in part by the pandemic globally

We believe we may well see more schemes of this sort as interest in renting grows, fuelled in part by the pandemic globally. In the UK we have witnessed large numbers of HNW residents deciding to move their principal homes out of London, but who still feel they need a central base in the city in an environment that is secure and private.

Proposal for internal facade and courtyard at Knightsbridge Gardens

​Rental properties are transient by their very nature – how will the scheme create a sense of home?

We have worked hard to create a sense of community across The Estate to ensure both our residential and commercial tenants feel at home; Knightsbridge Gardens will be no exception to this. The personal service provided by the concierge team will ensure residents feel welcomed into the building every time they return home. Residents will also benefit from the unfettered use of the many communal spaces, including the residents’ club room, orangery and landscaped courtyard, all offering space to relax outside their apartments.

We wanted the residents to feel at home as soon as they enter the apartments

We wanted the residents to feel at home as soon as they enter the apartments and with four unique styles tailored to each building we have managed to create something that will appeal to a wide range of tastes and requirements. So we very much approached the design aesthetic as though we were designing a private client’s home rather than a commercial project so they do have a real sense of home.

The units are being delivered with turn-key interiors – will tenants be able to customise their homes?

Working with interior design firm Taylor Howes, we have developed a range of designs and luxury finishes that will appeal to this wide audience, designed to create a sense of timeless luxury and comfort.

Residents can layer their own style on top of the foundation provided by Taylor Howes by including their own objects d’art in order to ensure a true sense of belonging in the apartments.

What will be the range of sizes and prices at the project?

The apartments vary in size from 1 to 4 bedrooms to accommodate individuals, couples and families.

We are not quoting a rent for the apartments yet. However, we can confirm they will be finished to an exceptional standard and will target the top end of the rental market.

How will the resi amenities compare to those on offer at various high-end branded residences in the local area?

The dedicated 24-hour concierge team will ensure that all residents receive an unparalleled level of service in Knightsbridge Gardens. The development itself will deliver valet parking and exclusive use of the club room, orangery and landscaped private courtyard for all residents.

Knightsbridge Gardens is distinguished by its location right in the heart of the redeveloped Knightsbridge Estate, enabling residents to make full use of the amenities that sit on The Estate itself. The Estate’s offer continues to evolve to suit the needs of the community it supports, and with a greater focus on health and well-being, there will be some exciting announcements in the coming months in this regard.

Knightsbridge Gardens’ position in the very heart of Knightsbridge allows it not only to take advantage of the amenities across The Estate but also to benefit from all that the local area has to offer with Hyde Park a stone’s throw away, seven five star hotels within a few hundred meters and countless shops, restaurants and bars.

​How do you see the market for luxury BTR schemes evolving in PCL over the next few years?

I think Knightsbridge Gardens is the first of its kind at this level, but we believe it will set a trend and there will be more to follow.

Proposal for apartment lobby, internal facade and courtyard

Main image: The Knightsbridge Estate from above (Credit: Jason Hawkes)

Further Reading

Inside Knightsbridge Gardens, tipped to be Prime Central London’s ‘stand-out build-to-rent scheme’ July 2021