Opinion: As consumer spending soars on travel, eating out and live events, how do you sell property to 'experientialists'?

Bronwyn Jones
Granary Square, King's Cross

There is a mounting body of research showing that people are increasingly prioritising experiences over material possessions.

Dubbed the ‘experientialists’, they’re behind the upwards trend in consumer spending on items such as travel, restaurants and concerts. But when property is integrally a material thing, how is this affecting the way we design and create new residential-led developments for less materialistic buyers?

Meeting Rental Demand

Some experientialists would rather spend their money on entertainment and leisure than restricting their lifestyle to save for a deposit, so they choose to be tenant rather than a homeowner. Renting removes tedious maintenance responsibilities, and gives the tenant freedom to change location and property type according to their needs.

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New Build-to-Rent schemes are targeting these tenants by offering amenities that extend beyond their 50sqm of rented floorspace, such as games rooms, private dining rooms and roof terraces equipped with pizza ovens to provide the setting for social interaction.

Some have taken this concept even further, with co-living providers such as The Collective and Roam actually prioritising shared space over private floorspace.

Embracing the Right Technology

While the urge to own the latest gadget may seem materialistic, certain technologies have their place in an experientialist lifestyle.

The most attractive are those that improve efficiency and convenience, saving the user time which can be better spent elsewhere. These range from the now well-established wireless thermostats like Nest to newer technologies such as robotic vacuums and smart washing machines and ovens that can be operated remotely.

Take Granary Square at King’s Cross as an example, which has been enlivened with 1,080 water jets that users of the square can control through a smartphone app.

Smart home technology can also allow residents to customise their home according to their changing needs. This includes, but is not limited to, Hue wireless lighting which allows the user to alter the tone, brightness and colour of their lights to create the right ambience, or Sonos wireless sound systems that can play different songs in different rooms at the same time.

Interaction Through Public Space

When it comes to big new residential developments, the public spaces between buildings have the greatest capacity make an impact, as it’s likely more people will use these than the building itself.

These spaces should be designed to allow for a range of experiences, from small scale initiatives that temporarily engage those simply passing through, to larger scale ‘destination’ fixtures or events. The overriding objective should be to foster interaction between people and the place.

Take Granary Square at King’s Cross as an example, which has been enlivened with 1,080 water jets that users of the square can control through a smartphone app.

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This creates a memorable experience for those who are in the square for only a few minutes. It also provides a space for temporary ‘destination’ events such as food markets, musical performances and outdoor fitness classes.

Creating vibrant public spaces is crucial for attracting footfall, establishing a place identity, and helping knit a new development into the local community. This, in turn, contributes to the value of that place whether by increasing demand for residential properties or improving the viability of ground floor uses.

Looking Forward

It is an exciting era for designing and delivering new neighbourhoods, new homes and new experiences.

By using technology, public spaces, and rising rental demand to embrace experientialism, we can create places where people will want to live, and places that will last.

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