Landlords who choose to let their accommodation on a furnished basis have some important decisions to make when it comes to presenting their flat to the market. How do you invest in stylish interiors and attractive furniture that will appeal to quality tenants without denting your profit margin? Let’s take a closer look.
Tenants who look for furnished flats are most likely to be young singles or students, or corporate workers looking for short-term lets. These are people who either don’t (yet) have any household possessions to speak of that need to be accommodated, or they’re looking for temporary accommodation away from their main residence.
If you are offering the property for rent fully furnished, you will typically be expected to provide basic pieces such as beds and clothes storage, a sofa or other living room seating, a dining table and chairs, and window dressings and floor coverings throughout the apartment. In the kitchen, a hob/oven and fridge are considered essentials and a washing machine is highly desirable.
Some applicants may have an item or two they wish to bring along. If you can be flexible and work with the preferences of what looks like a good quality tenant, this may be an acceptable compromise. However, do take into account that you may incur additional costs for storing unrequired furniture.
Rule Number One when you’re furnishing a property to let is to leave your own personal taste at the door. This is not time to be creative with the latest colour trends, nor the place for statement wallpaper, much less unnecessary knick-knacks. Choose a neutral colour palette that appeals to the broadest of tastes and create a smart, uniform look with matching furniture – a simple style and clean lines should serve you best.
Be very careful about saving money by sourcing mismatched second-hand pieces for your rental unit. Unless you have a real eye for interior design, used furniture is likely to let your property down and is almost always a false economy.
Rule Number Two is that practicality reigns supreme when it comes to furniture and furnishings for rental properties. Divan beds are more robust than bed frames, and if you can get one with storage underneath, even better – you may need less cupboard space elsewhere. Under normal domestic conditions, mattresses have a lifespan of around 7 years, but some tenants may ask for a new one (or supply their own) before moving in.
Your upholstery fabrics and soft furnishings must be hardwearing, easy to clean, look good for longer and blend in. Avoid delicate fabrics and light colours that mark easily. Many sofa and armchair ranges have removable, washable covers that won’t need specialist upholstery cleaning, which can save you a pretty penny. Remember that all furniture and furnishings must have fire safety labels
Carpeting your rental apartment can be an expensive undertaking, which is why it is important to make the most of the investment. Choose a carpet that promises strength and durability, is able to withstand heavy domestic traffic, is stain-resistant and easy to clean. Neutral mid-tones are best at ‘hiding dirt’. Nylon and polypropylene carpets are budget-friendly and many are bleach cleanable, while wool carpets are a luxury option that cost more to install and maintain.
Keep your rooms clutter-free and supply key pieces of furniture that are in good order and go together. Fitted shelving and cupboards may cost more initially but they tend to have a longer lifespan than their freestanding counterparts and are much easier to maintain. Bear in mind that every item will need to be cleaned and maintained and, ultimately, replaced. The more items there are, the higher the cost of looking after them.
The cost of furnishing a rental flat can soon mount up. However, if you skimp too much you are likely to reduce the appeal of the property, which means less demand and lower monthly rent. Better to make savings by avoiding unnecessary extras and taking advantage of special offers, interest-free credits or competitively priced landlord furniture packages such as these.
Weigh up the expense of furnishing your rental flat against the ongoing cleaning, repair, maintenance and replacement bills that you will inevitably be incurring during and between tenancies. You should also factor in your (or your agent’s) time for managing furnishing-related callouts. If the cooker suddenly fails, or the curtain rail comes off the wall, not only will you be the first to hear about it, you’ll be expected to fix the problem swiftly.
Finally, make it a top priority to carry out a comprehensive inventory of the contents of the property before a new tenant moves in and again before the same tenant moves out. Both you (or your letting agent) and the tenant should be present for both inventory inspections and to sign the document.
Depending on the length of the tenancy, you may decide to inspect the property more frequently – say, every 3 months – so that any obvious signs of damage can be identified and dealt with as quickly as possible.
Also known as a Schedule of Condition, the inventory is a detailed written list that describes all the property’s contents and their condition, and can also contain photographs and videos – here’s a good example. It is this document that forms the basis for any damages you may need to be compensated for. If any damages have occurred under the terms of the tenancy, estimates for repair or replacement should be sent to the tenant along with details of any deductions from their deposit, where necessary.
Whatever the level of investment in furnishing your rental flat, the inventory is a crucial tool to help you settle any arguments or disputes with your tenant that might arise around property damage, protecting your maintenance & repair budget and helping to maximise your profit margin.
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