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    To Furnish or Not To Furnish Your Buy-to-Let Apartment

    The UK buy-to-let market is growing and currently running at record levels of 8.7 million homes according to the latest figures. But whether residential property is offered for rent in London, Manchester or Birmingham, landlords can all agree on one thing: their properties need to attract good quality tenants. The question is whether this is best achieved by presenting flats as unfurnished or fully furnished accommodation?


    Landlords are not obliged to furnish their rental properties but they may decide to do so. That decision depends on several factors including the type and location of the flat, the preferred tenancy period and expected rental yield, and whether the place is currently furnished. Clearly, the way an apartment is presented to the market will have a large impact on the type of tenant it is most likely to attract. What is ideally suited to one tenant could be completely wrong for another.


    Let’s take a closer look at both options – furnished and unfurnished – in turn.

    What is a furnished apartment?

    There is no legal definition for ‘furnished’ property, which leaves it open to individual landlords how they wish to interpret the term according to the level of comfort and luxury offered. For high-end rental properties, crockery and cutlery, towels and bedding and top quality furniture will be expected to be provided. As an absolute minimum, a furnished property should come with:


    • Bedroom furniture (bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers)
    • Sofa and/or armchairs in the living room
    • Dining table and chairs
    • Window dressings, carpets and other soft furnishings
    • Kitchen appliances (hob/oven, fridge/freezer, washing machine)
    • Kitchen utensils including pots and pans


    Electrical appliances should be PAT tested for safety before every tenancy, while upholstered furniture must have the necessary fire regulations labels.

    What sort of tenants will be looking for furnished apartments?

    If you are presenting your rental accommodation as fully furnished apartments, you are most likely to attract tenants who want to be able to move straight in and get on with their lives.

    This includes:

    • Young people who have moved out of home, first-time renters (of any age) as well as students
    • Young professionals who have no immediate intention of settling down, and are looking for trendy accommodation in the right location
    • Corporate tenants on secondment or shorter term postings who are looking for home comforts and flexible lets
    • Overseas visitors (business or pleasure) who have neither the time nor the inclination to go furniture shopping
    • Lifestyle renters who prefer not to be tied down and are looking for flexible accommodation options

    What are the pros and cons of furnished apartments?

    The furnished lettings market is particularly strong in desirable city centre locations where small, particularly 2-bedroom apartments are in strong demand, meaning suitable tenants of high quality can be found quickly. Rental yields in prime residential areas can be extremely high, provided that properties are well furnished and immaculately finished.


    If you are aiming your property at this top market segment, one option is to consider asking a professional interior designer to carry out a ‘home furnishing service’ to help you achieve the perfect result. Rather than a full scale designer makeover, this is known in the industry as FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment), covering the moveable aspects of a home, rather than any structural changes. It can be a very effective way to provide the luxury, professional touch within a smaller budget profile. As one expert in the field asserts, ”Have you ever dreamed of hiring an interior designer but assumed your budget or project was just too small for someone to take on? Think again.” 


    At the other end of the market, a low standard of furnished accommodation mustn’t mean scruffy or worn-out items. This could easily put prospective tenants off your rental flat and increase your void periods.


    Any furniture and other items included are susceptible to damage or ‘wear and tear’ during the tenancy, and landlords should expect to repair and/or replace things as and when necessary. Ensure that a detailed inventory (including images) is taken at the beginning and the end of each tenancy to enable you to retain full control of costs. It is also wise to take out the right level of contents insurance to cover the cost of any furniture etc that may need replacing.

    What sort of tenants will be looking for unfurnished apartments?

    The market for unfurnished rental accommodation is significantly different. Applicants in this segment are generally looking for longer-term tenancies that provide a stable home life, often because buying a home is simply not financially viable. Larger properties suiting families are more likely to be of interest if they come unfurnished.

    Tenants include:

    • Families who want to move in with their own furniture and belongings to make the property their home
    • Longer-term tenants of any age who want to be able to put their own personal stamp on their rented home
    • Mature tenants who may have sold their family home and are now downsizing in retirement


    While unfurnished rental accommodation means that tenants must bring their own furniture, landlords will still be expected to provide some basic items such as carpets/floor coverings, curtains/window dressings and white goods. What exactly is being provided remains largely up to the individual landlord’s discretion and common sense.

    What are the advantages of unfurnished apartments?

    Unfurnished apartments can take longer to find a suitable tenant for, depending on the location and demand. However, for landlords, taking the unfurnished route can be advantageous.


    • No need to invest in, or maintain, furniture and furnishings (much less worry about interior design), meaning less expenditure
    • Less work preparing the flat between tenancies, although a detailed inventory for fixtures, fittings and appliances should always be drawn up
    • Much reduced liability for council tax during void periods if the property is empty/unfurnished
    • Considerable peace of mind that comes from having good quality long-term tenants in situ

    Which is right for you – furnished or unfurnished rental apartment?

    Making an informed decision on how to present your rental apartment to the market is always the best way to proceed. Do your research and understand both the demand and expectations for rental property in your location, to ensure you appeal to the widest possible number of tenants. By way of example, in London, most will anticipate an unfurnished rental, whilst in Manchester tenants strongly favour the furnished option. Online checks will inform you on how your property is likely to perform locally, but there’s really no substitute for honest professional advice from a reputable local letting agent. At Julie Twist, we offer a wealth of knowledge and are always happy to advise prospective landlords in Manchester on their best furnishing options.

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