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Furnishing a Rental Property

To furnish or not to furnish – that is the question for landlords!

This question has been perplexing landlords since Shakespear’s day. The answer lies between two competing objectives:  maximising income, whilst minimising effort and costs. Providing furniture will undoubtedly increase the rent a landlord should achieve on a rental property – by as much as a third in some cases.

However, before a landlord shoots off to Ikea, they must evaluate the extra cost and hassle involve with furnishing a rental property.

My personal preference is to let property part-furnished, ie, including certain domestic appliances and curtains. This seems to appeal to the majority of tenants looking to rent a self contained unit – flat or house. For those landlords renting out Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s), particularly those focusing on the student market, then furnished rental property is most likely the way to go.

Costs of furnishing a rental property

To furnish a luxury apartment you can be talking in the region of £10,000, although it is possible to ‘kit’ out a basic flat for around £500, if you seek out budget furniture from one of the homeware stores.  The extra hassle of sourcing the furniture needs to be added to the pot (don’t underestimate the skill and time purchasing the right furniture to create the right ‘look.’)  Add transporting, assembling and arranging of the furniture and a landlord could lose days getting a place furnished.

There are ‘off the peg’ furniture packages specifically designed for landlords, and a ‘landlord furniture packages’ search on google will throw up plenty of suppliers. Most of the furniture kits seem to be appealing to the student letting market, and they offer a reasonably simple solution for those with student HMO’s, where they need a bed, desk, drawers, and wardrobe in each room.

For those landlords not renting to student, who are continuing to debate, “do I, or don’t I furnish”, should also factor in the added repair and renewal costs of the furniture. These depend on the nature of the tenants in the rental property, but be warned, hard living students can get through furniture in a couple of terms, so the detailed recording of the state and condition of each piece of furniture will be necessary to support your claim on any tenancy deposit disputes.

From my experience, don’t expect tenants to treat furniture in the way you would. They won’t put down drinks coasters and might like trampolining on the double beds. My advice is buy bullet proof surfaces with legs that could support a Ford Mondeo having an engine service.

If landlords want to continue to ensure a premium rent from a furnished rental property, they will need to regularly replace or clean furniture.Ensure that the furniture continues to look good, or instead of inflating the rent, bad and tatty furnishings could push the rent below the value of a equivalent unfurnished property. There is nothing more off-putting to a tenant than stained and tatty furniture.

Is there demand for furnished rental property?

Furnished accommodation is particularly attractive to short stay tenants, for example professional workers who are required to relocate for work for a short period.  In this scenario they rather pay a higher rent and then not have the hassle and expense of having to organise furniture for what could be a relatively short stay.

Landlords should make sure that supply is not saturated.  The increasing popularity of buy-to-let as an investment and of city centre apartment developments in particular means that there is an awful lot more choice now for tenants than every before.  Landlords should be careful that they are not attempting to provide the same accommodation as all the other landlords in a saturated market.  This is unless a landlord isconfident that they can do it better than the competition or a landlord is prepared to take less rent!

Landlords should ensure that they will obtain a sufficient premium to make all that extra work and investment worthwhile.  I would require an absolute minimum of 25% over the unfurnished or part furnished rent.

Is a landlord happy to invest the extra time in furnishing the property and the maintaining it once in place.

If landlords do decide to furnish their property in order to get a premium rent, then the next question is….

What furniture does a landlord  need?

There will be all the obvious items: a bed, sofa and appliances such as a washing machine, fridge freezer and cooker.  A landlord will also need storage such as wardrobes and draws as well as tables and chairs for meal times. For a landlord to make the place feel a bit more comfortable it’s probably worth having some kind of coffee table for the living room and then some free standing lighting will help a landlord to show their property in its’ best light.

If the property is aimed at very short term lets then other items such as cutlery and cooking equipment such as pots and pans should also be provided.  A few well chosen decorative rugs and pictures may also help to provide the finishing touch and help bring about a higher rent or quicker let  for a landlord.

Unfurnished rental property

It is true that a small amount of accommodation is also provided completely unfurnished.  That is without even appliances.  This is appropriate where a property is let long-term by a landlord under say an Assured Tenancy where the tenant has considerable security of tenure.

However, the most popular route for landlords is to ‘part furnish’ a rental property. Providing basic appliances such as fridge freezer, washing machine and cooker – items which are now considered ‘essentials’ in most tenants eyes, and are unlikely to be owned by tenants below 30 years old who have not previously owned a property, and make up a significant part of the rental market.

This is the type of accommodation I have generally provided during my landlord career.  For me it minimises the complications in managing the property.  I personally don’t want to be called out every time a bed breaks or a handle snaps.  At the same time this arrangement seems to satisfy the demands of the largest part of the tenant market who are looking for clean attractive accommodation that they can personalise with their own furniture and possessions.

Curtains and blinds in rental property

Finally last but not least…. window treatments

For most landlords, its curtains!  These are the most obvious solution to bare windows for landlords.  For the uninitiated landlords, don’t think it’s a straight forward business so that a landlord can just ignore it. It’s a serious subject and for the uninitiated landlord there is a lot to learn.

First of all, should a landlord be putting them up at all, isn’t it the tenant’s job?  It can be.  Sometimes the tenant will express a preference to use their own.  Generally in my experience is that most tenants are happy and even expect a landlord to provide them.  What about the style and colour?  Stick with the neutrals theme again.  I would advise a nice cream colour.  This should harmonise nicely with the cream walls and carpet!  Seriously, landlords should remember the idea is to provide a blank canvas for the tenant.  Not to dictate a landlords own design style or colours.  I tend to introduce a little bit of interest by buying ones with a subtle pattern or weave.

If a landlord is  buying an existing property there should be curtain rails already there.  If landlords can, utilise them as it saves on the additional expense and hassle for a a landlord of buying and erecting new ones.  Even if they are not great, once the new curtains are up no tenants will really notice.  A word of warning for landlords!  Before landlords rush off with their measurements to the nearest Ikea; make sure you are clear on the type of poles you have and the hooks you require.  Don’t do as I have, career off with measurements in hand; only to arrive back with lovely cheap curtains, but the wrong sort.

Different curtain types for rented properties

There are three principal types of curtain; the tab top, the track and hook and the hoop and hook.  The former are fixed by a material tab, which slides along a pole.  The latter uses wooden hoops, which are attached through curtain hooks whilst the other method uses hooks that attach to the curtain tape and then clip onto the rail allowing them to slide back and forth.

Which is best?  The tab version tends to be cheapest as there are no hooks required although the ‘good old’ curtain rail gives the most satisfying ‘draw’.

Finally, I come to the mystery of the ‘drop’.  This is a crucial dimension for window treatments.  It’s critical in that it dictates the length of the curtains and is normally quoted as the 2nd figure on the packet of a pre made set.  When you measure up you should allow the curtains to finish 1.5cm above the sill or 15cm below. Floor length curtains should finish 1.5cm from the floor. You should always measure from the top of the track or pole.  The other dimension is the width.  A rough guide to the width is that it should be twice that of the opening.  For example, if a landlord has a window 2m wide.  A landlord will need 2 * 2m wide curtains.  If a landlod wants a ‘fuller’ curtain you might consider increasing the ‘gather’ by having 3m wide curtains.

Landlords should remember to measure from the rail and that the curtains will have to be longer than the opening to take account of the position of the curtain tape into which the hooks are inserted. If a landlord can, buy ready made, they will be half the price or less of having them made to measure.  Standard sizes are shown in table X.

Table X        Standard Curtain Dimensions

Width 110 cm 165 cm 225 cm 280 cm
drop 135 cm 180 cm 225 cm 270 cm

I apologise to any butch landlords if all this seems a bit ‘girlie’, not that I am suggesting in any way that curtains are at all effeminate.  All I wish is that I knew what I know now.  It would have saved me many hours of confusion and stopped me from ‘flying off the rails’ more than once!


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