Whenever landlords have a rental property to prepare for the market, one decision they have to make is whether to let it furnished or unfurnished. If you’re in that position right now, two questions you might be asking are: ‘Do I want the bother of furnishing it?’ and ‘Will paying for furnishing be worth the investment?’
In our experience, rather than focusing on those questions, it’s best to be guided by the market. The type of property you have and its location will generally appeal to a certain type of tenant, who will usually have a preference for a particular level of furnishing.
We have found that a three-plus bedroomed home in a suburban neighbourhood is likely to attract families who are perhaps relocating to the area for a while or who are upsizing in the rental market and currently have no plans to buy. In both cases, they’re likely to have at least some of their own furniture, so will be looking for unfurnished or part-furnished.
On the other hand, if you have a smaller property to let in a city centre, you’re more likely to have high demand from younger individuals and couples that might be moving in together for the first time, and they generally want fully furnished.
So, the first thing to do is speak to a local lettings expert who knows about current and likely future demand for your particular type of property. Feel free to get in touch with us at any time – we’d be happy to talk through tenants’ expectations and what you can do to make your property as attractive as possible to them. You can also find plenty of advice in our blog, ‘How to present your rental property to attract the perfect tenant’, which you can read here:
Once you’ve researched tenant demand, you’re likely to have a better idea about what level of furnishing might be most appropriate for your property. But what are the main differences between letting furnished and unfurnished? Here are the key points you need to know to make sure you get things right, whichever option you choose.
It might surprise you to know that there isn’t a huge amount of difference in rental price between the two, with furnished properties on average letting for around 5% more than unfurnished. We’d suggest the most important thing is that you focus on satisfying demand, and if you’re able to be flexible about the exact level of furnishing, that can often help secure a tenant who’s happy to pay a good monthly rent for a property that meets all their needs.
What fittings and furnishings do you need to provide?
In an unfurnished property, while you’re not expected to provide any furniture, today’s tenants will expect kitchen and bathroom fittings, curtains or blinds, carpets or other suitable flooring and light fittings. These days, it’s also usual for at least some white goods to be included: fridge/freezer, oven, hob and washing machine.
In a fully-furnished property, tenants will expect you to provide all fittings and furnishings, as well as some basic equipment. The quality of finish and type of furniture will depend on your target market – again, get in touch with us to find out what’s going to help secure the best tenants and generate the highest monthly rent.
As a general guide, this is what an ‘average’ furnished property will include:
- Key pieces of furniture: beds, wardrobes, bedside tables, drawers, sofa, chairs, dining table, cupboards and side tables
- White goods: fridge/freezer, oven, hob and washing machine. If it’s a higher-quality rental, tenants may also expect a dishwasher, microwave and tumble dryer
- Basic crockery, cutlery, glassware and cooking equipment
- Some accessories: lamps, mirrors, cushions and a little wall décor.
If it’s a corporate let or a multi-let property, you’ll also be expected to provide full kitchen amenities and small electrical goods, including:
- A range of glassware, crockery and cutlery
- Cooking and baking equipment and utensils
- Kettle and toaster – and for higher-end rentals, a coffee machine and juicer/blender
- A ‘smart’ television
- Lamps, vacuum cleaner, iron and ironing board.
Importantly, any upholstered furniture and furnishings you provide – things like sofas, armchairs, cushions, loose covers and mattresses – must display labels confirming they meet current flame-resistance standards. So, if you’re planning on having some second-hand or older pieces of furniture, a top tip is to check for this label, and if there isn’t one attached, then you can’t legally have the item in your rental.
Maximising light and space
Whatever level of furnishing you’re providing, it’s important to think about creating light and space in the property to help boost its appeal to tenants. Here are a few tips that can help give the illusion of extra space:
- Choose a light colour for the walls – something like soft cream or light beige – and paint all woodwork and ceilings white
- Don’t have any texture on the ceiling – you want it to be almost ‘invisible’
- Have the same wall colour and flooring throughout to help make the space flow
- Have mirrors throughout: they bounce light around a room, give the impression of extra depth and can really help narrow hallways feel bigger and brighter
- Hang pictures in a portrait orientation to make ceilings feel higher
- Make sure the furniture is in proportion to the room. A huge sofa in a small sitting room will make it feel even smaller, so choose furniture carefully and don’t overcrowd the rooms – you can always add items if the tenant needs more.
If your property is furnished, you’ll have to invest more money into getting it ready to rent than if it’s unfurnished, but what else does the level of furnishing affect?
Every landlord has maintenance costs, but as the landlord of a furnished property, you’ll need to budget for repairing and replacing your furnishings over time. However careful your tenants are, the furniture will be subjected to wear and tear over time and, when you come to re-let, you’ll have to ensure the property looks fresh and clean for the new tenant. So, choose your furniture carefully – aim for good-quality, hard-wearing basics, with soft furnishings and accessories that can be replaced relatively cheaply. For example, go for a decent quality sofa that has loose covers you can easily wash or replace.
The other main maintenance job you’ll have to think about is electrical testing. It’s recommended that all ‘portable’ electrical items are tested regularly to make sure they’re safe to use – once a year is advised. That includes electrical white goods, lamps, kettles, vacuum cleaners and irons; so, if your property is fully furnished, you need to consider that it will cost more to have everything checked.
A fairly standard landlord insurance policy should insure the building itself and basic décor of the property against accidental and deliberate damage. But if you choose to furnish it, you might want to consider taking out extra cover for the furniture and other items you’ve provided.
Having a furnished property will mean a more extensive inventory, which usually makes it more expensive than for an unfurnished home. And we would recommend you use a professional inventory clerk to make sure the record contains everything it should.
Length of tenancy
As a general rule, tenancies tend to be longer for unfurnished properties. Some people find it quite an upheaval to move with all their furniture and possessions, and it can be potentially expensive to use a removals company. So, once tenants have completed the move, they’re usually keen not to have to do it again for a while!
We also find that when a tenant brings all their own furniture and furnishings to a property, it usually quickly feels like home and, generally speaking, the more ‘at home’ a tenant feels, the longer they tend to stay. So, if you’re letting your property unfurnished, allowing tenants to make changes to the interior décor (within reason) and being flexible about letting them do things like fitting shelving to walls can help secure a long-term let. Similarly, with a furnished property, tenants might be more likely to stay longer if you’re flexible about swapping out some of your own furnishings if they start to buy their own, or if you’re happy to provide any additional items that would make them more comfortable.
If you’re letting a property for the first time or your current tenancy is coming to an end, make sure you’re up to date with who your next tenant is likely to be and what level of furnishing will result in the quickest and best let. We speak to great tenants every day and can help you make sure your property – whether it’s furnished or unfurnished – offers just what they’re looking for. So give us a call on 020 7048 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org– we’d love to help!