My property is coming up for let, and I am not sure whether it would be better to let it furnished or unfurnished. Which do tenants prefer?
This is a difficult question, as really it does come up to your personal choice. Lots of landlords run a furnished property portfolio very successfully, and wouldn’t have it any other way, whilst others prefer to minimise the involvement in their tenant’s lifestyle and let them provide their own furniture.
A recent report stated that 60% of tenants surveyed said that they were keen to rent an unfurnished property, however do bear in mind that this may change depending on the type of tenant you are looking for, and the type of area your property is in.
So, what should you consider before you make this decision:
What sort of tenants am I looking to attract?
You should try and decipher the sort of tenants you hope to fill your property with, and work out if they would appreciate having furniture provided for them. If you are letting a room in an HMO, which traditionally you have filled with graduates moving into an area and taking their first step onto the career ladder, chances are they will be very grateful for any help you can offer. This is also true if your property is open for short term lets, it is unlikely that someone who is only planning to live in the property for six months will want to spend thousands on furnishing it to their exact specifications. If you are able to provide clean, neutral furniture, it is likely that most people will be happy to work with this.
However, if your property is a family home, which could be taken on by a family with children or lived in long-term, it is much more likely that your tenants will want to come with their own furniture, that they have loved in previously properties, and really make your house a home. In this instance, you may find that your neutral furniture is less welcome.
Where is my property located?
This may seem like a strange question to ask yourself, but there is method to this madness! Furnished properties are much more common in large towns and cities, many tenants are keen to turn up with just their personal possessions, and not have to worry about booking moving firms, or multiple car trips though gridlocked city traffic with a bootful of bedside tables.
How much will it cost to furnish the property?
Recent research released by OnTheMarket suggests that furnishing a two-bedroom flat, using basic furniture ranges from Ikea, and technology from Currys, would cost around £1,800. This includes the provision of a sofa, coffee table, bookcase, TV, table and chairs, two double bed frames, two mattresses, a desk and an office chair. Of course, depending on the size and layout of your property, you could either make savings, or scale this cost up, but do remember that it doesn’t always pay to buy the very cheapest option – if you are providing the furniture it is your responsibility to replace it should it break, or go wrong.
How much will it cost to maintain the furniture?
Of course, this depends on the furniture you buy, but as mentioned, it is your responsibility to replace or repair any furnishings that break or malfunction during the duration of the tenancy if you have provided them.
There are some legal requirements that you must abide by too, which can carry additional costs.
Any furniture (including soft furnishings such as curtains) must conform to the legal fire-resistant standard. Sofas, chairs and mattresses must all carry labels proving that they meet this standard. All furnishings should carry these labels, but if yours don’t, you should look to replace them.
Although not laws for all landlords yet, ministers have passed legislation saying that soon all landlords in England will have to carry out an Electrical Safety check on their rental property. This includes a PAT test of all portable appliances. Whilst not mandatory for all YET, it is a good idea to have a PAT test carried out on any electrical items that you provide to your tenants (including fridges, washing machines etc) just I case anything should go wrong.
You can read more about PAT testing, and what an electrical safety test includes here: https://www.urban.co.uk/landlord-university/advice...
Are you willing to be flexible if necessary?
Every landlord is hoping for a long-term tenant who will look after their property as if it were their own, so the key to making sure that you find that person is being as flexible as possible. If you decided to go down the furnished route, but find the perfect tenant who is interested in your property, but only on a part-furnished basis (large furniture items, wardrobes, tables, beds etc) would you be willing to compromise?
If so, don’t forget to consider what you would do with the furniture if you needed to ‘lose’ some of it, how much storage would cost, or if you have another property that you could use the furniture in.
Will I be able to charge more rent if the property is furnished?
The OnTheMarket research suggests that letting a furnished flat could net you 21% more rent than the same flat unfurnished, which would be a great return. However, this is only the case if you find a tenant who wants the furnished option.
Weigh up your options carefully, have a look on Rightmove and Zoopla at other properties in your area, maybe even test the water then you advertise your property with a note saying that it is available ‘furnished OR unfurnished’, you can then ask tenants how they feel at viewings and get a survey about your property straight from the people who care.
Whatever you do, don’t rush in and spend thousands of pounds on trendy furniture before you’ve worked out if there is a market for this option!
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