To furnish or not to furnish?
Steve Wright, Lettings Partner at Fenn Wright in Colchester provides his top tips for providing a furnished or unfurnished home, and advises what option is best for your tenants.
“With the exception of a cooker/oven and insuring that there is heating, hot water and electricity at the property, there is no law that requires landlords to offer furniture, appliances, accessories and so on for tenants. Other than those items, you may leave a property empty. Which option you choose to do depends on which segment of the rental market you are in. It’s about knowing who your customer is and meeting their needs – a student for example, who just needs a crash pad whilst at university, will require something entirely different to a family looking for a larger space.
“Generally, I advise my clients not to furnish a property. In my experience, around 85% of tenants in and around Colchester seek unfurnished homes so you could risk losing a big chunk of the market by offering furnished, restricting your chances of finding the right tenant and encouraging lengthy void periods. Furthermore, there is minimal difference in rental values between furnished and unfurnished properties, so why spend a lot of time and money on items such as furniture, utensils, kitchenware, tools and so on if it doesn’t add value to the rent?
The pros of providing an unfurnished home include:
• It’s much easier to find tenants. The aim of every landlord is to find good quality tenants for the long-term.
• There is no need to spend a fortune on items for the property.
• The stresses and concerns of ‘wear and tear’ and damages are removed.
• Most tenants already have their own furniture and items, as they have most likely moved out of somewhere where they needed it. This is particularly true of older tenants and families.
• Tenants who buy their own furniture are more inclined to stay longer in a property, as moving it all out can be expensive and stressful.
• You do not need to provide insurance for anything a tenant brings into the property.
• You do not need to worry about safety standards of property items provided by the tenant.
• You are not responsible for problems associated with any of the items a tenant brings into the property.
• Tenants may be much happier with their own furniture than yours.
“However, there are situations in which I do believe providing a furnished home is the best option. Firstly, young people are generally more mobile, especially in the student-housing sector and can’t afford to buy everything that is required to make a house a home. Secondly, if a client is moving abroad and does not want to store their own items, it would be easier to leave the furniture in situ rather than potentially have to pay to store it.
The pros of providing a furnished home include:
• This option saves tenants a lot of money. It’s not just furniture they need to think about – it’s also accessories for the bathroom and living room, kitchen utensils etc.
• It comes back down to knowing your customer, and in the student sector, you may let the property quicker as most students can’t afford to buy furniture, especially for somewhere they will only be living for the short-medium term.
“However, there’s a lot more to think about when furnishing a property such as insurance and safety standards…
• Don’t clutter – it’s important that you don’t clutter a home as this can make properties appear small and put off tenants. You need to get the right balance of making a property look lived in but not to the extent of over cramming.
• Insurance – although by law you do not need to take out contents insurance on all of the items you provide at a property, we do advise you do.
• Inventory list – make sure your letting agent provides a detailed list of everything in the property before the tenancy starts. This will help your agent ascertain any missing or damaged items when the tenancy ends.
• Safety – we recommend that you carry out a Portable Appliance Test on your electrical goods whilst by law furniture must adhere to the legal fire resistant standard. Fabric furniture for example must have labels proving they meet the required standard.
“The lettings department at Fenn Wright are experts in their local markets, and so are best placed to provide you with all of the information and advice you need when deciding whether to furnish a property or not. Speak to one of our friendly professionals at your local branch.