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Furnished Vs Unfurnished. The case for and against in Hillingdon

In lettings I am frequently asked by landlords whether furnished or unfurnished is better in a property. Well here's my answer!

In lettings I am frequently asked by landlords whether furnished or unfurnished is better in a property.  It is fine to just say that you want to let your property furnished or unfurnished.  No discussion.  End of.  However as you will realise the cost of this lack of flexibility is the reduced pool of tenants your property will appeal to.

The answer to the Furnished vs Unfurnished question depends on who your perfect tenant is.  I would bet you are yet to meet your perfect tenant so you don't know whether they do or do not possess furniture.  In some cases the answer is simple, students for example will want in their rooms:

Student Bedrooms

  1. Bed
  2. Wardrobe
  3. Drawers
  4. Shelves for Books
  5. Desk
  6. Chair

Brunel University Student RoomBrunel University Student Room

However in many cases the answer is not so straightforward so being flexible means that you can respond best to the demands of the tenants so getting the best price and tenants.  

Council Tax In Hillingdon

Hillingdon Council Tax Exempt PropertyHillingdon Council Tax Exempt Property

Here in Hillingdon we get relief from council tax for unfurnished property.  This applies for six months and the council have the right to come and inspect the property (and frequently do).  If left for longer than six months or furnished the landlord will be liable for council tax.  Another good reason not to furnish

 I find the smaller the property the more likely the tenants are just 'starting out' and so are less likely to have furniture.  The larger the property the more established the family likely to be are and so will have more furniture of their own.  This is only a general rule though.  A family from overseas are less likely to have lots of furniture with them so you can't generalise too much.

Does furnished property let for more?

 Estimates are that furnished property lets for between 5 and 10% more than unfurnished property.  Let's look at those numbers for moment.

What does this mean in practical terms.  If you are letting a one bedroom property there are furniture companies out there who will provide a pack of furniture for around £1150, beds, minimal storage, sofas and dining table and chairs.  If your rent is £800pcm and you can now get £850 furnished, your investment in furniture is giving you a gross yield of 52.1%.  However furniture wears out a lot quicker than a house! 

What sort of furniture to provide?

 Before buying I would try to use what is present in the property as long as it is in good order and meets the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regs 1988.  

I would aim for a balance between hard wearing and cost.  Value for money without being so cheap as to be pointless.  You want corners that can stand the odd knock and surfaces that have some scratch resistance.

What sort of furniture not to provide?!

However I would not leave particularly valuable furniture in a property unless it was consistent with the type of let.  Also tenants won't have the same love that you have for your Grandfathers old curved leather seat that he sat in every morning to eat his All-Bran and prunes so don't leave it in the property if you can't face it's loss in the worst case. 

Minimise electrical items and appliances which can go wrong.  Leave these for the tenants unless in a super specialised area of lettings such as short term apartment lets.  Any electrical items should meet the thrillingly titled The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994.

I removed this iron from a flat which had the old style plug on which doesn't meet the regulations - lack of insulation on the live and neutral pins.  Fine for me to use at home if I so wished but not safe enough for a rental property.

 What are the tax implications?

HMRC has made an interesting change and now offers a choice to landlords on how they calculate furniture costs.  You have a choice of claiming tax as you incur the costs in the year or can claim a wear and tear allowance equivalent to 10% of the annual rent.  So rather than claiming for replacement items you claim the allowance simplifying accounting.  Depending on your costs this could work in your favour.  There are guidance notes from HMRC and examples of how the allowance is calculated or speak to a tax accountant like Simon Boxall at Ward Williams in Uxbridge.

Summary 

There is a lot to consider when deciding whether to let with our without furniture.  But I would recommend being as flexible as possible to meet the needs of your customers.

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