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To Furnish or Not to Furnish - That is the Question?

So you have a property you want to rent, one of the many decisions you will face is the whether to furnish, part furnish or not.

So you have a property you want to rent, one of the many decisions you will face is the whether to furnish, part furnish or not.

 Firstly lets be clear there is no definition (in Scotland) of what these terms actually mean and each landlord, agent or tenant will have their own opinion. In our case and for simplicity sake we take it to mean, Unfurnished is easy – Nothing. Part Furnished – Curtains (or blinds), floor coverings and white goods. Furnished – Anything more than that. 

It is impossible to define furnished in reality. I have let furnished properties that had just the basics, bed, sofa, wardrobe and kitchen goods. On the other hand other furnished properties had everything including TV’s, cutlery, bedding and computers.

The bottom line is that as long as the tenant/landlord understand what is and more importantly, what is not being provided at the start then both parties will be happy. 

In my experience (and in my area) the majority of demand is for properties with white goods at the least or furnished. We have let unfurnished properties but in much smaller numbers. Additionally it will vary with the size, type and location of the property e.g. a one bed flat is more likely to benefit from being furnished than a five bed house on average.

This is the key for me when considering the issue, what is the demand, what do tenants want? If the majority are looking for something you aren’t providing then just like any other business the customer will go elsewhere.

There are also other pros/cons to each choice including more up front costs, potentially higher rent (I’m always sceptical about this one) and increased wear and tear.

Its often stated as a fact that furnishing your property will lead to a higher monthly rental income. The average professional tenant will be able to justify spending more on rent if they don’t need to invest in furniture.  This may or may not be true, but in your average one or two bedroom flat it certainly doesn’t increase the rent nearly as significantly as some commentators would imply.

Also, not all furnished properties will command a higher rent. A student house, for instance, will more than likely be let furnished, but you would not necessarily expect the rent to be more expensive than a professional let.

A furnished property can naturally appeal to particular types of tenant, such as professionals, those moving into their first property, tenants who are only going to be in the area for the duration of an employment contract and have a home elsewhere and students.

A student house, for example, needs to be functional, and most importantly, easy to clean! So you will not necessarily need to spend a fortune furnishing a student let, but merely make it comfortable to live in.

In general, furnished properties are more in demand than unfurnished but in truth the majority of the properties we let come with just the main kitchen goods. 

Renting a property which has just white goods or is unfurnished reduces the potential for damage caused by general wear and tear. What’s more, with furniture being provided by the tenant, you are not responsible for insuring those items.

Having bought their own furniture, tenants may stay in a property longer. For example, a family who would be looking to make a home for themselves might want to make their mark on the property. As a result, they might be more likely to invest in furniture for future use than, for example, a student.

Additionally if your not providing furnishings then your not incurring the up front costs, less hassle, less wear and tear and the ultimate expense of having to replace the furnishings when they wear out.

What this decision will most likely come down to whether the potential for income in the future justifies the upfront (and on going) costs. You don't have to provide expensive furniture to make a difference, but it should be serviceable, clean, safe and appealing to the type of tenant you're hoping to attract.

If your unsure then speak to a letting agent or just look at the market, have a browse through the property portals and see what kinds of and how many properties of your type are offered furnished/unfurnished etc and see how much of a difference that makes in rental terms.

Whichever choice you make you need to accept that you will be wrong! What I mean by that is that if you furnish then the first person to see the property will ask if you can remove the bed as they have their own and of course the reverse is also true. 

The perfect solution is to be able to offer both options, but that means that you have to have storage available and be willing to move items in/out. In my experience I would suggest that you chose one or the other options and broadly speaking, stick with it. In the long term this will be the most effective solution.

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