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Your buy to let property: furnished or unfurnished?

To furnish, or not to furnish.... That is the question!

by .

To furnish, or not to furnish?

Fortunately, the quandary isn’t as full of existential angst as Hamlet’s. It’s not ‘the’ question, but it’s an important one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options – and also happy compromises, if you feel torn between them.

The furnished property

Furnished property can be tailored to specific types of tenants; I looked at how in my recent blog, decorating your buy to let property.

A furnished property will attract tenants who are in a hurry to set up home or who don’t have a lot of extra budget for furniture, meaning you could find tenants more quickly for a property with everything already in place. It’s also claimed that some furnished properties can yield higher rents – look into your local market.

You can also claim ‘wear and tear allowance’ for a furnished property, equal to 10% of your ‘net rent’ (rent minus expenses). If you don’t claim this, you can reclaim ‘renewals allowance’ for the cost of replacing furniture – HMRC advises that you can only have one or the other, though.

The unfurnished property

The unfurnished property is a blank canvas for tenants to decorate with their own things. It’s suggested that tenants who move in with their own belongings feel more at home and therefore stay put for longer.

You don’t have to worry about furniture fire safety compliance if furniture isn’t included with the tenancy. It’s also not your responsibility to insure the contents of the property, though you still need to take out buildings insurance.

The best of both worlds

There aren’t only two absolutes – the space between furnished and unfurnished is a big grey area (or perhaps cream or beige) full of alternatives that combine both options.

You can advertise your property as ‘available furnished or unfurnished’. This way you appeal to the largest number of tenants. An idea here is to set aside a furniture budget and furnish the property if needed. You might also have furniture good to go – if it’s unused you can store it, sell it or use it in another property.

You could alternatively advertise the property as ‘part furnished’. This is an ambiguous term, and should be clarified on the advertising. Sometimes it means that the flat has everything except beds, whereas sometimes only a few cupboards and a chair or two are available.

Try asking the tenants during the viewing if they’d like anything else included. As above, you could budget for it, or if the demands get quite lofty (if they want a four-piece designer suite, for instance), you could negotiate an appropriate rent increase.

It’s worth pointing out that the renewals allowance I mentioned above is available for part-furnished and unfurnished properties as well as furnished.

Furnishing for different tenants

Students

Rents will be quite low, so furnishings can’t be too opulent. Go with sturdy, affordable and basic items; desks will be a definite boon. Students are a dab hand with rugs and throws, so second hand is okay – just make sure that everything is fire safety compliant!

Families

A family may already have a small number of their own items – offering one of the ‘best of both’ options looked at above might be an idea. If you do go fully furnished, more options will be needed, such as dining sets and hall furniture. Place matching furniture throughout the home if you can.

Young professionals

Young professionals might have one sofa or a chest of drawers or two, but are just as likely to have come straight from home or university. Again, think about giving your tenant options for the furniture. What furniture you do provide should be functional and quite modern.

Corporate or business let

These very specific types of clients want to move in quickly into a ready-made home, so everything needs to be good to go, from bed to bottle opener. Think what you’d need in your own home – kitchen appliances, towels, spare bed linen, wireless internet, telephone and home entertainment should all be provided. Décor should be high-end and modern.

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.