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Furnished or Unfurnished Rental Property – Which is the Better Choice for Landlords?

Buy-to-let landlords may come in all shapes and sizes but they share a common motivation to attract good quality tenants to their properties. However, is this strategy best achieved by offering the flat or house for rent in an unfurnished condition, or fully furnished? Both types of accommodation play an important role in the rental market, so which is the better choice?


First off, we should mention that there is no formal requirement to furnish rental properties. The decision to furnish or not to furnish is up to the individual landlord’s discretion and will be based on a variety of factors such as the type and location of the property, the favoured tenancy period and the expected rental yield.


It’s also important to point out that the presentation of a rental property will have a strong impact on the type of tenant it will suit.


“Sometimes a different perspective and knowledge of what tenants like and dislike can make a huge difference to not only the rent you receive but the calibre of tenant you attract,” says one lettings expert in London. Put differently, what may look like the dream scenario for one tenant may be completely unsuitable for another.


Let’s shed some light on both furnished and unfurnished accommodation in turn.


 



What is a furnished rental property?


If you are exploring places to rent in the United Kingdom you will no doubt have come across the distinction between furnished and unfurnished properties. How do these differ you might ask.


There’s no clear legal definition as to what exactly constitutes a furnished property. But best industry practice would suggest that the following can reasonably be expected to be provided as a baseline:


  • Bedroom: Bed, wardrobe or chest of drawers

  • Living room: Dining table & chairs, sofa and/or armchairs

  • Kitchen: Fridge/freezer, cooker, washing machine, pots & pans, crockery, cutlery

  • Soft furnishings: Fitted carpets, curtains or blinds


Any textiles and upholstered furniture must have fire safety labels that conform to the legal standards for fire resistance.


Electrical appliances should be PAT tested before every new tenancy.




Which tenants will be looking for FURNISHED accommodation?


Fully furnished rental properties tend to be most attractive to prospective tenants who want to be able to move in without delay and without having to move in any of their own furniture. This might include

  • First-time tenants such as young people who are starting out on their own, having recently left home, including students

  • Young professionals who are looking for fuss-free accommodation in trendy city centre locations

  • Renters looking for short-term tenancies with maximum convenience and flexibility, such as corporate tenants, overseas visitors and lifestyle renters.



Pros and cons of furnishing your rental accommodation


When it comes to fully furnished properties, smaller apartments in desirable city-centre locations have the strongest demand. 2-bed flats in good locations are particularly sought after, meaning top-quality tenants can usually be found very quickly.


Not surprisingly, well-presented flats that are furnished to a high standard fetch the highest rental yields. On the flip side, low standards of furnished accommodation, perhaps with uncoordinated, outdated or poorly maintained items may put off the best prospective tenants and may even increase your void periods.


Furniture and other items included with the property will need to be repaired or replaced as and when required in order to maintain high standards at all times.


It is highly advisable to take a detailed inventory at the beginning and end of each tenancy to assess any damage or ‘wear and tear’ that may have occurred during a tenancy. That way, you retain full control of costs. It’s also a good idea to take out contents insurance to cover the cost of any furniture supplied by you.



Which tenants will be looking for UNFURNISHED accommodation?


Rental properties that are offered in unfurnished condition tend to appeal to a different segment. These applicants are likely to look for long-term stability in a rental home, often because buying their own home is simply not financially viable. Larger properties including houses are more likely to be let unfurnished. Tenants looking for unfurnished flats or houses include:

  • Families who have their own furniture

  • Longer-term tenants looking for a rental home they can personalise

  • Mature tenants with or without families


While tenants of unfurnished accommodation will be expected to provide their own furniture, some basic items may well be supplied by the landlord. These often include curtains, blinds or other window dressings, carpets and flooring, kitchen fittings and domestic appliances such as fridge freezers and washing machines.


There are no standard guidelines as to what should be provided; the choice is up to the individual landlord’s discretion and often subject to negotiation with individual tenants.



Advantages of unfurnished rental accommodation


Depending on the rental demand for unfurnished properties in a given location, it may take a little longer to let this type of accommodation.


However, landlords agree that there are many advantages of going down this route, quite apart from the obvious cost savings to be achieved by tenants bringing their own furniture.

  • No need to take out contents insurance

  • Easier inventory process, though fixtures, fittings and any appliances provided should still be recorded between tenancies

  • Reduced liability for council tax for empty (unfurnished) properties during void periods

  • Greater peace of mind of having a solid long-term tenant in situ



So, which is the better choice – furnished or unfurnished?


Before you can make the best decision on whether or not to furnish your rental property, we would recommend that you do your homework to fully understand the demand for rental property in your area.


  • Check online to see how rental properties comparable to yours perform locally.

  • Speak to local letting agents to get an insight into market conditions and let them share their expertise and advice with you as a prospective client.

  • Finally, don’t forget to consider the halfway house option of part-furnished rental accommodation. This is a popular set-up for letting agents since it provides the greatest degree of flexibility in finding top-quality tenants.


Landlords can offer to provide key furniture items such as bulky beds, wardrobes and sofas, as well as essential appliances, leaving the tenant to bring the rest to personalise the space to their taste.


Meeting in the middle may give you the best of both worlds, and may just provide the flexibility desired by both landlords and tenants to get contracts agreed and signed quickly.



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