Buy-to-let: how to furnish a rental property

Furnishing a rental property rarely means you can charge more and with growing demand for unfurnished and part-furnished property should you bother?

Before you rush out to buy furniture for your rental property, think very carefully about what you need and even if it’s really necessary to provide any furniture at all. About half of all prospective tenants are looking for unfurnished accommodation and furnishing a property does not generally increase the amount of rent you can charge.

Speak to local letting agents about the type of tenant your property is likely to attract and get their opinion on what items, if any, you need to buy. Families and young couples might not want any furniture at all; students, by contrast, will want the property fully furnished; and a single person is more likely to be looking for part-furnished. If you’re unsure what your market is, you could always leave your property unfurnished but make it clear in your advertising that you’re prepared to provide some items on request.

If you let to students, you’ll need to provide a bed and wardrobe in every bedroom, a sofa, dining table and chairs. If you let via a college or university it will probably insist on a desk in every bedroom. Ikea is a good source of affordable furniture for student lets.
 

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Neutrals work: John Lewis has sofas from £299 and sofa beds from £175. Any furniture you provide should be easy to clean and hard-wearing


Corporate tenants usually want properties to be comfortable, at least part-furnished, with  a bed, sofa, dining table and chairs. If you’re letting your property on a short lease of less than six months, you’ll probably need to make it more homely with extra items such as coffee tables, rugs and some artwork — but  don’t include anything valuable or irreplaceable. 

Make sure everything you buy is hard-wearing, easy to clean and, if you’re letting budget or student accommodation, cheap to replace. Keep colours neutral and avoid overpersonalising with “statement” items that might put people off. Think modern, fresh, simple and, above all, well lit and warm.

Go for sofas with removable covers that can be machine-washed, or real or faux leather you can wipe clean. Divan beds should last longer than flimsy bedframes and think storage — beds with built-in drawers provide extra. Supplying mattress protectors will extend mattress life.
 

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Hygena's Amparo table and chairs, above, £99.99 is a good compact buy for smaller homes where space is at a premium


Fire safety laws

It’s a legal requirement that all soft and upholstered furnishings in rental homes, including mattresses and sofas, are fire-resistant so make sure they have a fire-safety label attached. If they don’t, check with the retailer that they comply with regulations.

Several firms sell off-the-shelf furniture packages for different budgets and types of tenant. They aren’t the cheapest option but they’re good for landlords who are short of time or inspiration. David Phillips also offers a convenient next-day delivery and assembly service within the M25. 
 

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Tidy minds: the Malm Ottoman bed from Ikea, £329, has storage underneath


You can save money by picking up used furniture on websites such as Gumtree, at auction and in second-hand shops but it’s better to leave a property unfurnished than fill it with tatty or mismatched items.

Buy cheap ready-made curtains online or at department stores. John Lewis has a good line. Inspect all second-hand sofas, mattresses or other fabric-covered items to make sure they don’t harbour bedbugs. For the telltale signs, visit rentokil.co.uk/bed-bugs. For smaller properties, look for space-saving flexi furniture such as dining tables that fold down and sofa beds. If you can’t fit in chests of drawers or cupboards, put up shelves. In bedrooms, look for under-the-bed storage boxes, such as those at Ikea.
 

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Light and bright: blinds rather than curtains, make a room look bigger. John Lewis has a big choice, from £8 for The Basics range. The above are blinds in Jane Churchill's Larkin fabric, from £35 a metre available in store


Blinds instead of curtains will make rooms look more spacious, but curtains are actually easier to clean when your tenants move on. 

Try to avoid including electrical appliances such as lamps, toasters and microwaves as you will be responsible for keeping them in good repair and you could be held liable if they are faulty. While most tenants expect landlords to provide “white goods”, such as an oven, hob, fridge and a washing machine, they are usually happy to provide their own portable appliances, saving you money and hassle.

You can’t deduct the cost of furnishing a rental property from your tax bill — only items you repair or replace are tax deductable. Meanwhile, from April, landlords will lose their 10 per cent “wear and tear” allowance for furnished accommodation, too, so it makes sense to provide only what is absolutely necessary.


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