Tatty furniture won't help you when you're seeking tenants

Victoria Whitlock tries to advise a friend who has filled her rental property with tatty furniture - including a seat shaped like a dog
A letting agent is refusing to market my friend’s property unless she buys some new furniture. What a cheek, I say, and go round to take a look. But I have to admit, the agent does have a point.

My friend has made the mistake of filling the house with old furniture that was once cluttering up her own house. Rather than throwing out this old junk, she’s stuck it in her rental property.

The living room is a mishmash of clashing sofa and chairs, which are ancient and saggy, and there is only seating for four adults, yet my friend insists the house is suitable for five sharers. There is a fifth “chair”, in the shape of… a dog, I think… but it wouldn’t be big enough for anyone over the age of three.

I suggest she replaces the furniture with two matching sofas, or at least that she re-covers the sofa and chairs she already has in similar fabric. I also tell her to chuck out that “dog” and replace it with an adult-size chair. She’s not going to take my advice, I can tell.

There’s a fine mahogany table in the kitchen, but it’s too big, so you have to squeeze past it to reach the fridge. Also, once again, none of the chairs match and one is too low for the table.

“Ikea has some clever designs for small dining areas,” I tell her, hoping she’ll take the hint and spare me from shouting: “Why can’t you see this table doesn’t fit?” Upstairs, there are three lovely bedrooms, but each contains a rickety bed. “They’re from my mother’s old house,” my friend tells me. Her mother died in 1987. One of the beds is for a toddler. “I think it would be fine for a small adult,” she insists. She’s not joking.

It’s a shame she’s made such a hash of furnishing the property because it’s a splendid house in a great location; she should have no shortage of tenants. It would be better if she cleared everything out and advertised it unfurnished. Generally speaking, tenants don’t pay any more for furnished properties but if the furniture is hideous, it will put them off. No one wants to feel like they are living in the Forties.

If you want to furnish a rental property and you’re on a tight budget, look at Ikea or places like davidphillips.com that offer reasonably priced furniture packs. There’s no need to spend a fortune, especially if you only provide the basics such as beds, dining tables, chairs and a sofa.

You also need to be clear about your market. My friend is confused about whether she’s targeting groups of sharers or families. As the property has two double bedrooms and a single, it is ideal for both, but she’s putting off families by having two double beds instead of a double and two singles, yet if she wants to accommodate five adults, she needs a proper single bed for the fifth person and more seating in the living room.

I can understand the agent’s concerns, but on the other hand, I think he’s a bit of a wuss to suggest he can only let properties that are perfectly furnished. As my friend seems determined to leave her house as it is, I suggest she finds a new agent and asks them to market the property as suitable for a small family or a group of four instead of five adults. She might not get as much rent as she’d hoped, but at least that way she can hang on to her eclectic furniture collection.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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