The accidental landlord: should you “dress” your property for viewings?

I don’t recommend being totally bare - but I am not convinced you should be all dressed up either…
£750 a week: at Hepworth Court, SW1, John D Wood has a two-bedroom, sixth-floor waterside flat available to rent

When advertising a rental property, is it best to show it well-dressed or completely bare? I don't mean the landlord - in my opinion you should always stick some clothes on for viewings - but should you also "dress" your property?
 
Almost half of all rental properties are let unfurnished, and these are no less popular with tenants and command just as much rent as furnished properties. However, a recent little experiment seems to suggest that properties photographed with furniture let quicker than those photographed empty.
 
Upad, the online letting agent, advertised the same three-bedroom flat in central London twice, but one listing had photos of the property completely bare and in the other it was dressed with a few items of stylish, contemporary furniture, rugs on the floor, blinds, light shades, that sort of thing.
 
After three weeks the "dressed" ad had attracted 75 per cent more enquiries and a tenant was secured from this one, not the advert which showed the property empty.
 
Upad admits its experiment doesn't prove that you have to furnish a property, but says it does show that creating a "show home look" for the photos can generate more interest.
 
It's even more important if you are looking to achieve more than the market rate, says Upad. A few choice pieces of furniture can make all the difference, apparently.
 
Ben Hall, managing director of Loft Interiors (loft-interiors.co.uk), which provided the furniture for Upad's photo shoot, said dressing a property well in photos makes it easy for prospective tenants to see the potential of the space. His company sells furniture packs for landlords. It charges from £714 to furnish a one-bedroom flat.
 
Alternatively, you can hire everything including rugs, lamps, pictures, towels and linen, from a company such as David Phillips (davidphillips.com). At more than £1,300 for a minimum of three months, hiring isn't a cheap option either but, as Upad points out, if you want to dress the property just for the sake of the photos you only need to do it once, and then re-use the same pictures every time you re-advertise.
 
However, I don't think all this is really necessary. I've let an unfurnished property without going to the expense of dressing it for a photo shoot, or for the purpose of showing prospective tenants. Viewers have never said: "Where on earth will I put my bed?" or: "I just can't imagine a sofa in here."
 
They seem to be able to visualise themselves living there without the benefit of a strategically placed armchair or a fan of lifestyle magazines displayed on a coffee table.
 
Who knows, maybe I would have found tenants faster if I had furnished it in the photos, and maybe I would have got more rent. Upad's experiment certainly seems to show that well-dressed rooms look better, but it's a bit of bother and I'm not sure the expense can be justified.
 
I'm not opposed to buying tenants essential pieces of furniture if they request them but half of all renters want to bring their own, so they might skip adverts with photos of furnished properties.
 
If you'd prefer to let a place empty, show it empty, I say. If you do want to furnish it - and there is a tax advantage in that you can claim a 10 per cent wear and tear allowance for furnished rentals - make sure everything is modern and neutral and chuck out any old pieces. Tenants will be put off by tired sofas and saggy beds. But as for going for the well-dressed option or totally bare, I think that's really up to you.


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