The accidental landlord:to furnish or not to furnish your rental flat?

There’s no longer any financial argument for providing furniture to tenants, but if you do, The Accidental Landlord warns you beware the Ikea flat-pack...

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After spending hours wrestling a pile of flat-pack furniture and grappling with Allen keys, I’m regretting my decision to supply new tenants with “a few essential bits and pieces”.

I had originally hoped to re-let the flat unfurnished. And, since the Government whipped away landlords’ 10 per cent “wear and tear” tax allowance for furnished accommodation, there’s no longer any financial argument for buying furniture.

Under a new rule introduced in April, landlords are only able to offset the cost of replacing broken or worn-out items, but not the initial outlay. Personally, I’ve never seen the sense of furnishing a rental property when at least half of all tenants are looking for unfurnished accommodation anyway.

However, along came this lovely young couple who were prepared to pay the full asking price for the flat, on condition that I provided a bed, a sofa and a wardrobe. They were so sweet that I ended up saying I would. 

I ordered the lot from Ikea, mainly because it’s cheap but also because tenants seem to love that simple Scandinavian style. But I’d forgotten how tortuous I find their furniture is to assemble, especially when the only instructions are drawings that I just don’t seem able to fathom.

So here I am, surrounded by cardboard and plastic packaging with a half-built wardrobe and a bed that looks like there is something I have missed out of it, cursing myself for not buying slightly more expensive furniture that came ready assembled. 

On the bright side, my efforts might make the place easier to re-let in the future. Upad, an online letting agent, says adverts with good-quality photos of furnished rooms generate far more enquiries than amateur photos of empty properties. In a little experiment, it advertised the same flat in Mitcham in south London on Rightmove four times and the only thing it changed was whether the property was furnished and whether the photos were shot professionally.

When it used a lead photo of an empty living room, the ad generated four enquiries but the number more than trebled when the room was photographed with furniture. When professional photos were taken of the furnished room, it generated six times more enquiries than the amateur shots of an empty room. 

This doesn’t necessarily prove that more tenants want furnished accommodation, but it shows that presentation is key. According to Upad chief James Davis, there has been a threefold increase in the last year in the number of tenants searching for rentals on their mobiles, where the images take up virtually the whole screen, so it’s more important than ever that properties look good in the ad.

Ikea is great for rental furniture but if you can’t face assembling it yourself, there are companies that specialise in providing London landlords with ready-made items. As for me, I’m going to call my teenage son and offer him £10 an hour to finish this lot after school. 

Child labour in London doesn’t come cheap, but at least he will put the bed straight.


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