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What is best? Furnished or Unfurnished?

Tim Williamson
Tim Williamson

In the white heat of London rentals, and other metropolitan hot spots, furnished lets seem to be the best investment for landlords.

Unfortunately, Ayrshire and Renfrewshire are a bit short on high end lofts and cutting edge, architect designed Palazzos.

What we do have is a growing stock of new build, new town developments and ex-local authority homes on offer.  It is in this context a landlord needs to consider voids, rental levels, replacement costs, 28-day notices, and the pool of likely tenants to work with.

WHAT IS FURNISHED, PART FURNISHED AND UNFURNISHED?

Let’s get rid of the orphan category – part furnished.  Some websites suggest a halfway house between furnished and unfurnished is great for letting agents.  It gives us flexibility and a chance to negotiate with tenants. 

27 years of lettings and no tenant has demanded a part furnished property from us. 

So, we will stick to furnished and unfurnished. 

For Key-Lets, unfurnished means curtains, carpets, and white goods.  Clearly that includes other window and floor coverings in the mix.  White goods though are a contentious point for some landlords.  We have found most tenants come from properties where the white goods are not moving with them.  Indeed, we find tenants can be put off taking a property if the white goods are not included.

The exception is where a landlord has bought a property without white goods.  There the solution is to offer such at a viewing if the tenant does not have them.

There is no definition of what is included in furnished so consider the basics: seating, beds, draws, wardrobes, tables.  To this add whatever makes the home comfortable to live in, but not stuffed and cluttered.

Avoid personalisation.  Some landlords are keen to ‘dress the home’ with pictures, knick-knacks, books, plants etc, etc.  A big mistake, unless the new tenant is fully aligned to the owners taste in make overs. 

That said, top end properties with expensive furniture and fittings do let.  Simply because there are so few of them.

WHO IS IN THE MARKET?

Furnished lets are sought by students, separated spouses, temporary contractors, the MOD and local businesses, house hunters and longer term holidayers.

The last two categories are down to the 28-day notice a tenant can give in Scotland at any time to bring a tenancy to a close.  Unfortunately, the introduction of the Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) has opened the door to tenants who previously would have taken six-month rentals, or a holiday let. 

There is not a flood of such tenants, however they are out there, and it is frustrating to a landlord who, after all the checks and fees, has such a short-term tenancy because the system is open to abuse.

Unfurnished rentals, especially three or more-bedroom houses, are attracting a rising number of homeowners between properties, using the opportunity to store furniture, and look for the next purchase over a two-to-three-month period. 

That said, unfurnished properties do tend to be longer term lets.  That runs across the board as so many tenants prefer their own furniture.  Especially as the cost of new furniture is so low and delivery so easy. 

COSTS

Landlord also need to consider the ongoing costs between furnished and unfurnished.  The fire and furnishing regulations still apply to any furniture supplied by a landlord in a property.  This is worth remembering in rentals where landlords agree tenants can leave large ticket items at the end of a tenancy.  Student lets are a good example.  We’d rather charge the tenants for furniture disposal from their deposit than pass it onto the next occupants. 

Furnished lets are subject to ‘wear and tear’ over time.  Landlords can offset replacement costs against tax, however worn and tired furniture does not encourage quick turnarounds at higher rentals. 

The repairing standards regulations make landlords responsible to maintain and replace items provided with a rental.  The Scottish Government’s PRT lease in its ‘Contents and Condition’ clause highlights the role of an inventory and the owner’s obligations to repair and replace items listed.

We also find tenants in furnished accommodation can seek large items to be removed part way through a let.  Beds and sofas are the most popular requests. Questions of storage come into play and what is to replace it once the tenant leaves.  And at whose cost.

VOIDS

The use of property videos has cut voids between lets by taking away the need to physically view a property.  Online referencing has also added efficiencies too.

Consequently, Council tax bills are less of an issue between lets than they used to be.  South Ayrshire Council charge Landlords 100% council tax if the property is furnished and give a 100% discount for 6 months if it is unfurnished.  A serious consideration if a property remains empty for any length of time. 

IN CONCLUSION

Some landlords have no choice in whether to let a property furnished or unfurnished.  There is no merit in storing furniture and risking deterioration in storage just to rent a property unfurnished. 

Unfurnished property is far easier let, with fewer cost considerations, than furnished. 

The rent differential is not large either as levels locally are moderate compared to Glasgow or Edinburgh.  Rental demand for furnished lets is greater in towns than outside, whereas larger homes rent faster unfurnished.  

What does matter is the quality of presentation.  This applies to furnished as much as unfurnished. 


Call Tim on 01292 289289 or Email: [email protected]

We have a number of helpful videos on our YouTube channel.

You can message me through Linked In.

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TIM WILLIAMSON

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