Should I Rent My Property Furnished or Unfurnished?
Deciding whether to rent out your investment property furnished or unfurnished can be a tough call. There are pros and cons to both options that are worth considering carefully before making your decision. Here are some key factors to weigh when figuring out the best approach for renting your property:
Furnishing a rental property requires a significant upfront investment. Quality furniture and appliances that can withstand tenant wear and tear don't come cheap. Depending on the size of the home and your desired furnishing level, it could easily cost thousands of dollars to outfit it attractively.
However, renting an already furnished unit allows tenants to move in immediately with no extra costs for buying and moving in furniture. This makes your listing more attractive to renters who want a turnkey living situation. You can charge 10-15% more in rent for a furnished unit to recoup your furnishing costs over time. Something important to note is that in San Diego County, a new law AB12 goes into effect in 2024 which prohibits landlords from charging an additional security deposit for furnished rental properties. This new law should be considered if furnishing a unit in the San Diego area.
On the other hand, going the unfurnished route means fewer upfront expenses for you. The tenant bears all costs of furnishing the unit themselves. But this also means you can expect to receive a lower monthly rental rate compared to a furnished unit.
Furnished rentals require considerably more maintenance and care. As the property owner, you are responsible for repairing, replacing, or updating any furniture, appliances or decor that wears out, breaks or goes out of style. This adds time and hassle to the ongoing costs of property management.
With an unfurnished rental, tenants generally handle any minor repairs or replacement of their own items. The only maintenance you need to worry about is the core property itself - appliances, flooring, paint etc. This makes for much simpler property management.
Renting an unfurnished unit gives tenants the freedom to decorate and furnish the place in their own style. They can pick items they love and make the space truly feel like home. Turnover is also easier without a furnished unit - there is no need to store or move out existing furniture between tenants. New occupants appreciate the clean slate to personalize.
On the flip side, furnished rentals allow for greater rental term flexibility. You can easily do short-term leases of a few months, attracting tenants in transitional stages like temporary job assignments, renovations or newly relocated. Furnished units also appeal to executive renters who expect hotel or corporate housing-like convenience.
Wear and Tear
Tenant damage or accelerated wear is a big risk with furnished properties. Renters typically treat their own items with more care than a fully furnished rental. It's common for tenants to inadvertently stain, chip or break some included furniture or decor over the course of their stay.
At a minimum, you'll likely need to spot clean, repaint and repair some normal wear issues between tenants. At worst, a careless tenant could ruin your nice furnishings with permanent stains or damage beyond repair. Be prepared for higher ongoing costs to refresh and replace furnishings over time.
On the other hand, an empty unit means no furniture for tenants to potentially abuse or misuse. Without nice furnishings to worry about, typical wear on the unit itself will be limited to things like scuffed walls, stained carpets or appliance repairs. Damages should be much less costly overall.
Furnished units provide extra amenities that tenants love and expect in a move-in ready rental. This includes basics like a bed and couch, but also handy items like tablets, TVs, kitchen appliances, linens, coffee tables, lamps, decor and more. Going the extra mile to make a rental warm, welcoming and well-equipped improves tenant satisfaction and retention.
But furnished units can also mean hassling with the responsible use and maintenance of additional amenities you provide like electronics, small appliances or decor. Tenants may demand working replacements if any included amenities fail to function properly during their stay.
A major perk of renting a furnished place for tenants is avoiding the huge headache of moving and furnishing a home from scratch. The convenience of a turnkey property with amenities means less packing, lifting, assembling, shopping and stress at move-in and move-out.
As a landlord, furnished units also mean less heavy furniture and boxes damaging walls or carpets during move-in/out. But you do need to fully clean and refresh the unit in between tenants, including laundering linens, wiping down furniture etc. If amenities like TVs are included, you'll need to safely store and reconnect them for the next occupant.
Furnished units mean you'll need adequate storage space onsite to swap out, store and safeguard any furnishings in between tenant turnover. This could be an attic, basement, shed or enclosed garage area to keep spare furnishings protected and accessible for unit refreshes. If you lack sufficient protected storage, you'll have to pay for offsite storage space instead to keep extra furnishings in good condition.
With unfurnished units, storage isn't an issue since tenants supply their own furnishing. You only need minimal storage for basic unit maintenance tools and supplies in between occupants. Just make sure to market vacant units early so new tenants can measure to bring their own furnishings.
Landlords insurance policies generally provide liability coverage and protection for the structural building itself. But your policy may not cover a property's furnishings without extra riders. That means any theft, damage or destruction of your contents (furniture, electronics, appliances) in a furnished rental would not be covered.
Investing in additional insurance for the full value of a furnished unit's contents is essential. Make sure to get an inventory assessment so you have adequate coverage. For unfurnished rentals, tenants should have renters insurance to cover their own furnishings. Your basic landlord policy should sufficiently cover the building.
There are some potential tax advantages to furnishing investment property rentals. Any furniture expenses can be depreciated over 3-7 years to lower your rental income and reduce taxes owed. Items like appliances, carpeting and removable fixtures are also eligible.
Furnishings qualify as rental property capital improvements, meaning they can be deducted over time as depreciation expenses. Be sure to track all furnishing-related costs like purchases, delivery, assembly, repairs and replacements. Hiring an accountant experienced in rental property taxes is helpful.
Appeal to Tenants
Certain tenants find an elegantly furnished unit much more desirable and worth the higher rent. This includes traveling executives, short-term renters in transition or tenants who just prefer the ease of a fully outfitted home. Furnished units can also rent faster in competitive markets than empty units requiring furnishings.
That said, plenty of renters still prefer selecting their own furniture pieces and designing their own space. Some may perceive a higher furnished rent as not getting full value for their dollar if the furnishings aren't to their taste. Families with children or pets may also worry about damaging nicer furnishings that aren't their own.
To maximize appeal, carefully furnish units with neutral, higher-end furniture. Keep amenities and quantity of furnishings moderate versus ornate. And offer leasing options - furnished or unfurnished - to accommodate renters' preferences.
So, Is Furnished or Unfurnished Right For Your Rental Property?
In summary, furnishing an investment property requires significant upfront and ongoing costs in exchange for higher rental rates and potentially faster occupancy. But opting to rent units empty also has benefits like lower maintenance, insurance and taxes.
Carefully examine the pros and cons for your specific property and market demand. Units suitable for short-term rentals or executives are likely to merit furnishing. But standard family rentals may do better unfurnished. Set realistic furnishing budgets and insurance coverage, and be ready for extra management duties.
The best approach often depends on the property location and target tenant profile. Just be sure to fully evaluate all costs, benefits and responsibilities to make an informed furnishing decision that maximizes your rental investment over the long-term. If you are looking for expert advice on renting your property furnished or unfurnished, reach out to us here at Harland Property Management today!