Unlike when it comes to other ‘normal’ buy to let properties, owners of HMOs aren’t tempted to decorate them as if they were their own home. That’s because just the sheer size of an HMO (three to four bedrooms minimum as a rule) and the fact it doesn’t resemble a family home because there’s often no shared sitting room, reminds landlords that this is indeed a business opportunity and should be regarded as such.
That means buying furniture which is decent enough so that it’s not going to collapse the first time anyone over 14 stone perches on it, but that’s not so designer-ish that you’re going to be in tears when, the first time you round come to collect the rent, there’s a huge coffee stain on the pretty pink fabric cushions (in the event your HMO does have a sitting room).
But we jest a bit here; what are you really looking at in terms of furniture for your new HMO? And are you expected to supply all those appliances too such as a toaster, microwave, TV, iron etc? Then there’s the whole bedding issue…
No Fancy-ness with Fabric
We’re sure you kind of realised there’s no point in hitting the upmarket furniture stores. Not only should the material of your couch, curtains, cushions etc be hard wearing and machine washable, they should also be neutral in colour, such as beige or white so that they’ll fit in with most colour schemes (the idea is to provide a ‘blank canvas’ for the tenants to create their own design upon). Do, however, go darker with the carpet but keep it plain rather than patterned.
When it comes to items such as wardrobes, kitchen tables and chairs, the sturdier items in the likes of IKEA are ideal. It’s an idea to go round several furniture stores, especially when it comes to buying beds and desks, to negotiate for the best bulk discount.
If you really can’t be bothered to hunt around for furniture – or simply don’t have the time – then there are companies who specialise in supplying complete HMO room packages. A quick Google search should alert you to many of them. And I’ll add some recommendations in other areas of the website.
You’ll probably be putting in a fridge freezer, washing machine and cooker but it’s up to you really whether you want to supply a TV, microwave, toaster etc as well. Doing so will, of course, make the property more attractive to students and others who perhaps don’t have a lot of goods in this respect. However, it also means that it’s your responsibility to have them PAT tested every year so that if any of these electrical items blow up and cause injury to a tenant or their property, you can’t be held responsible.
Bringing in the basics
Lots of HMO tenants won’t have their own cutlery or pots and pans – so it’s always a good idea to supply this (you can get some really inexpensive and reasonably sturdy sets in supermarkets these days). It’s also a good idea to supply mugs, plates and other items of crockery – buy as a complete package for a cheaper outlay.
It’s not your responsibility to supply bedding, but you should install mattress covers on every bed and write in to the contract that they must be used. And when it comes to mattresses buy a mid-range version for it’ll last far longer than its budget neighbour.
When it comes to lighting, do consider LED fittings (you can buy retro-fit bulbs these days so it’s just a case of screwing in the bulb to the socket). LED bulbs are so much less expensive in the long-run than other forms of lighting and if your tenants aren’t paying so much on utility bills, then there should conceivably be more money to put towards the rent!
On the subject of lighting, a few uplighters or wall lights in the hall or kitchen don’t cost a lot of money yet they can really help to make a room look inviting and give your property the edge over that equally suitable HMO a little further down the road.
Romanticising a Room
We don’t mean ‘romanticising’ in the traditional sense, but rather dressing the room up so that the prospective tenant can see how cosy it could be. Ideally they would then fall in love with it and tell you then and there that they must have it. So, when showing the property for let, furnish one of the rooms with bedding, lamps, maybe the odd picture and a candle or two. This is only for show of course but it does get the wheels turning for the would-be tenant.
The above isn’t a fail-safe list but rather contains useful advice and tips that we’ve learned over the years in our own experience of managing and owning HMOs. We hope you find it equally as helpful and if you’ve any ideas to add of your own we’d love to hear them here at Property Go-To Girl.
images via focalpointestates.com and www.mistoria.co.uk
I'm Jacquie the Property Go-To Girl. I am passionate about property. I love to help people make the most out of their property investments!