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How to decorate your rental property and attract tenants

06 Jul, 2017


How to decorate your rental property and attract tenants

One of the things we’re most often asked about – by landlords and tenants – is the subject of redecorating a rented flat.

Landlords generally want advice about the best way to decorate their property in order to make it attractive to would-be tenants, whilst the tenants often want to know whether they’re allowed to change the décor of a property they don’t own and, if they are, what they are able to do.

The answers to both groups are obviously different, but the themes are surprisingly similar.

Your decoration should be decorous and we use the word decorous not because it’s clever or alliterative (though it may be one, both or none of those things), but because one part of the definition of the word is restraint –  and we’re quite big on restraint when it comes to interior design for a rental property.

And by the way, the advice that follows may be aimed at the residential lettings market, but it’s equally applicable to a holiday rental for those of you dipping your toes into those waters.

Let’s start with landlords.

First and foremost, your property is there to give you two types of income: a monthly revenue stream in the short-term and a capital return in the long-term. It is, therefore, a business and not your own home – and that’s how you should view it. It is not, as a good number of landlords we’ve come across in our thirty years seem to think, a platform from which to give voice to your penchant for surrealist art.

That deep ochre feature wall may well be the right solution for the home in which you live, but it’s less likely to be the right choice for a three-bed rented flat in Fulham.

The key to decorating for the lettings market is neutrality and whilst it might pain the interior designer in all of us to say so, vanilla (or, in this case, magnolia) is very definitely the new black. And when we say magnolia, what we really mean by that is a gentle palette that is unlikely to stir a strong reaction either way in someone looking around your property with a view to living in it for a year or more.

Magnolia, white, soft yellows or blues – the sort of colours that will sit comfortably on the eye and give the impression of a space that is clean, bright and yet holds the promise that a blank canvas can evoke.

Use hard wearing, washable paint where you can – you’ll thank us for that tip when it comes to post- or mid-tenancy cleans.

Soft and hard furnishings in any accommodation – carpets, curtains, bathroom and kitchen suites – should all be guided by the same principle. It’s fine to seek contrast to some degree, but try to avoid really bold colours like deep reds (unless, of course, the property is one of period and you’ve made the conscious decision to market it as such) and settle instead for a more nuanced feel that sets each element in its best light.

Research shows the kitchen as the room most likely to determine what salespeople refer to as the purchasing decision – though in this case, of course, it’s the rental decision. The simple advice is exactly that: keep it simple. White, ivory or unfussy wood along with chromes or brushed steel, understated tiling and easy-to-clean surfaces are ideal.

Older kitchens can be refreshed with cupboard paints and an expert hand – and unless you’re 100% sure of doing a first-class job, we’d advise you to use a professional decorator. This is not the time for you to be finding out for the first time that you’re not that good at DIY.

When it comes to the smallest room in the house (which these days, of course, can be bigger than some bedrooms), choose a simple white suite. Contrary to some newspapers which report a revival of 1970s chic, apricot, avocado and robin egg blue are unlikely to evoke in a tenant the misty-eyed nostalgia you might have been hoping for.

Replace or re-paint radiators yellowed by age and heat, get some white emulsion and run a roller over the ceilings

Beyond that, replace or re-paint anything that’s obviously worn or damaged (and pay particular attention here to skirting boards, cornicing, kitchen cupboards, bathroom tiling and door frames) and ensure that exterior paintwork – especially the front door, as this will be their first experience of your property – is up to scratch.

For tenants, the answer to the Can I decorate the property to my own taste question is also quite simple: it’s down to the landlord. Most landlords have invested time and no little money creating a look for their property and are therefore either unwilling, reluctant or both to allow their tenants to change things.

Others are more flexible and we’ll assume, for the moment, that you’ve got one of them as your landlord.

Again, we caution restraint. It’s almost certain that your landlord will only grant you permission to redecorate if you commit to returning the property to the condition in which you found it when you come to leave, so it’s in your interests to avoid bold colours that will be harder to cover up.

Unless the property is in a poor state of repair when you move in, you can probably forget about asking your landlord for a contribution to the cost of any work you want to do, so if you want to create a property that suits your personal taste you should expect to do it on your own dime.

And we’d advise you taking out insurance, so you’re covered should you kick over a tin of paint on that nice new carpet the landlord had laid a week before you moved in.

Your landlord will expect to bear the cost of reasonable necessary maintenance, so when things need repairing or redecorating through fair wear and tear, you won’t be expected to take on that cost. But anything you change out of a sense of personal taste will come with a price tag.

In the end, our advice – always – is for landlords to decorate so that tenants will want to rent from you and be happy to live with the colour schemes you’ve chosen but will also be easy to refresh when the time comes.