06 Apr 2021

Question from a Landlord client:

Hello Phil.  Regarding my HMO in London E3,  we have now done all the compliance work following your detailed HHSRS audit, and the problem tenant has now moved out. I’ve had his old room decorated in white and parts of the house ‘tickled up’ where we had the fire alarm fitted (brown filler/plaster everywhere after that work!).

I’m seeking your advice as an HMO landlord and my question is regarding decor and furnishings, and the quality/expectations thereof in the market.

The house is situated in a nice area as you know but I’m not sure what potential tenants will think of the woodchip wallpaper and the green wood windows vs a newly refurbished high end HMO with marble granite kitchen work surface and large communal living room (which mine doesn’t have) and a 50 inch flat screen TV on the wall (again I don’t have that either) just like the places that some of the ‘HMO Property Gurus’ offer up to tenants (and they have the money to spend as they are earnings a tonne of money with their portfolios).

How do I do this on a reasonable budget without borrowing more money and see a return on that money. Any tips or things I should be considering please?

Landlord Licensing & Defence Answers:

Hello G. The first thing I would do is to open www.spareroom.co.uk and put in your property postcode into its search box (tick ‘rooms for rent’ only) as though you’re looking to rent a room in a shared house in the area.  This will tell you what your competition is really like.

But it can tell you a lot more. You’ll be able to see how much rent you can charge for different levels of ‘quality’.

So for example in your postcode I can see this at £450/month

Then at the other end of the spectrum is this at £750/month

A higher quality of finish although the quality of the photos leaves something to be desired!

Now you can immediately calculate how much additional income you’d make at different quality levels versus what you’d need to invest to get to that level.

A lot comes down to how you present the house/room in your adverts and when people view.  Neither of the above are particularly well presented, although the second looks better because the room itself is of better quality.

Ask yourself which of these you’d rather live in? They’re both fairly plain but clean rooms, but one on the right (with thanks to Rob Hunter CEO and ace room-dresser of Bond Housing Lincoln) is far more inviting and will ‘sell’ in minutes!

My thoughts on your HMO being ‘woodchip’ would be to paint one wall in an accent colour to give the room warmth and take away the usual blandness, go to Range Warehouse or B&M and buy a couple of really big colourful paintings (they’re only £15 – £25!) some bedding and cushions that match or contrast well with the accent wall colour and maybe some new curtains to all give a really ‘new’ and ‘designer’ feel to the room. 

All of this costs very little. For example the picture here, from The Range,  is 1 metre wide and costs just £15.99!

Also provide some shelves at high level and fill them with nick-nacks to again make the place look ‘designed’ and with places to put the tenant’s ‘things’.

As well as larger ‘functional’ shelves how about something like this (£14.99 at The Range) displaying suitable nick-nacks for the photos and viewings.

You say that there is no communal lounge with big TV, so consider putting wall mounted 32 or 42 inch TVs into the rooms – mounted so they can be seen from the bed and the seating areas.  They’re not that expensive in the grand scheme of things and if they are ‘smart’ the tenants can use them for internet channels as well. Make sure the house has a TV licence of course and tell the tenants they’re supposed to get their own TV licence.

Absolutely the most important thing however is ‘dressing’ the room and the other aeras of the house (kitchen, bathroom(s), garden etc for the photos.  Because most people cannot imagine that this

Could look like this

So it’s your job to window-dress the property so as to leave nothing to the imagination and obtain a far higher rent for essentially the same product!

Take the photos with a wide angle lens or get a professional photographer to take the shots. But spend time first making sure that everything is perfect and particularly in the kitchen and bathroom make sure you’ve cleaned them to perfection first. I promise you that every little imperfection that you hardly notice ‘in the flesh’ will stick out like a sore thumb in a photograph!

Remember that first impressions really count, both in the advert and at the viewing. Well dressed and well photographed rooms will really stand out amongst the mediocrity posted by the majority of landlords in their adverts, So it’s not actually very difficult to stand out even with a woodchip HMO!

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