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Ask Eli: Renting Your Apartment Furnished or Unfurnished

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m moving in with my fiancé and don’t need my furniture. Should I rent my apartment furnished, partially furnished, or unfurnished?

Answer: I get this question frequently and it’s common for landlords, especially new ones, to struggle with this decision. There isn’t one right answer to that question. Rather, there are a few good options — each with its own pros and cons — that you should choose from based on your financial goals and what type of landlord you want to be. I’ll go through a few, but you can mix and match strategies to fit your profile.

Option #1: Quick rent, flexibility

Offer unfurnished at market rate and furnished for a 10-25 percent premium (depending on quality and amount of furnishings). Be willing to negotiate for partially furnished. The value of furnished versus unfurnished depends on the type of tenant likely to move in. For example, a recent college grad will value avoiding the expense of buying/moving furniture, but a young family likely has everything they need and wants to keep most/all of it.

  • Pros: largest pool of renters, best chance to rent quickly, more likely to find a long-term tenant (18+ months)
  • Cons: high chance of having to quickly sell unwanted furniture at a deep discount or pay to store it

Option #2: Top dollar, unpredictable

Target the corporate rental market by offering short-term (monthly) rentals at a premium (50-100+ percent) above market for comparable unfurnished, 12+ month rentals in your area).

  • Pros: great returns when occupied, low probability of late or non-payment, lower risk of excessive wear and tear during occupancy
  • Cons: high turnover, unpredictable cash flow, high cost of renting (prepping for new tenant to include cleaning service and possibly handyman), smaller pool of potential renters

Option #3: Daily rental, active management

The extreme version of Option #2. Use a site like AirBnB or VBRO to capture the massive tourism and business traveler market by turning your apartment into a daily rental. I’ll leave income fluctuation/predictability out of the list because ratings, pricing, marketing, and experience will likely start as a negative and develop into a positive over time. If you aren’t living in the immediate area, this becomes a less appealing option.

  • Pros: potential for huge return, opportunity to meet interesting people and be a local tour guide
  • Cons: requires constant attention/management, high cost of operation, increased wear and tear, political scrutiny (not you, but the industry)

A few notes to help with your decision:

  • “Fully furnished” = everything from couches to silverware to a TV.
  • DO NOT furnish with anything you want to keep (e.g. family heirlooms).
  • Property managers handle things like rent collection, service/handy calls, and the eviction process if necessary. On average, they charge about one month’s rent annually for their services.
  • If you choose to list through a realtor, expect to pay anywhere from 75-100 percent of one month’s rent, but make sure you’re getting things like a full MLS/MRIS listing with professional photos.

This is a particularly good opportunity to tune in to the comments and hear from the Arlington community on their positive and negative experiences using various furnished rental strategies. Please share!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send me an email at [email protected]. To quickly read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 202-518-8781.

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