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Staging a Rental Attracts the Best Renters and Lessens Time on the Rental Market

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Staging a loft space can show renters how to use the space and arrange the furniture.

Many people find lofts or rooms with unique wall angles and corners difficult to decorate. If you stage your loft rental with furniture, you will have a much easier time finding a renter.

Copyright 2008 Ralph Hunden

I think many landlords and apartment complexes lose time and money by not staging their rentals. Obviously, this can be much easier with a complex because they have lots of units to use as a potential model unit.

One possible option is to use one of the apartments as the model home/apartment to show to potential renters. Have it staged as if a tenant is living there. Large, luxury complexes can often afford to have several, if not all, of their various floor plans available as staged models to show potential renters.

If this isn’t possible, the next best idea for most complexes is to use one apartment for a combined Leasing Office and model apartment. You can use one of the apartments and set aside one of the rooms as the office. It will at least give potential renters a sense of the size, space, and layout. A second bedroom, den, or family room would work best for the office. Try not to use the master bedroom. If necessary, the dining room or living room could be used. If you offer snacks, water, or coffee, these could be offered in the kitchen area. Stage all the other rooms as they would normally be used.

If you are a private landlord and have only one or a few rental units available, it becomes a bit tougher to stage. The most inconvenient would be to have a storage unit full of furniture that you set up each time one tenant leaves and the unit hits the rental market again. This isn’t always practical or cost effective.

A better idea, and one that can even be used in complexes that just don’t have the space for a model apartment, is to have each type of unit professionally staged before listing it for rent the first time (or in between tenants if you are already using it as a rental). You can rent furniture just long enough to get the place staged. Then -- and this is critical -- take professional photos of the staged rental. You might even want to do a virtual tour. This way, when renters come to look at the place, they can at least see what the layout looks like with actual furniture in the space. You can also post the photos and virtual tour on your website so potential renters can see how great your rental unit looks. Don't forget to take external pictures, especially if you have a complex. This shows how well you maintain it, and how proud you are to offer it to renters.

When I moved into one of my apartments, they had nothing to show me but the floor plan layout on paper. That makes it even more difficult to judge what the space will look like when you sign the lease and are actually living in the apartment. Luckily, I am a decorator and stager and am one of the few 10% who can envision what a space will look like. However, I was still not happy that I would not be able to see a model and wouldn’t even be able to see my exact unit until move-in day. I almost didn’t take the unit because of this fact.

Believe me when I say that it is worth it to take the time and money to stage your unit or units and take professional pictures. This will be a one-time expense that will pay for itself over and over again. Just make sure the photos are accurate and not taken 10 years ago when they complex was new and in better condition. This only aggravates potential renters and they may leave and never even consider your place as an option. Why? They are annoyed. Second, they feel you are a dishonest or deceptive landlord.

Now, how should you stage these spaces? You want to make it look like a really neat, clean, organized renter lives in the space. However, don’t make it look “too staged”. And please, please, please don’t use plastic food. Have you even seen a drink with “fake” liquid in it or a rubbery fried egg? These pieces look really cheesy and so unrealistic. Keep it simple, tasteful, and neutral. You want it to have some personality, but the type that would appeal to a large number of buyers.

Stay away from strong colors, except as accents or in small doses, and keep the style from being too specific. One of my favorite styles for decorating is tropical or Tuscan. However, that is something to implement in my own home. It is not a good choice for staging a space. When staging, you want to appeal to lots of people who likely have different styles.

Show the buyers how to use each space. A desk, chair, and some bookshelves with books are great for a home office. Add some window treatments and neutral artwork and you’ve got a potential home office. You want the master bedroom to be relaxing and luxurious. It should be an escape or retreat away from a hectic day of working and taking care of kids and other everyday tasks.

You don’t want all white, beige, and cream either. There are many shades of colors that can be used as neutrals. One tip to keep in mind is that the stronger the color, the less of it you want to use. A mid-toned shade is great on an accent wall and in a few accessories. A really strong color is best left for accessories. Lighter mid-tones and light tones can be used more abundantly. The only exception is in basement apartments. You might want to go with a few more brighter colors to lighten up the space and make it feel less like a basement.

Don’t forget to add things like window treatments, plants, wall art, and a few tasteful accessories. Just stay away from items that are too personal or that have religious or political connotations.

If you have multiple units, rent more furniture than you need for just one apartment Why? Use it to mix and max when you take pictures and stage each type of unit. If you staged an entire one-bedroom, only stage one other bedroom in another unit that has 2 or 3 bedrooms. You don't have to redo the entire rest of the unit. If you a few differnt floor plans that vary greatly, you may want to stage a few or even all of them (if possible), depending on the number of different floor plans and how much they vary. One good strategy is to stage rooms that are only part of certain floor plans or units. You don't need to stage the rest of the apartment, as these parts were most likely already staged in other units.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is still very important to have floor plans, room dimensions, and square footage information for each unit available. Potential buyers do take these home and look at them when making a decision.

This may sound like an unnecessary expense or a waste of time to some people, but statistics show it does help landlords and complexes rent the units quicker. For those units where rent is negotiable, usually the private rentals, staging has been shown to bring in higher rents and more dependable and reliable tenants. You will get back your investment in time, money, and stress reduction. Don’t underestimate this important part of advertising a rental.

Also, remember that this is a one-time expense that will pay for itself again and again over the years.

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