Landlording & Rental Properties

Awesomely Creative Ways to Furnish Your Short-Term Rentals on a Budget

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
102 Articles Written
Couple walking in front door of vacation rental with suitcases

I love a good real estate investor meetup. I'm in Northern Colorado and have had the opportunity to attend a few nearby. I take advantage of that opportunity as often as I can, and I recently met a fantastic woman who had some pretty awesome, think-outside-the-box ideas for furnishing short-term rentals.

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Host a Design Contest

Our lovely investor, Gwen, had a property that she purchased and needed to immediately furnish as a vacation rental because she had her first renter coming soon after she closed. On top of that, she has a full-time job and didn’t really have time to do it on her own.

Gwen didn’t have unlimited funds to use for furnishings, so she put on her creative thinking cap and came up with a design contest—furnish the home completely, using the extra odds and ends Gwen had at her own house, plus a $2,000 budget for purchases. Winner gets $500 cash.

She announced it on Craigslist and quickly narrowed down her applicants to the two most qualified candidates. She decided on Jenny, gave her a tour of the property and the money for the furnishings, and set her loose.

Jenny shopped consignment stores, second-hand shops, and even thrift stores, along with discount department stores like Ross, T.J.Maxx, and Marshall’s, and outlets like Nordstrom Rack.

nicely decorated bedroom with big windows and open curtains

With a tight time frame of one week, our illustrious investor needed her designer-contestant to knock it out of the park—and boy, did Jenny deliver!

Gwen estimates that Jenny did end up going a smidgen over budget, but Jenny furnished the entire property—including beds, linens, bathroom supplies, living area, the full kitchen, and even wall decor—in one week. Gwen happily paid Jenny her $500 bonus and still uses most of those furnishings to this day!

Related: 10 Home Staging Tips to Help Sell (or Rent) Your Property FAST!

Free Storage

Gwen had the opportunity to sublet an apartment from a friend for the summer—a time when our area is filled with tourists who need a place to stay. Her friend was moving out and intended to break the lease. Rather than be stuck with a break-lease fee, he sublet the unit to Gwen, who had a plan to use the unit to make some money.

The problem was her friend was moving out—and taking all the furniture with him. Since she only had the property for the duration of the summer, she didn’t want to drop a lot of money on furnishing the unit. Craigslist to the rescue, again!

Gwen posted another ad on Craigslist, this time offering free furniture storage for the summer. She explained what she was doing—the furniture would be used in a corporate rental during the summer—so readers wouldn’t have the mistaken belief that the furniture would just be sitting around.

Related: 6 Staging Tips to Follow Every Single Time You Sell a House

Enter Barb, who was going to Alaska for the summer and needed a place to store her furniture. Since it was being used for a corporate rental rather than a college rental, Barb was absolutely fine with the arrangement, and Gwen drove over with a trailer and picked it all up. King-sized sleigh bed with matching bedroom furniture and a full living room set, too. Barb even let Gwen use her kitchen items.

In fact, the only thing Barb didn’t have for Gwen was furniture for the second bedroom. Gwen did have to go and purchase that, but she made quite a pretty penny off the rental that summer, and since she provides other furnished rentals, those furnishings just went into another property when the summer was over.


Put On Your Own Thinking Cap!

Gwen's resourcefulness makes my heart sing. I love the way she thought outside the box and made money doing it. She helped others, putting $500 in Jenny's pocket, saving her friend the break-lease fee, and saving the landlord from having to try to find a long-term tenant during the summer, which is very difficult in our college town.

How have YOU thought outside the box?

Please share your ideas below.

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Tiffany Alexy Real Estate Broker from Raleigh, North Carolina
    Replied about 4 years ago
    As a landlord who has a furnished rental (mostly for short term international students), these ideas are brilliant! Especially if the demographic of your renters are higher end. For the rental that I furnished, my mother happily gave me items she no longer needed that she’d just put in storage after downsizing from our 5,000 sq foot family home to a ~2,000 sq foot one. For the rest of the items, I purchased them online at and they delivered them right to my door. They took some putting together like IKEA furniture, but it wasn’t too strenuous. I put a little effort into making things look good (ie no clashing colors) but other than really just went for what was cheap, since I knew it was going to get beat up.
    Hubert Ashley Sr from Ennis, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Thinking about doing this with a basic small scale set-up just for showing. If they like they’re welcome to keep and we’ll decide whether to add a charge or just use to sweeten the deal and make it more appealing.
    Hubert Ashley Sr from Ennis, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Thinking about doing this with a basic small scale set-up just for showing. If they like they’re welcome to keep and we’ll decide whether to add a charge or just use to sweeten the deal and make it more appealing.
    Charles Morgan Investor from El Paso/Socorro, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Great creativity. Unfortunately I live so sparsely that the only unused furniture in my place is a ten year couch and a dining room table where I file my paperwork so I guess even that is not unused. 🙂
    Emanuele Pani Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Awesome ideas, I think they probably would work better in some areas more than others but having said that great ideas. For all my short term rentals I tend to use Ikea furniture, after the initial learning curve I am now able to build most of the furniture in record time and if anything ever happens I am able to go get a part directly from Ikea or just replace the entire things while keeping the rest of the deco the same… But I know that my wife will definitely love the chance to be a little more creative with it 🙂
    Account Closed Rental Property Investor from Portland, OR
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Thanks for such creative ideas, Mindy! Are there any more photos somewhere? I’d love to see the rest of the house.
    Audrey Kinley
    Replied about 4 years ago
    It\’d definitely be nice to find a furnished home to buy or rent from. It just makes it so much easy because then I don\’t have to buy furniture. My husband and I have been looking around for the past few weeks. We\’re hoping to find something within the next month.