Staging Rental Units

22 Replies

I am considering staging rental units.  Has anyone else tried this?

Do you think I can rent a unit faster or for more money if it is staged?

I've staged homes for rent and I've rented furnished apartments but I've never staged a rental before. 

sorry, I meant that I have staged homes for sale and rented furnished units

But I have not tried staging rental units

This sounds manipulative.  Staging is merely cosmetic.  As a landlord, you should be offering a decent home in the first place.  If I were a tenant, I would wonder what kind of pig the staging lipstick is covering.  Plenty of real estate books say that a fair rent is about 25%-33% of a local typical tenant's income.  Staging will not change this.  I would resent a landlord who thought he could charge me extra rent for putting some flowers on the table.  I think this will backfire eventually.

I think it is a good idea if you are having a hard time filling vacancies.  To me it gives a potential renter an Idea of what a furnished unit would look like.   Makes your rental feel more like a home versus an empty unit with no character.  If you have the time and resources I think it is a good idea.

I agree, if you have the resources, I think it's a great way of turning the property over faster. In this market, that really isn't necessary though as long as you have a nice clean unit. I don't think it's a good way of getting more rent though. 

don't listen to Katie please. 

u rent units faster and get more applications.  however, I'd never pay money to stage it like the do on HGTV.  never. 

see the pics on my website.... put some towels,  candles,  seasonal signs,  a smelly filter in the furnace and drapes.  there u go.  will cost you under 80 bucks for all that stuff... u owe me $200 for saving u a ton of dough 

Thanks for the feedback. To give a little context... We are a rental community of 220 units so I always have at least two or three vacancies. I prefer to wait longer to rent a unit vs lower our qualifications. So, I am constantly working to attract good prospects and I want our units to show as well as possible. I will start with your suggestion of using small items to make the place feel more inviting.

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I would definitely do it if I had the material to do it already, i.e. I wouldn't buy anything but would take things out of storage, and if the property was odd so that people would understand how their furniture could fit. If you have to pay for it, I wouldn't bother; moat renters expect a property to be empty when they see it.

Ben, if you provide furnished units (or would consider it) I would provide staged units with what you are offering. 

Otherwise I think printed floorpans with typical furniture placements would suffice. I am going to start doing that. I don't have any direct feedback yet but I have new tenants that asked for a floorplan  before move-in and I thought that was a terrific idea and gladly provided it.  

Originally posted by @Katie Rogers :

This sounds manipulative.  Staging is merely cosmetic.  As a landlord, you should be offering a decent home in the first place.  If I were a tenant, I would wonder what kind of pig the staging lipstick is covering.  Plenty of real estate books say that a fair rent is about 25%-33% of a local typical tenant's income.  Staging will not change this.  I would resent a landlord who thought he could charge me extra rent for putting some flowers on the table.  I think this will backfire eventually.

 Are you serious? What makes you think he is a slum lord? We recently staged a rental in NC with some extra furniture that we had. The house was only 3 years old and was in perfect condition. The furniture helped brighten up the place and made it feel warmer.

You would resent someone for trying to get more money by staging? You sound like a communist - lol.

Justin, where did I suggest he was a slum lord?  I am only saying that prospective tenants do not expect staging, and might wonder what hidden defects the staging is concealing.  As an aside, landlords need to carefully screen tenants; tenants also need to carefully screen landlords.  

Let the rental be worth more on its own merits, not because of some flowers or a renuzit in the wall.  There is nothing communistic about the Golden Rule.

@Ben Braddock - I think the answer will depend on your market.  You mention that you always have 2 or 3 vacants in a community of 220.  If that is all you have, I can't see anything broken in your system other than maybe your rents are too low!  95% or more is, in my opinion, considered high occupancy and may mean a different problem.  Staging won't fix that.  The other side of that argument is that you have fewer headaches and turnovers because your rent is below market.  If you are content with below market rents instead of more vacants, that may be ok.  Do the math a few ways to see what makes mathematical sense.  If you end up with 5 more vacants but can collect $ 20/door/month more in rent, does that make sense?  I am throwing around imaginary numbers here, test your market.

I would do a market "survey" and see what other similar communities charge for rent and do to prep units for showing.  Act as a prospective tenant and call, or go and take a look at a few.  My guess is that you are leaving money on the table.  I doubt you are doing something wrong with showing your places if that is all you have vacant at any given time.

@Brian Burke has quite a bit of experience with larger complexes and may be able to offer a couple thoughts here as well.  In my opinion, you are trying to fix something that isn't broken while standing next to something else and not realizing that IT is broken.

I agree with what @Adam Johnson said.

For a 220 unit complex, you should have a dedicated, furnished and staged, model unit.  You want it located in the complex where it isn't too close to the office and where the route to get to it takes you past common area amenities such as the pool, fitness room, laundry room, outdoor BBQ, dog park, etc so that you can point those out to the prospect on the way. The walk gives you time to engage the prospect in conversation about why they are moving, etc so you can learn more about them and do some casual screening.

The furnished model gives the prospect ideas and makes it look like home.  Maybe this results I higher rent, and maybe it doesn't, but it will make the prospect more likely to choose your complex versus less appealing competition.  Making that choice faster, or more often, results in lower vacancy loss...and higher occupancy is a pathway to higher rents.

Originally posted by @Brian Burke :

I agree with what @Adam Johnson said.

For a 220 unit complex, you should have a dedicated, furnished and staged, model unit.  You want it located in the complex where it isn't too close to the office and where the route to get to it takes you past common area amenities such as the pool, fitness room, laundry room, outdoor BBQ, dog park, etc so that you can point those out to the prospect on the way. The walk gives you time to engage the prospect in conversation about why they are moving, etc so you can learn more about them and do some casual screening.

The furnished model gives the prospect ideas and makes it look like home.  Maybe this results I higher rent, and maybe it doesn't, but it will make the prospect more likely to choose your complex versus less appealing competition.  Making that choice faster, or more often, results in lower vacancy loss...and higher occupancy is a pathway to higher rents.

 Actually I was saying something different, but your advice makes a lot of sense Brian and I hadn't thought about your approach at all.  So basically taking one unit out of production to be used as a "staged" example for prospects is your idea from what I understand.  I like it.  It save staging and restaging time/expense.

My intended point was that the original poster sounded as though he wanted to be 100% occupied and thought that staging would help him get there.  My opinion after reading that he usually only had 2 or 3 vacants at any given time meant that it didn't appear that he was having any problem renting units with whatever system he currently used.  My thought was that if vacancy was only 2 or 3 out of 220 units, his occupancy was hitting high and maybe bumping the rent was called for.

Maybe we both came up with good ideas?  What do you think?

"My thought was that if vacancy was only 2 or 3 out of 220 units, his occupancy was hitting high and maybe bumping the rent was called for."  Why bump the rent?  Why take a chance on losing an excellent tenant over a few dollars?  Why not count your blessings, and be happy your vacancy costs are so low?  So what, if he leaves a little money on the table?  Tenants are people, not open wallets.

@Ben Braddock I would do as @Brian Burke suggested and keep a staged model apartment to show. It's been a long time since I've looked at renting in an apartment complex, but I remember them showing me their models, and of course, they always do give you the warm fuzzies when shopping for a new home.

Originally posted by @Adam Johnson :
Originally posted by @Brian Burke:

I agree with what @Adam Johnson said.

 Actually I was saying something different, but your advice makes a lot of sense Brian and I hadn't thought about your approach at all.  So basically taking one unit out of production to be used as a "staged" example for prospects is your idea from what I understand.  I like it.  It save staging and restaging time/expense.

My intended point was that the original poster sounded as though he wanted to be 100% occupied and thought that staging would help him get there.  My opinion after reading that he usually only had 2 or 3 vacants at any given time meant that it didn't appear that he was having any problem renting units with whatever system he currently used.  My thought was that if vacancy was only 2 or 3 out of 220 units, his occupancy was hitting high and maybe bumping the rent was called for.

Maybe we both came up with good ideas?  What do you think?

Ha!  I guess I forgot to say what part of your post I was agreeing with...it was the part that if he is highly occupied his rents are too low.  Then I moved on.  LOL

Nevertheless, yes, you understand my idea correctly and I employ this method at all of my larger properties. And yes, we are both right...he needs to bump rents and deploy a model unit and he'll see an increase in NOI despite the non-revenue model unit.

No, he doesn't need to bump his rents.  Rents in many parts of the country are already too high relative to tenant income, especially if the landlord expects the tenant to make at least three times the rent.  Otherwise, you price too many people out of your units.  A typical tenant wage of $15/hr (twice minimum wage in many places) implies a median rent of around $800.  In many places in California, a typical tenant working full-time cannot even afford a studio without a roommate.  Yet having a roommate in a studio may violate the occupancy ordinances of some cities.  Citing supply and demand when talking about an inelastic need like housing is just empty rationalization.

Originally posted by @Len Inokuma :

I think it is a good idea if you are having a hard time filling vacancies.  To me it gives a potential renter an Idea of what a furnished unit would look like.   Makes your rental feel more like a home versus an empty unit with no character.  If you have the time and resources I think it is a good idea.

 ^ I agree. If the rental market in your area is highly competitive then anything that you can do within your budget to help fill those vacancies can help. I have heard time and time again, consumer buyers have no vision. I think that goes for the rental market as well. You can show them what the rental can look like once it has become a home. 

How many of your potential renters are interior designers? Why not give them the vision and show to them more than white walls. (If they are in fact white) 

It all depends on the market you're operating in, as does everything else in real estate. For Example: You can't find a 2/1 or a 3/2 for rent in my area and if you do there is a 6 month wait list or longer. So the need to stage is just not there. BUT, There are so many homes for sale that the renovation market will take some time to see a ROI.

Staging is a great way to catch the attention of people searching for rental properties. It always helps you to stay ahead of competition and encourage long-term tenancy.

We stage bathrooms with fresh towels, bath mats, tissue containers, soap dispensers, shower curtains.  I often do curtains which make windows look better than just blinds.


Gail

I think Brian Burke hit the nail on the head. That's a large complex with 220 units and it's worth it to dial things and upgrade the management strategies. Vacancy is already quite low so there could be room to bump the rents. Take one of the units out of the rental pool and make it the permanently staged unit. Increasing NOI, even if vacancy increases a bit, could result in an enormous value add to the property.

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