By Colleen Tang
The last thing any property manager wants is vacancies. In a competitive rental market, it's important to make your property as marketable as possible to prospective tenants. One of the most important things any property manager can do is properly stage the unit to attract renters.
Here are a few tips to turn vacancies into occupancies:
Arlene Viana, who has staged many units as director of client relations with SkyViewSuites, a furnished rentals property management company in Toronto, recommends that inexperienced landlords look to professionals, particularly with furnished rentals.
If you hire a professional to stage decor only in a furnished unit, Viana says you'll spend about $8,000 for a one-bedroom unit and $12,000 for a two-bedroom. Typical items a company will add as part of the staging process for a furnished rental include a leather couch, drapes, durable flooring, quality paint, artwork, bedding, white, crisp towels and a rug. If you hire a professional to stage the entire unit, expect to pay an additional $2,000 to $5,000.
For owners or property managers that choose to rent their properties unfurnished and stage by themselves, plan to spend about $2,000, Viana says. Spend money on draperies and paint, and consider painting the kitchen cabinets and changing their hardware.
Carly Ludwar, member service manager of the Rental Owners & Managers Society of B.C., recommends property managers spend much of their time on their unit's curb appeal, especially if the rental is a townhouse or single-family home. For example, if there is a fence outside your property, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint. Also, make sure to get rid of any garbage strewn about the property.
"Half of [a person's] decision is made when they put their car in park outside the building," Ludwar says. "Unfortunately, if last night you had a bunch of people over, and you have a bunch of empty cans and pizza boxes on the lawn, that's when you end up getting those people who call, make an appointment and don't show up. They really did show up, it's just that they pulled up, saw that [garbage] and kept going."
After focusing on the outside of your facility, turn your attention to security features and amenities, Ludwar says. Security upgrades may include a deadbolt or peephole in the front door, while adding a washer and dryer to the unit can significantly improve the property's market value. The bathroom and kitchen also should be a focus when staging your unit because those are the only rooms a tenant can't change with their own furniture, Ludwar says.
Instead of making wholesale changes to your unit's bathroom and kitchen, such as installing a new vanity or new countertops and cabinets, you can look to smaller upgrades to make your property more attractive to renters.
Viana suggests spending money on a nice shower curtain or artwork in the bathroom and installing a shelf above the toilet for extra storage, since many condos don't have linen closets.
In staging properties, it's important to remember the impression certain appliances and fixtures might make on potential tenants. If you have units with appliances from the 1980s, you might give someone the impression that the overall property is outdated and in need of an upgrade.
"Maybe your really old pastel green oven needs to be replaced, whether it works or not," Ludwar says. "It doesn't need to be modern, 21st century, stainless-steel appliances, just not the pastel green or yellow ones."
Other things to avoid include vertical curtains, cheap paint and dark flooring, Viana says. You also should keep room colors general neutral to widen your appeal.
Most importantly, know what type of tenant you want to attract when staging your property.
"You have to decide who you ideally would like to live there," Ludwar says. "Spend [your money] wisely based on who you want to attract."