How to weigh costs against income to estimate bottom line profits
After reading my last two articles, you’ll probably be feeling energised by the prospects of letting your buy-to-let investment as a furnished property. You could benefit from a higher demand for your property, higher rents, shorter void periods, and higher rental profits. On the flip side, to unlock this potential there’s an upfront investment to be made. Then there’s the cost of maintenance and replacement.
In this article, you’ll learn how to calculate whether an investment in furniture will increase your bottom line.
BTL furnishings: it’s all about cost vs income
To figure out the real value of furnishing a property, you must first calculate what those furnishings are likely to cost you. These costs come in three parts:
- The original investment
- Maintenance costs
- Reinvestment (replacement) costs
Parts 1 and 2 are reasonably easy to estimate. All you need do is look online and compare furniture and white goods from different suppliers. Add up the cost of all the items you want to provide for your tenants, and voila! You have a good estimate of the amount you need to invest.
Maintenance costs are a little more difficult to estimate. You should consider cleaning costs (e.g. carpet), redecoration, and repairs. If you clean carpets, curtains and blinds once per year, the cost will be around £150. If the tenancy agreement obligates to maintain white goods, a good rule of thumb is that each white good will need one repair every three years. So, you should allow for maintenance costs of, say, £100 per year. A total maintenance bill of, say, £250 per year.
Once you’ve figured out how much it costs to furnish a buy-to-let property, maintain and then replace items when necessary, simply subtract this from the extra rental income you could achieve. The amount left will be the extra profit you could achieve by letting out a property fully furnished.
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How much does it cost to furnish a buy-to-let property?
Let’s look at how much it might cost you to let a property fully furnished. We’re going to work through an example of a new build. This gives you another great advantage because white goods are usually included in the price. So, what we’re costing in as the first investment is items like carpets, curtains, sofas, beds, and so on. Let’s consider what you need, one room at a time, in a two-bedroom apartment.
- Three-seater sofa
- Coffee table
- TV cabinet
- Dining table and chairs for four
- Double bed
- 2 bedside tables
- Chest of drawers
- Double bed
- Bedside table
- Chest of drawers
You’ll also need flooring (e.g. laminate, carpets, rugs) and curtains or blinds throughout.
How much does all this cost? That’s almost like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ It depends on the quality of the furnishings you purchase. However, according to costing carried out by Terry’s Fabrics for Real Homes Magazine in 2015, the cost of these furnishings would fall in the range of around £9,000.
How much does it cost to replace these furnishings?
Okay, so here it starts getting a little trickier. You’ve got to estimate how long items of furniture will last. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is to think about how long you (or your parents or friends) have had their furniture. You’ll be surprised how long it lasts, especially if you invest in quality furniture at the outset. For example:
- A bed will last a lifetime. Really. My parents have had the same bed since I was a kid.
- Cabinets and wardrobes will also last forever, provided you maintain them well.
- Dining room tables and chairs are the same.
You don’t have to be a genius to know this. Just look at antiques. Hundreds of years old. Well-made and well-cared-for hard furnishings will probably outlast you. The only reason you may need to change these is to stay in step with fashion.
So, the furniture you will be more likely to have to replace is the soft furnishings. For example:
- Mattresses, which tend to last between 5 and 10 years (average 7½ years)
- Carpets, which, if good quality and cleaned regularly, should last between 5 and 15 years (average 10 years)
- Sofas and armchairs, which last around 12 years on average (though a good base can be reupholstered to save on expense)
- The average lifespan of window furniture (blinds and carpets) is 8 years
The cost of replacing all these soft furnishings over a 10-year period? Around £4,000.
Over 20 years, that’s less than £8,000.
The cost of replacing white goods
The longevity of white goods depends on usage, of course. It also depends upon quality. For example, a good-quality washing machine might be expected to last 8,000 washes. For a family that runs three wash cycles per week, the washing machine could last as long as 51 years! A medium-quality washing machine with medium use should last at least 10 years.
The story is similar for other white goods. Here is what statista.com considers to be the average life expectancy of standard white goods in a home:
- Washing machines: 11 years
- Freezers: 12 years
- Fridges: 13 years
- Dishwashers: 11 years
- Tumble dryers: 12 years
With an average cost of £300 per appliance, you’re looking at an estimated replacement cost of £2,500 over 20 years.
How much extra can you charge for a furnished property?
As we’ve previously discussed, furnished properties generally command a rental price of 15% to 20% more than unfurnished properties. An unfurnished property with a rental price of, say, £800, could, therefore, be worth an extra £120 to £160 per month – or £1,440 to £1,920 per year. Over 20 years, that’s around £28,800 to £38,400.
So, could furnishing your property be good for your bank balance? Let’s see:
- Extra income could be: £28,800 to £38,400 over 20 years
- The initial investment is likely to be: £9,000 over 20 years
- Maintenance estimated at £2,500 over 20 years
- The replacement cost of soft furnishings estimated at £8,000 over 20 years
- The replacement cost of white foods: £2,500 over 20 years
So, estimated costs of £22,000 over 20 years. With an estimated extra income of £28,800 to £38,400 over the same period, I expect you know the answer to the question ‘is it worth furnishing your buy-to-let property?’ And then there are the tax benefits – many of these costs would be tax deductible, making an even bigger impact on your bottom line.
Of course, the actual outcome could be either more or less than these estimates. There are many factors that affect costs, and the rent you can charge may depend on demand and supply where your property is located.
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