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Staging Tips to Rent Empty Units

Vacant rental units are often a hard sell to prospective tenants because they seem impersonal. But by staging an apartment with everything from couches to kitchen utensils, property managers can make an apartment and a price appeal to renters.

Because staging can help you get a quick turnaround on a unit, it’s especially important during times when the rental market is tight, says Nathan Brown, property manager and broker for TriView Property & Investments, a Chicago-based firm.

Follow these tips and tricks for staging your vacant units effectively.

Make a Smart Investment

Determining how much money you should budget on staging can be difficult, but remember the money you put into staging will come back to you when the unit is rented, Brown says.

He says to consider the price point of the property, and spend no more than the value of 20 to 30 percent of the monthly rent on staging. Before you stage, determine the cost of purchasing or renting furniture, moving it into the unit, making repairs and cleaning.

“The cost of vacancy is an entire month’s rent,” Brown says. “So if I spend 20 percent, it’s worth it.”

A good rule of thumb is to stage an apartment one step above the income level of the prospective tenants so they can picture themselves living comfortably in the unit, says Vickie Gaskill, owner and broker of Bell-Anderson & Associates, LLC in Kent, Wash.

Create a Home

The goal of staging is to help potential tenants picture themselves living in the apartment, Gaskill says.

“If they can’t picture themselves living like that, it’s a big turnoff,” Gaskill says.

Although some property management companies hire professional stagers, small firms often have a tighter budget. If you’re doing the staging yourself, use simple props like towels and a shower curtain in a bathroom, pots and pans in the kitchen and a few pictures on walls to help make a unit seem inviting, she says.

“So much is visual, and you can’t overcome a bad look,” she says.

Consider the Size of the Unit

Units often appear smaller when they’re empty, so strategically placing furniture in a room will put its size into perspective, Brown says. He believes optimizing the size of the room is crucial for small units and unique spaces.

“Keep in mind the money is coming out of your pocket,” he says. “The quality [of the furniture] doesn’t matter as much as the size of the furniture in relation to the room. You want to create a warm, inviting and open feeling.”

Brown says his firm often puts inflatable beds or air mattresses in bedrooms, and fits them with sheets and a blanket. He suggests using futons in place of couches, a small table and set of chairs for a kitchen or dining room, and a rolling island on wheels to separate one room from another.

Spruce It Up

Showing a unit in disrepair is a sure way to lose potential tenants. So before you let anyone see a place, make sure you repair any visible damage, touch up walls with paint, remove carpet stains and clean the unit thoroughly.

In addition, make sure the property grounds are immaculate, Gaskill says. If the landscaping and facilities are well maintained, people are more likely to rent a unit and are more likely to take responsibility for maintaining the property, she says.

She also recommends doing a walk through of the rental unit before each showing to ensure everything is in order.

“I always ask owners to put themselves in the prospective client’s shoes if we want the best tenant at the best price,” she says. “If we give it to them in mint condition, they’re going to take better care of it.”


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