Staged for Rent

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Image courtesy Pella

Turning your home – or your investment property - into short-term rental has skyrocketed in popularity. It’s especially popular for homes that have a desirable location and many an amenity that should make for an alluring listing. Many homeowners are prepared for the grunt work required, such as DIY property management, maintenance and marketing.

But you may be overlooking a key ingredient that could lead to poor reviews and low leasing activity: esthetic appeal in the form of fresh furnishings and décor. Ignore these elements at your own peril, say the pros.

“It’s important to consider design and décor when listing your rental home, as most listing rely on good photographs, and visual positive first impressions make all the difference,” says Claudia McLaughlin, a Chicago-based interior designer and founder of CMFTO. “Potential renters are looking for fresh, neutrally decorated and up-to-date interiors.”

Victoria Vajgrt, a professional organizer in Asheville, N.C., says most short-term renters are on vacation and desire a property that feels cozy and relaxing.

“If there are scuff marks on the walls, old throw pillows, an outdated light fixture or a dated shower head, it can make the place feel dirty and uncomfortable,” says Vajgrt.

What may look comfy and familiar to you – like your grandma’s hand-knitted throw draped across the couch, framed family photos peppered throughout the living room, or that comforter that’s kept you warm for 10 winters ¬ may create a negative impression of cluttered, antiquated or worn-out living spaces.

That’s why it’s crucial to scrutinize your rental’s interiors and update where necessary before listing your property.

“We become blind to issues in our own homes, so have someone else walk through and give suggestions on updates needed,” says Sara Chiarilli, owner of Artful Conceptions in Tampa.

For best results on a tight budget, follow these tips:

- Visit other vacation rental sites and look closely at listings within a 25-mile radius of your home to get decorating ideas. “Note descriptions, photographs and overall styles,” suggests Max Loskutnikov, chief design officer at Duncan Avenue Homes in Cornwall, N.Y.

- Add a fresh coat of neutral paint to the walls. “The paint color should be appropriate for the area; if it’s a beach home, think bright and colorful. If it’s a city home, opt for grays or monochromatic styles,” Chiarilli says.

- Minimize personal accessories. “Remove pictures of your family and photo albums, your children’s toys, DVD collection, baseball trophies and even your toothbrush,” Loskutnikov advises.

- Use battery-operated candles instead of real ones “to remove hazards and reduce your liability,” Sarah Karakaian, designer/property manager with Columbus, Ohio-headquartered Nestrs, LLC, suggests.

- Choose neutral-colored minimal furnishings. “Go for better quality sofas and upholstered furniture, which may last a decade versus lower-quality furniture that needs to be replaced every couple of years. These can be easily updated with new throw pillows and throw blankets,” says Chiarilli.

- Select neutral lined drapery as a cost-effective, easy-to-clean treatment for all windows.

- Opt for white towels and sheets, a new toilet seat, and a new shower curtain and liner, and replace them promptly upon signs of wear.

- Regularly clean and, if necessary, replace your bedding. “Go with heavier comforters in winter and light quilts in the summer,” adds Chiarilli. Also, use tailored and starched bed skirts on each bed—“no ruffled bed skirts,” says McLaughlin.

- Don’t overlook the dinnerware. “Glassware and dishes should all match and be replaced if there’s any damage,” McLaughlin says.

“How much you should budget for a refresh depends on the space’s current condition,” says Karakaian, who recommends setting aside at least $1,000 every year or two for a quick facelift in a one-bedroom rental and at least $3,500 when it’s also time for new furnishings.

Lastly, “hire a cleaning team to clean your home each month to keep things looking fresh, and invest in a deep clean prior to the photo shoot for your rental listing,” McLaughlin says.

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