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The finer points of furnishing

publication date: Dec 27, 2012
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Last month we found the key players in this specialist supplier market. Now we explore exactly what they have on offer for you, as estate and letting agents, to help your clients buy, sell or move in to their new home.

WHAT IS AVAILABLE?

Almost anything you can think of, from a teaspoon to a fully refurbished and furnished mansion – everything is possible. Steve Russell from Fully Furnished says, “We have an infinite data line of available inventory accumulated over the years, simple orders might be two beds and two sofas, others might be wanting a whole ‘home’ complete with PlayStations and pool tables.”

Furniture packages save a time and effort and are available from most of the suppliers. Savills Interior Services have created a furniture pack with six different options of prices for furnishing studios through to three bedroom properties, which gives people an indication as to roughly how much it will cost to furnish their property at the different levels available. Savills’ specialist, Nadine Barkha, explains, “The style and quality is reflective of the price, but there is a place for all levels, based on budgets, how long it is expected to be needed for, the type of property etc. We also offer bespoke furniture packages where an interior design process is taken through from concept to completion, which is used for properties that are at the top end of the market demanding very high rents.”

The packages can range from one bed, through to furniture for a whole house, alongside all sorts of packs/extras:

  • Kitchen packs – cutlery, plates, glass etc
  • Electrical packs – vacuum cleaners, iron, kettle etc
  • Accessories – artwork, mirrors, photo frames, cushions

Nadine says, “We find most units up to and including three bedrooms are required to be furnished, meaning landlords need to provide a furniture package for the incoming tenants. Often clients want furniture packages that will last at least five years subject to the tenants looking after the furniture. We get numerous enquiries for rental furniture where tenants are relocating for a year or two, so do not want to ship their furniture over, or a landlord has a tenancy offer based on the property being furnished, so would rather rent the furniture so as not be stuck with furniture when the tenant leaves. We also get a lot of cases where tenants need furniture for a very short period in between their relocation, and their own furniture arriving.”

Roomservice offers a turn-key service, with everything needed for a comfortable home environment, including furniture for each room, TVs, DVD players, games consoles, garden furniture and barbecues, lighting, cushions, throws, house wares, utility packs, bed and bath linens. “We can also offer major clients bespoke solutions which meet their individual requirements for property furnishings,” says Graham Smith, MD.

Focus Furnishing offers solutions in the budget to middle range price brackets and they go even further, supplying flooring: carpets, cushion vinyls, laminates and flooring to communal areas. They have a mobile showroom that will visit clients at their properties. They’ll also supply and fit curtain rails, voiles and lined curtains as well as blinds, deliver and install all white goods and gas cookers which, importantly for rented homes, come with a gas safety certificate. They will also remove and dispose of white goods that they are replacing.

“We offer furnishing packs which are tailored to the size of the property right down to the last detail,” says Kevin Brew, Partner at Focus Furnishing. “This covers everything from hand-picked furniture to our own brand of accessories and soft furnishings. Our two bedroom property pack would include furnishings for living/dining space and two bedrooms and additional kitchen and electrical pack, linen pack, bathroom pack and soft furnishing and accessories pack. We can also provide customised furnishing solutions which includes space planning, drawing up moodboards and working on a oneto- one basis with one of our interior designers.”

CUSTOMER PROFILES

The client base for these suppliers is growing. Where furnishing services were once the premise of high powered relocating corporate executives and jet setting celebrities, these firms are now working at many different levels in related markets. Relocation companies, lettings and estate agents, tenants and landlords, developers, insurance companies – all have a need for furniture provision on a temporary or longer term basis for a variety of reasons, without the need for any capital outlay, so renting is big business.

Fully Furnished say their typical client, if there is one, is one who in every respect is time stressed, across all solutions, and wants a turnkey solution with trust in the supplier. “Historically, and in a much smaller way today, our industry has been blighted with cowboys and amateurs so our clients look to our professionalism and people to deliver on promises… furniture may be the product but we believe strongly, more now than ever, that people want to deal with people, not brands or corporate speak – this bores us as much as it does the client” says Steve Russell.

InStyle Direct finds that most of its clients are property developers and professional landlords. Mansi Mehra says, “Increasingly we are seeing more and more investors from South East Asia, some are first time landlords while others are seasoned property professionals building an extensive property portfolio. We also work with investors who are selling a property and increasingly with private homeowners who simply don’t have the time to furnish a property themselves but want a stylish, co-ordinated interior without going to the expense of using an interior designer”.

BUSINESS GROWTH

Demand is growing substantially with the increasing number of investor landlords buying into London property, says Mansi Mehra, “As many of them are based overseas, they particularly value being able to source all their furnishing requirements under one roof. The majority buy new build apartments and these really benefit from being furnished attractively. When a new phase of apartments comes on stream at the same time, it really pays to make sure yours stands out from the competition – and furnishing the unit well is the simplest way to do this”.

Ben Hall at Loft Interiors has a different market, “Our demand is coming from landlords – savvy, keen for a bargain. They love our clearance lines and property management furnishing solution. Also, letting agent clients rely on our seamless property management furnishing solution and replacement items (like for like mattresses / sofas etc), all part of our ‘refresh’ services.” They also work on high volume contracts for property developers and student halls of residence.

Fully Furnished report that demand generally is on the increase, but especially the market for dress for sale and show homes, “It’s a cash hungry solution, clients would rather use our services than tie up their own capital.”

Graham Smith at Roomservice agrees, “We’ve experienced significant increased demand for our all services over the last two years. Our dress to sell/let service is our fastest growing sector at present, with many agents and developers using our services to help maximise their properties market potential

“Demand for a professional quality and totally reliable showhome service that delivers results is definitely growing but it isn’t easy – sellers don’t find it easy to spend on a property they are selling, even though, they are selling their most valuable asset and of course, we all know presentation is key to most things in life”.

Kevin Brew at Focus Furnishing says they too have won more contracts recently, “It’s not only based on price but on the care and service we undertake which saves a lot of time and reduces stress for the officers and staff, freeing them up to do their job more efficiently.”

CONTRACT CHALLENGES

Home Stagers specialises in character buildings and relish the challenge of sourcing unique items to create showhouses that really feel like beautiful homes. “We use a combination of bespoke and sometimes vintage items to bring an element of style and individuality that potential buyers will fall in love with. One of our clients was selling his second property, but once it was furnished he actually moved in – he said it was 5-star living!” says Collette Hanlon.

Julian Maurice recently furnished a development in Leeds that had been empty for over two years, “I won the contract to furnish 150 apartments. Local letting agents were apprehensive about the letting potential of the building as it was in an odd location. I used several colour themes using feature walls and matching soft furnishings. This simple and cost effective interior design trick ensured that upon release every single apartment let within one or two viewings.”

“I also added feature walls and artwork to the communal areas, organised a gardener to tidy up the unkempt grounds and a multiskillled tradesman to look after snagging issues during the bedding in period. The developer was delighted with the results and the development has been fully let since we completed and I continue to work for the company.”

Fully Furnished is working on a big contract for a development management company. “They were launching a multi-unit site in West London and needed to showcase the development. The five bedroom town house had an unusual configuration that meant demonstrating the lifestyle via furniture and layout was fundamental to giving the best impression to prospective buyers. We designed a full furnishing and window treatment solution to dress this property, but also, crucially, for the show home at their next development,” says Steve. “All the units sold more quickly than projected so we put the whole collection into storage prior to being re-installed into the second site some months later, with the addition of a few items to suit the slightly different layout. This minimised the cost to the developer and he still has the furnishing for future sites.”

Savills work with institutions which have large portfolios of properties in London. “With large properties we often recommend, where there are budget constraints, to dress the principal rooms – the ground floor/first floor communal rooms (kitchen, receptions rooms, dining room) and the master suite, as once applicants have seen these rooms, they have often already decided if they will be moving forward with the property,” says Nadine.

Roomservice has recently completed two interesting contracts. The Coach House was a listed building with challenging architecture and layout, says Graham, “We dressed the property after it struggled to sell. Within two weeks of dressing it was sold and the owner was delighted. Another is The Walpole Collection, a development that we dressed in Ealing. This development is an exciting fusion of past and present formed from four refurbished three storey, six bedroom Edwardian mansions and the construction of two contemporary five bedroom villas. “We frequently work with major developers, not just to furnish showflats, but when it is being sold by the developer as a furnished unit or maybe being retained as part of a property fund,” says Mehdi at InStyle Direct. “They know we can furnish a property quickly as we keep large stocks at our warehouse.”

Next month, we get down to the nitty gritty – how much does it all cost and why is it better than, say, a quick trip to IKEA?

Fully Furnished: www.fullyfurnished.com

RoomService by CORT: www.roomservicebycort.com

Savills: www.savills.com

Julian Maurice: www.julianmaurice.com

Home Stagers: www.homestagers.co.uk

Focus Furnishing: www.focusfurnishing.co.uk

David Phillips Group: www.davidphillips.com

InStyle Direct: www.instyle.direct.co.uk

Loft Interiors: www.loft-interiors.co.uk