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What makes the perfect rental home?

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According to our latest tenant survey, ‘Generation Rent’ should be more accurately described as ‘Generation Content To Rent’. Of 1,382 respondents, 23.8% are lifestyle tenants who prefer the freedom of renting to the responsibility of owning a property and 15.12% have no intention of ever owning a property. 

Lifestyle tenants however, are a discerning group who expect high standards from their rental and landlords are going to have to stay ahead of the curve to attract their attention. So how do you win the hearts and minds of ‘Generation Rent’ and what makes the perfect rental home? Gavin Stewart, Sales Director at leading developer Barratt London says it’s crucial to understand what is important to tenants as well as landlords:

“Landlords and investors should always have the potential tenant front of mind when making decisions on where to purchase. We frequently work with buy-to-let purchasers, advising on key factors, tenants and indeed all homeowners are looking for in a property. Top of the list in London is connectivity, but this doesn’t just refer to proximity to the Tube. Londoners are astute at using all travel methods the city has to offer, whether it be River Boat Taxi, the Thames Cycle Path, London Overground, Underground or bus. The quality and availability of services and amenities also feature high on tenant wish lists. When looking to buy an investment property, we urge buyers to look at the whole package, such as the provision of concierge services and residents’ fitness suite for tenants, through to the customer service facilities available that give owners piece of mind their property is being taken care of.

“Buyers should in addition consider who their dream tenant would be and ensure they are investing in properties which will attract that demographic. A safe bet for investors, are developments with exceptional transport connections and those located in major regeneration zones. Our Nine Elms Point development is a prime example of both, located minutes away from Vauxhall transport hub and next to the coming Nine Elms Underground station, which will be part of the Northern Line extension. It is also part of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea regeneration district, and is proving hugely popular with investors, renters and owner occupiers. The area is set to generate 25,000 new jobs once completed as the new US Embassy relocates in 2017 and technology giants Apple’s HQ  opening in 2021.”

In addition to quality of the property and the location, respondents expressed an interest in additional factors such as it being well designed and fully furnished to a high standard (378 respondents said they would even pay more rent for good facilities). Increasingly, potential tenants ask what amenities the developments include when they’re looking for a rental property in London The key to attracting professional tenants, it seems, is to make your apartment aspirational.

Helen Baker HomeFabric designer Helen Baker says making a property into the perfect home is creating somewhere: “Where your senses feel aligned: touch through soft furnishings and textures, smell through flowers and scent, sight though colour, photographs, art and belongings, hearing though music, voices, laughter or silence and taste in the sense of your personal taste of aesthetics that suit who you are.” While Baker’s advice is about personalising the space – which would be impossible for any landlord to know tenants’ personal tastes in advance – there is some wisdom in paying attention to the detail to make a rental apartment stand out from the crowd.

Feng Shui expert Priya Sher specialises in applying the principles of Feng Shui to properties to create a welcoming and restful ambience, regardless of individual tastes. “Each home is a reflection of its occupants,” she says, “and if you are renting a home, you will absorb its energy and it will become an extension of yourself. Every part of it reflects different aspects of your life, such as relationships, career, creativity, fame and prosperity. Therefore, if its Feng Shui is optimised then this will be reflected in your life and opportunities.

feng shui for the homeThe perfect rental home must be inviting. Ensure that the front door and front garden (if there is one) is in perfect condition. The front garden represents your future and the front door represents money. To draw the energy to your front door, place beautiful plants either side of the door. The hall represents opportunities therefore, keep it clutter free; place coats and shoes inside a closed cupboard. To activate the beneficial chi in the hall, display a beautiful mirror and fresh flowers.

“The kitchen is also a vital space as its energy represents nourishment for the occupants. To optimise the energy here place three potted herbs and a green bamboo plant. Ensure that furniture for both the living and dining rooms is in proportion to the space. The bedrooms must be a light neutral colour and the beds must be positioned with the head against a solid wall and not in line with the bedroom door to encourage a restful sleep. Feng Shui makes a positive difference to a living space.”

Sher’s tips are easy to follow and whether you subscribe to the idea of chi energy or not, getting the ambience of different rooms right is very important. And if you were ever wondering which room rents your property, from our survey results, 34.66% said kitchen while 33.08% said they felt that the reception is the most important room in an apartment, with 21.16% selecting bedroom. It is clear that if any of these areas is lacking, potential tenants will not give your property a second look.

Aspirational living and the desire to bring a five star experience into the home is something Floyd Case, UK Specification and Projects Manager at Toto Europe feels is on the rise. He comments: “Since our European launch in 2009, TOTO have seen a huge increase in Washlet and shower toilet specification in the hotel market which is increasing positive user awareness and encouraging interior designers to incorporate these into their residential schemes.

“This trend proves that the five star hotel/spa market inspires end users in their desire to occupy aspirational spaces that reflect their personal style. For example, well-travelled clients and professional tenants want to recreate the finest hotel bathroom experience within their own homes. They value time spent within the bathroom and see this as a calming space where they can prepare themselves for the day or night ahead. All elements in the design of the perfect rental bathroom – for example, natural light sources, ambient light sources, functional movement space  around the fitted sanitary ware and showers – need to harmonize for maximum  practically and comfort. Innovations, such as the TOTO Washlet, are helping shape the way people think about and use bathrooms.”

Interestingly, a research study by RIBA, commissioned by the British Standards Institute, looked into what makes the perfect environment with a view to setting out a code of practice for the design of public spaces and buildings – everything from medical care centres to apartment blocks.  The study noted 11 themes for the guidelines, themes that included: acoustics, lighting, space, layout and other sensory considerations. One significant conclusion of the research was that sensory stimuli should be minimised to create a feeling of peace and tranquillity, and that this wasn’t confined to sound levels but to all other senses such as smell and visuals. Designers and architects are being warned to be mindful of subjective features such as patterns, because for some they are attractive but for others they act as “stress triggers.” The study shows that the perfect environment is a calm environment.

For a landlord, this advice translates to keeping the decor neutral in soothing shades, making sure the lighting is defused and that the furnishings are placed to maximising the feeling of space. Juliet Landau-Pope, a life coach and professional organiser, believes keeping the space free of clutter is also key: “My top tip to create a perfect rental home is to clear the clutter. Whatever the size of the property, a decluttered home will feel lighter, brighter, more spacious and welcoming. It’s particularly important to reduce surplus stuff in the hallway – you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Aim to provide plenty of wardrobes in bedrooms and find creative solutions, if necessary, to maximise storage in kitchen and bathroom. Demonstrate how space can be used flexibly – a smallest bedroom could be a guest room, a study or a nursery but if it’s cluttered with furniture, it can be hard to imagine the possibilities.

There’s a fine line too between creating a calm and tranquil environment and ending up with a bland, characterless apartment that won’t appeal to tenants who have possibly viewed several similar in the same day. “The answer is to add some professional interior design touches,” says Marc von Grundherr, Lettings Director.“I advise clients to ensure their properties (especially within newly-launched developments) are fitted with new furnishing packs; in our experience, over 85% of the properties furnished are let within a week. I also recommend landlords use the services of professional interior designers because they find a way to incorporate statement pieces to make a property stand out yet manage to create a soothing effect overall that helps tenants feel instantly at home”, he adds.

Statement pieces such as artwork make an impression and give a property character however, many people shy away from hanging artwork through lack of confidence. Lisa Brennan of Brennan & Burch encourages people to embrace art in their homes, to choose what you like and to pick a piece that works well in the space. For a landlord, she notes that any rental property can be given the wow factor with clever use of eye-catching designs. “Art can be used to create a talking point within a home. It’s good to work with your existing style… if you like vintage you can source old art prints in flea markets or for street art aficionados you could go for bold and graphic statement wallpapers that really pack a punch. If you buy a strong piece of art as a statement piece, you can dress around it. For example, in my minimalist downstairs grey wet room, I decorated the shelf with a Jeremyville PVC art toy purchased at Eye Candy art fair. I later added a diamante skull, silver grenade flowerpots and a mirror shaped as an old school TV.”

Brennan’s personal collection of objects d’art bring her joy and give an otherwise bland space a character. It echoes Baker’s advice about detail. Landlords are advised then to create a harmonious and tranquil apartment where design touches and statement pieces are given space to shine.

Martine Davis, Owner of Balcombe Street Window Box Company, says it also pays not to ignore the outside space: “Whether you have a small flat with only a window ledge, a large flat with a balcony or a house with a terrace garden, a strategically placed window box or planted pot can do wonders to the appearance of a property. For the entrance, place a potted bay either side of your front door.  Place a floral window box on a window ledge to add some colour and interest. It will also hide a multitude of sins if the painting isn’t quite up to scratch. A kitchen can benefit from a fragrant herb box whilst lavender would do wonders for a bedroom with its relaxing perfume. Potted plants will work wonders both inside and out.”

The benefits of adding greenery to urban environments are well documented, so much so that urban planners are incorporating landscaping and planting schemes into initial architecture designs for public buildings and apartment blocks. As Chris Churchman, Founder and Director of Churchman Landscape Architects, notes: “The past 20 years has seen a sea change in views about the value of our public spaces. From an undervalued resource attracting minimal investment we have moved to a position where quality and diversity are prerequisites of any good scheme with well designed generous green spaces providing a softer, more welcoming environment to residents. However, landscape still has more to offer, there is a growing awareness of the cleansing effects that planting and paving can deliver within urban environments enhancing the sense of good health and well being within the community.”

The final area that landlords shouldn’t neglect in creating the perfect rental home for tenants is security. In our survey, 378 respondents rated it as either important or extremely important. Anthony Neary, MD of, shares his top tip on how best to be prepared. “When a new tenant moves in, it’s important to change the locks immediately as you never know who still has a key to the property. Tenants will sometimes have extra keys cut, so always bear this in mind. The Yale Conexis L1 Smart Lock is a great option for landlords who would prefer to have something a bit more high-tech, as unlike most smart locks, this one can be installed without making modifications to the door. Powered by the Yale app, users can send ‘mobile keys’ remotely to whoever needs access to the property and an audit trail keeps track of who’s coming and going, for complete peace of mind.

So the key to creating the perfect rental home to appeal to Generation Content to Rent is providing a safe haven, ensuring the entrance and outside space make a great impression and creating a calm, well-thought out interior with statement pieces used in the right way. It’s simple when you put it like that.

We have a wealth of resources for landlords available, and we can give advice on what a property needs to ensure it will achieve the maximum rental and how to rent it quickly. Contact us for a personal consultation.



About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 21 prominently located branches and 15 international offices.