Are you paying enough attention to design?

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When it comes to your assets, how much attention do you pay to design? Do you take the time to really consider how somewhere looks, or do you not think it’s that important? Do you budget for design and decoration, or do you think it’s a waste of money? 

Many people look at ways to cut corners when they’re making an investment. It’s completely understandable: you have a limited budget and you have to try to make the money stretch as far as you can.

But it’s important to consider whether that’s actually a good idea. In terms of interior design it can make a big difference in how the property is viewed from the point of somebody who’s either looking to buy or looking to rent.

Believe it or not, you can bring a lot special design touches to an asset which extract the maximum value for the minimum cost.  When people go to high-end hotels or casinos, they might think that all those luxurious finishes have come at a high price… but in reality they’re all laminates that are glued into an MDF board! You have to just find the strategies to make your money go further and make it look as if you’ve spent more.

Think about your end goal

Of course, how you approach design depends on your investment strategy and end goal. For example, if you’re doing flips and want to achieve a higher end, you’ll want to spend more money in the kitchens and bathrooms.

On the other hand, if your asset is (or is going to be) an HMO, the bedrooms are going to be your main focus. Typically, people see HMOs as cheap and cheerful, but not to spend any money on it would be the wrong approach. If you don’t think out the design properly then you’re left with rooms that no one wants to rent (or if they do, they may not be the best tenants).

Think about how to make the best use of the space whilst still making it a comfortable space. Look at the internal layouts and how everything is located, so when you go into the space it makes sense – think about it like you’re going into a hotel room! By the same token think about the communal areas it’s not just the kitchen – think about any dining and living spaces you might have. You don’t want to just provide a space, you want people to have the experience of living in the space in the correct way.  

The bonus is that you’ll be able to achieve also higher rents, and have tenants that want to stay, rather than a high turnover of less-than-desirable tenants.

What about interior design?

For some investors, paying for an interior designer may seem like an extravagant expense, but what you gain from working with a designer ends up being much more than if you just divide your property into multiple rooms that just don’t work.

Now, you might be just starting out as an HMO investor thinking that you’re on a budget and can’t possibly afford an interior designer, but allow me to share my own experience of looking for a new apartment in London.

I was staying in a hotel for one week to find myself an apartment to live in for a couple of years, and had organised an agent who had seven properties to show me.

The first six properties were awful –you’d have to climb 12 flights of stairs to get to the flat at the top, or they had old carpets, worn out wallpaper and sagging curtains.

The final one I looked at was in an old building but had had a complete refurb inside, and they had clearly gotten an interior designer to dress the space: everything matched, the beds were made with puffed-up pillows and white sheets, the furniture was beautiful, they had books in the shelves… I remember walking in and making an instant decision. That’s the emotional reaction that good design can give you, as opposed to the six other flats that I saw that day, not a single one of which met the standard I wanted.  In a split second I immediately knew that I wanted to take it, which to me explains the value of good design.

If you’re not sure where to start, think about who you want to live there. Spend money on the dressing, even if you think it’s pointless or a waste of your limited resources. If you want a family to move in, create that impression with photo frames, all those little touches that mean someone can picture themselves there. Try to set off an emotional trigger which makes people want to buy or rent from you right there and then.

If you’re struggling for ideas and really can’t afford a designer,  go and visit open days of other investors  properties to see how they look. Don’t just walk the property, really take in the details – is there something there that you can emulate? Doing that can also give you ideas for any projects you might have in the pipeline. Take a look at Instagram (or Pinterest) and see whether you can take any inspiration there.

At the ends of the day it boils down to knowing what you want your end result to be, but you should never ignore the value of good design. Whether it’s making the internal layout of an HMO as efficient as possible, so that people want to rent from you (and importantly, stay there!), or dressing the space to appeal to a renter (or buyer), you have to appeal to their emotional triggers. Can someone imagine themselves living there? You don’t need to break the bank, but setting aside some budget for your interiors will always serve you well in the long run!

If you enjoyed this blog, take a listen to episode 152 of the podcast, where I took a deeper dive on the subject with the fantastic Raquel Aparicio.