Lisa spent the entire weekend studying the strategies and success stories of the service provider, which was recommended by Uncle Faiz.
“There’s no way I can digest all this by myself. Time to meet Uncle Faiz again,” Lisa thought to herself.
She gave Uncle Faiz a call, and Uncle Faiz seems to be free as usual. Thanks to his semi-retired position due to his successful property portfolio.
She grabbed her bag and her property notebook, which she labelled as ‘Lisa’s Property Cookbook – Recipes for Success’, and drove over to Uncle Faiz’s house.
“Hi Uncle Faiz!”
“Hello again, Lisa! You’re looking hopeful today”, said Uncle Faiz with a cheeky grin.
“I am! Last week you promised to share some strategies with me! I have been reviewing on ‘The Makeover’ page which you recommended. Now I have a rough idea on the importance of the interiors, as well as the strategies.”
“So, tell me what you’ve learnt,” questioned Uncle Faiz, with a sudden seriousness in his tone of voice.
“Errr… I’ve learnt that you must first determine your potential tenants, before you can come up with any strategies,” said Lisa, unsure if that was the answer Uncle Faiz was hoping to hear.
“Go on,” said Uncle Faiz, still sustaining his serious tone.
“Once you have determined who your potential tenants are, put yourself in their shoes and think about what is important to them.”
It’s all about clever targeting and budget allocation
“We must provide value to our tenants, whilst maintaining a low budget,” Uncle Faiz began. “It is all about finding the balance between our needs as investors, and our customer’s (tenants’) needs.”
“How do we do that without incurring high expenses, Uncle Faiz? Since everything they need is going to cost a bomb," asked Lisa.
Uncle Faiz cleared his throat. That was the cue for Lisa to pull out her notebook, ready to absorb the tips Uncle Faiz is about to give.
“Here are some of the guidelines.”
1. First impression matters
You’ve probably heard a common saying that ‘you never get a second chance to make a good first impression’. People make snap judgments, and it’s the same when they are viewing your unit.
Concentrate on the decor and designs to offer an impressive first view from the door entrance. You don’t necessarily have to buy costly featured lights, photo frames, wall shelves and wallpaper to make a good first impression.
2. Avoid unnecessary expenditure, especially plaster ceiling
Do not spend unnecessarily on plaster ceiling, unless you are targeting the luxury market such as expats.
Plaster ceiling with indirect lighting look fantastic, but they are not your visual focus when you enter a room. What grabs attention is often the walls, the furniture and the colour scheme of the entire room. This grabs the attention of the potential tenants, right from the moment they enter your abode.
3. Use easy to replace and affordable loose furniture
Wear and tear are inevitable. What is more important is the allocation of budget. Invest more into things that are more resistant to wear and tear, which includes the air-conditioners, lights, curtains and electrical appliances.
Of course, this is based on natural wear and tear and within a reasonable use by the tenants.
As for the rest of the items subject to wear and tear, use affordable furniture and do not spend unnecessarily.
Ultimately, you will have security deposits which will come in handy for unreasonable damages on your furniture, upon the end of the tenancy.
4. Try not to leave the rooms or walls empty
Experience has taught me that when there is nothing to see in a room, people will naturally find faults and nitpick on the flaws. And once they do that, they only remember the flaws and what’s bad about your unit.
They’ll start noticing the cracks on the wall, the unevenness of the paint, the misalignment of your doors, and everything else.
Distract them with a decorated and furnished room. Fill up big empty walls with wallpaper, shelves and decor. These items can be found in your local furniture and decor stores at an affordable price.
5. Invest in wallpaper
Texture always makes a room look a whole lot more premium. Wallpaper with texture gives the biggest visual effect and return on investment, in comparison with the costs of other essentials. There are many ways to keep costs low when using wallpaper. You can design a feature wall with wallpaper strips instead of a full wall to keep costs low.
Do not go overboard either, or you’ll risk having your house look like a circus with too many colours and design. The best is to have only one featured wall per room, or alternatively, focus on the living room and the master bedroom only.
6. Do not spend excessively on the kitchen cabinets
The kitchen cabinet is often the biggest cost when it comes to furnishing an apartment or condominium. Often, you will be tempted to do a nice L-shaped kitchen cabinet with an island counter.
Rental units do not require a huge kitchen, but a practical and decent one is sufficient. The priority will be to provide a basic kitchen cabinet within 8ft in length, with the usual built-in hobs and hood and the kitchen sink, as well as other furniture and electrical appliances. Only after you have covered these priorities, you should invest more into the kitchen cabinet if you have additional budget left.
Win tenants over with design, décor and color schemes, instead of costly and bulky built-ins. If you engage a normal contractor, they will almost always propose costly bulky built-ins for sure.
7. Use plain, neutral coloured curtains
Curtains are a big part of your visual attention and focus. Plain coloured curtains are not only cheaper, but they are much safer from a design point of view. Curtains with patterns and motifs may not appeal to everyone.
Get a full height and a full-length curtain whenever possible. It’s not going to cost a lot since you have to cover the windows anyway. Adding on an additional couple of feet of curtains to achieve a full height does wonders visually and makes the interior look expensive.
Curtains are also a lot more cost-effective than blinds. Blinds looks modern and sleek, that’s for sure, but leave those expensive blinds for your own home. You are an investor, not an interior designer.
8. Maintain the walls, electrical points and water inlets, as provided by the developer
Often, people will be tempted to hack walls and add power points, or relocate these electrical points based on their personal preferences. Do not do this unless absolutely necessary. Instead, work with the existing points and make sense out of them instead of trying to fix it.
The cost of doing so is high, and it does not bring much value or visual enhancements, to your unit. The cost of such work should be avoided or used to provide something of a higher value to your customers (tenants), such as an additional TV in the bedroom maybe.
9. Limit the use of colours
Interior design is all about the combination of colours and how well your furniture goes with it. It doesn’t work when you look at each item independently. The rule of thumb is to match only two colours for a great interior design. The contrast and highlights can come from the smaller items such as decor or other smaller items.
You will soon notice that affordable furniture doesn’t come in a lot of colours. Learn to match these colours to your advantage, instead of hunting for furniture to match the design you saw in a fancy coffee joint, trendy cafe, or from Interior Design magazines.
“Wow, these are great guidelines and tips, Uncle Faiz,” Lisa said with a sigh as she finished writing it down in her notebook. She almost couldn’t keep up writing them down.
“Did you manage to catch all of them or was I going too fast?” Uncle Faiz said with a hearty laugh.
“I barely managed! But Uncle Faiz, I was studying The Makeover’s page at www.facebook.com/themakeover.my like you told me to and I realized the solutions they provide are more or less in line with the tips you just shared with me. Of course, their interior designs look professionally done, since they are professionals and also investors themselves.”
“They are seasoned investors first, interior designers second. That’s why their strategies and guidelines are similar to mine. Feel free to engage them if you want to, Lisa, but since you’re just starting out in this and if you can take time off your work, I think it’ll be a great learning experience for you to do it yourself this round,” said Uncle Faiz.
“I’m already prepared to burn all my work leaves for this, Uncle Faiz! I think I want to try this on my own first. It will require me to take quite a number of leaves since condo management only allows work to be done during office hours. But I think the experience I gain will be worth it,” said Lisa.
“Alright, Lisa. Follow these guidelines and talk to some contractors and shop around. We can meet again after you have compiled more information. I’ll share more tenant strategies with you next week.”
“Alright! Thank you so much, Uncle Faiz!” Lisa left excitedly, determined to start the makeover.