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5 Steps For Designing And Arranging an Apartment For a Long-Term Lease

Do you plan to rent out an apartment? Check our tips on how to design, restore, and finish your property to make it tenant-friendly.

Buying an apartment to rent out is an idea that is growing in popularity. In order to convert the real estate into a long-term investment, its preparation should be thought through at the design stage. The competition on the market is growing and a tenant will no longer be satisfied with an apartment with cheap furniture and just basic kitchen equipment. Renovation and finishing of a property designated for long-term rental needs to be really well planned. But how? Our specialists and architects can advise you. We’ll tell you what mistakes to avoid and what you absolutely cannot forget.

Step 1. Place functionality of the total space over the number of rooms.

Every square meter of an apartment costs money (actually, more and more recently). That’s why investors are tempted to “squeeze” as many rooms or micro-apartments as possible out of their property. But sometimes these efforts are so desperate that the landlord sacrifices comfort, ergonomics, and a sense of space.

Before you change anything, take a closer look at the layout of your property. Perhaps it’s enough to move a doorway so that you can fit a larger closet or more counter space? Analysis of the floor plan is really important to assess possible changes to avoid future headaches. In older apartments the kitchen is often a separate room. Maybe it’s a good idea to relocate the kitchen into the living room and arrange a bedroom in the old kitchen space? If the plumbing allows for such a move, it can be a very beneficial solution.

If not, perhaps the living space can be divided. The most popular solution is to build a wall dividing the space to allow for a separate bedroom. Another, even easier option is a curtain, which can be easily used to create a separate bedroom space. Yet another idea is a transparent wall, for example made of glass – it’ll serve not only a practical, but also aesthetic function. 

Remember that a bedroom isn’t only a bed itself. It also needs, at least, a free access to bed on both sides. A place for a bedside table and a lamp are also important. If the available space is too small to arrange a comfortable sleeping area, we advise you to give up the bedroom and focus on a comfortable, spacious studio apartment.

When analyzing the floor plan, it’s also worth looking at the entrance area. A place for hanging up jackets and taking off shoes easily is important, but a large hallway is not needed. It’s all about smart storage here. Additional space, if possible, should be dedicated to the living area.

What else do you have to remember at this stage?

  • Smart storage! This is one of the most important needs. Your tenant will surely have a lot of bags, suitcases, and other boxes. A long-term rental also means seasonal clothes and sports equipment. Make the best use of any free space, nooks and crannies. Add some extra cabinets above already existing ones (specially if your apartment has a high-ceiling). Consider different storage options: shelves, rods, racks. If there’s no space for a free standing chest of drawers, add some drawers to a built-in closet. Couches and beds are also good places for storage, especially with dedicated boxes underneath;
  • Washing machine. Yes, a washing machine is essential. If possible, place it in the bathroom. If not, put it in the kitchen with the cabinet front;
  • Convenient bathroom. Remember about extra drawers below the basin, additional storage space to stock refill packs of toiletries. Your tenant isn’t a short term tourist with just a small vanity case;
  • Spacious kitchen. Even if you arrange a kitchen in the living area, keep the most important features: a big fridge with a freezer, a countertop to prepare everyday meals, pantry storage, and convenient drawers for tableware and utensils;
  • Home office space. Many of us work (or study) from home more than ever before. Be sure your apartment provides such a space. It doesn’t have to be very big, but an ergonomic desk and chair are a must. Remember about additional power sockets (also for USB);
  • Proper ventilation. Well… it’s not the first issue we think about when designing, but it’s crucial. Not every room needs an individual ventilation system, but if you rearrange the space, it’s worth checking this with an architect. Such changes may require official approval, so the design stage is a right moment for any formal issues;
  • Versatile and simple solutions. Adding tons of innovations will result in higher property value, but is it really worth it? Is a high-end sound system or a hydro massage tub really essential for your potential tenant? The more stuff, the more difficult and time-consuming the flat maintenance. Focus on high-quality home essentials that will be really useful.

Step 2. Invest now, earn later.

Before buying your property, you’ve surely verified its condition, standard, and past renovations. An existing apartment may look perfect on the outside, but are you sure what’s “inside”? Invest some time and funds to check every single thing now and avoid potential problems in the future. 

What should you do now?

  • Check all the mechanicals and equipment. Outdated solutions not only mean a higher risk of failure, but also higher operating costs and energy loss. If you’re unsure of the condition of the pipes, uncover them. If you’re doing a major renovation, it will be a one-time job. You expect zero failures for many years to come, not nervous calls from your tenant. New solutions also mean safety which is, after all, the most important thing;
  • Easy access to all utilities meters and taps. It’s important due to two reasons. First, it allows tenants to check them on a regular basis and be aware of the current utilities usage.  Second: easy access means faster reaction in case of a sudden failure (and less potential damage);
  • Bespoke solutions. You already know how essential storage space is. Don’t hesitate to invest in a custom-made closet and cabinets. It’s also good to have the possibility to replace a simple element, for example just one cabinet front, one chair out of four, or a table top;
  • Quality! The cheapest flooring or second-grade tiles are short-term savings. Lower quality materials wear out much faster and call for replacement sooner. Invest in floors with higher abrasion or moisture resistance ratings. Choose paints that are washable and first-class tiles. Good materials mean a more efficient renovation and lower maintenance of the apartment; 
  • Standard offers. Buying close out wallpaper or floor panels can be good value for money, but it’s quite risky. In case of replacement, you’ll have a problem finding an exact match. It’s also worth remembering this when it comes to the type and color of paint (for example, to paint only one wall vs. an entire apartment). For larger projects, we prefer to work with well-known brands and choose a standard series of products. It’s just safer;
  • Well-known brands and stores. Choose high-quality appliances from well-known brands. Check if they have a bilingual manual and menu. Ask for the extended warranty conditions. Buy in recognized stores with good customer service and a clear return policy. Fast claim handling isn’t only less work for you, but also a better rental experience. You don’t want your tenant to live with a broken fridge for the entire summer, do you?;
  • Smart AC and heating units. As you already know, we always place quality above packing the place with new gadgets. Energy-saving solutions are always a good idea. Choose the ones that control the temperature and let you even manage the system remotely. It saves time, money, and is eco-friendly;
  • Planning ahead. Think about additional equipment and leave some extra power and TV sockets. Maybe your tenant would like to add a TV or other consumer electronics unit?

Step 3. Think about the tenant.

Now it’s time to focus on something we all love: interior design. Let’s make a home. But how?

  • Keep it smart. Storage is important, but you don’t want to convert the apartment into a warehouse. Choose smart, compact, and stylish pieces of furniture. Opt for pull-out storage, folding tables, and chairs.
  • Make room for personal needs. Do you want your tenant to feel like home? Let them personalize it a little bit. Add a bookshelf where they can put some books or plants. Hang an open shelf where they can display some personal belongings. Create space for living;
  • Allow some changes. Be flexible and ready for instant changes: move the desk closer to the window, place the table against the wall, replace the curtains. Every tenant has slightly different needs;
  • Leave some space. Sometimes tenants want to move in with their piece of furniture: an armchair, a collection of potted plants, a standing lamp. Don’t arrange every free centimeter and allow for space for their stuff. It’s a long term apartment, not a one-night hotel;
  • Provide privacy. Remember about curtains that cannot let people look into the room. The ones that block some sunlight will also save money on AC in summer months; 
  • Remember about cleaning… Give your tenant access to a vacuum cleaner, mop and bucket, and ironing board. They’ll surely appreciate the fact they won’t have to buy them on their own. Also, this will encourage them to do regular cleaning ;).
  • …and extra storage. Baby carriage, skis, or a bike – such equipment is hard to fit in a small apartment. If you have room in your basement, clean it out, reserve a spot for the tenant and advertise it in your rental ad. It’ll be a clear message that you care about tenant’s needs;
  • Make room for extra amenities. Even if you don’t plan to equip the apartment with a coffee maker or a microwave, reserve some extra space for additional amenities. Tenants may ask for such things;
  • Take care of cozy finishing touches. Think about this apartment like someone’s home first and try to provide some coziness. Add extra spotlights, think about soft textiles, choose a bed with a nice headboard. Try to choose materials that are easy to keep clean.

Step 4. Rent out an apartment you could live in.

Let’s make it clear: this is gonna be a long-term apartment, not a hostel or dormitory. Your ad is the best business card, so make sure you provide a place you’re proud of: safe, comfortable, well-fitted.

What else should you consider?

  • A comfortable place to sleep. A good quality mattress is really important. After all, someone’s going to use it for several months or even years, every night;
  • A sofa. It has to be stylish, of course, but also comfortable. Before you choose a sofa, touch the fabric, sit on it or even lie down. If it’s a sofa bed, the ease of unfolding and the quality of the filling are just as important as in the case of the mattress. 
  • Timeless design… Recent trends look nice on social media, but they might wear off quite quickly. Choose timeless solutions and styles that will long please an eye. Avoid very strong, even overwhelming colors. Don’t paint all the walls red just because you like it. A year (or several years) in an apartment that looks like an art gallery can be tiring;
  • …and rearrangement option. See step no. 3. Let the tenant decide on the final design. Ask for his needs and preferences. Maybe they’d need additional lighting, a bigger dining table, or additional chairs.

Step 5. Listen to the tenant.

But how if you’re just starting and you have no tenants to ask? That’s easy: learn from others! 

  • join local rental groups on Facebook. Read the posts carefully and see what kind of amenities are mentioned most often;
  • browse the websites of the best rental and real estate agencies on the market. What standard do they offer;
  • go through comments: what tenants complain about most often? What do they appreciate? Focus on their needs;
  • check the location and surroundings: is it close to the university, new office building, or a green park maybe? Provide different amenities to students, to young managers, or to families with children;
  • take advice from specialists. Consulting your concept with someone who knows that job is a cost that will pay off quickly. An experienced designer will advise on the best solutions and perhaps tell you what is a bad idea and a waste of money. They’ll often recommend an experienced construction crew or contractors. Remember that doing everything yourself is only an apparent saving. You can invest this time in developing other areas of your business

If you search for more tips and ideas on interior design, check our other posts here.

We promise that all these efforts pay off in the long term. We know it from our experience. If you need some advice or help (at any stage of investing, designing, or the rental process), we’re at your disposal. Find us here!

We wish you luck and a lot of happy tenants!

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