Furnished vs. Unfurnished
Deciding on what to show a prospect requires the same level of planning and attention to detail as the tour itself. There are justification points for both furnished and unfurnished apartments. Economics may determine whether the property offers a professionally designed furnished model, as every attractive furnished model is obviously not going to be designed and accessorized by a professional decorator. Furnished models should reflect the type of residents the property is hoping to attract. To attract the widest possible audience, stick with neutral themes, as these are most effective in creating an attractive, open and comfortable atmosphere. Furnished models are often designed and provided by a commercial furniture manufacturer.
Now, you don’t want to give prospects the impression that the apartment may be out of reach financially or is too exotic, so keep it modern yet modest. Once the furnished model is in place, the leasing and management teams should resist any temptation to add their own personal touches or rearrange the furniture. The apartment model is designed to demonstrate how a typical resident would set up furniture in the apartment (as per the design of the property). The personal suggestions of the leasing team certainly can be offered as alternatives, but there’s a reason there are professional interior decorators.
That being said, there are many attractive, successful furnished models designed by amateurs, interns and staff, simply by using examples of staged rooms in furniture stores or other professional advertisements as a guide.
Be sure that the model is comparable to the actual property. If the model unit has custom paint treatments, window coverings, upgraded floor coverings and all the trimmings, it will only be confusion and disappointment if the prospect sees their own apartment for the first time and it is lackluster by comparison. The words “it’s only available in the model” is interpreted as a direct misrepresentation of the product; some might even call it false advertising. This is not a good start to the resident-management relationship.
When furnishing a model, the theme should be continued throughout the apartment. The furniture should be in good condition. The furniture and accessories are placed in such a way to enhance the appearance of the otherwise vacant apartment. If you have a mish-mash of unrelated, uncoordinated pieces, it gives the impression that the furniture was rescued from a previous move-out, or worse, a dumpster.
Showing An ‘Unfurnished Model’
Vacant (aka “unfurnished”) apartments can be as equally effective as their furnished counterparts. We use the terminology “unfurnished” because telling prospects that you “have some vacant apartments available to tour” doesn’t create a positive or exciting impression. Create a positive image in the prospect’s mind by discussing the finer points of an unfurnished apartment. For instance, a sparkling clean unfurnished model says it’s “move-in ready”. It can be as easy as telling the prospect, “This could be your home!”
Oftentimes, unfurnished apartments are included in a tour along with a furnished model. The tour should start with the furnished apartment to give prospects a point of reference for the size and setup of furniture in the apartment.
A property with several vacant apartments should identify and limit any unfurnished homes included in tours. This allows for the housekeeping and maintenance staffs to keep every apartment identified for scheduled tours. Strive to maintain a sparkling clean environment at least weekly or more if necessary.
Prospects with previous rental experience are often wary of a dazzling model, and may refuse to commit to a decision until they have toured the apartment they will actually occupy—an understandably reasonable request. A tour of the actual unit eliminates any concerns or uncertainties about the condition of the property and/or furnishings.
Using A Mini-Model
Mini-models can provide focus points in unfurnished model units. Accessorize a kitchen, laundry area, closets or bath to make the model tour more memorable. Oftentimes, the model accessory package is offered as the move-in gift for the future resident.
Mini-model accessories can range from seasonal features such as trick-or-treat buckets filled with treats, a tray of mugs with hot cocoa packets, even plants and patio furniture on a balcony or deck area. These enhance the presence of an otherwise vacant apartment, and can create a delightful “A-HA!” moment for prospects.
Accessorize a bath with a shower curtain and towels to provide an actual demonstration how easy and flexible it is to personalize the area. Contrast the neutral backdrop of the shower, flooring and walls with a bit of color. Superhero and Disney themes bring smiles to prospects’ faces regardless of whether children are in the household or not.
Examples of Mini-Models
Some mini-model themes might be:
- Italian Dinner Glass jars filled with a variety of dried pastas; a colander; dried herbs; and matching pot-holders.
- Wine Tasting Wine rack display with colorful (and empty) wine bottles; a set of wine glasses; and corkscrew.
- Coffee Break Glass jars filled with a variety of coffee beans; a French press or coffee grinder; and a set of coffee mugs or travel cups.
- Just Ducky Fill the bathroom sink with blue styrofoam peanuts. Then, cover the surface with yellow rubber ducks.
- Ice Cream Sundae Ice cream dishes; ice cream and various toppings; an ice cream scoop; and waffle cones or bowls.
- Outdoor Space A bistro-style table-and-chairs set on a balcony, surrounded with some seasonal plants.
- Closet Organizer A set of wooden hangers; a hanging shoe organizer; and purses.
- Laundry Day A laundry basket filled with laundry detergent and fabric softener.
- Picnic/Tailgate Day A picnic table-cloth spread on the floor; a set of throw-pillows; and picnic basket with picnic or tailgating supplies.
The apartment’s accessories should complement the apartment (i.e.; the prospect shouldn’t need to question if the items belonged to previous residents). Regardless of whether an apartment is fully decorated with rooms full of furniture, a mini-model, or an unfurnished sparkling clean apartment, the apartment tour is the opportunity for the prospect to visualize their belongings in the apartment. Do this to seal the deal.