A bit of time and effort spent presenting your rental property can pay huge dividends, as Molly Biddell explains.

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Finding the best way to furnish your property can hugely increase its appeal and really make it sparkle for perspective tenants.

We spoke to experts including Susan Cohen, head of lettings at Pastor Real Estate, to get their tips – and their suggestions will surprise you. Dressing your property perfectly can increase its value by up to 20%.

That sounds like a huge amount, until you start thinking about the gulf between a messy flat with a 1970s lime green bathroom and one that is clean, beautiful and uncluttered. We all know we shouldn’t judge books by covers, but tasteful furniture, soft towels hanging from the bathroom rail and a delightful aroma wafting through the corridors are hard to resist. These tips explain how to dress a property to rent quickly and for the best possible price.

Keep the personal touch

Don’t fall into the trap of overdoing the de-cluttering. Personal touches – even things as simple as paintings, cushions and throws – vastly enhance the appearance of the property.

Susan Cohen of Pastor Real Estate stresses the importance of hanging mirrors and artwork on the walls and laying tables. But don’t go crazy  – nobody wants to see your treasured travelling memorabilia spread across every room, or see pictures of your grandchildren everywhere. Depersonalise the property whilst keeping it welcoming and attractive. ‘A house must looked lived-in,’ says Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank. ‘People want to be able to imagine themselves living there.’

One finishing touch not to skimp on is scented candles: a waft of Jo Malone as clients walk in and work wonders. It’s these simple details that make the difference and can really affect the rental value. For landlords, the return on these small investments always outweighs the cost.

Keep appearances up

With increasingly demanding tenants, and booming competition, it is crucial that premium properties are properly maintained and updated, staying ahead of the trend and retaining the asset’s value. Ensure that the walls are freshly painted, and furnishings are well co-ordinated. Sometimes, out-dated bathrooms and kitchens may require a complete refurbishment.

It might seem excessive, but many tenants nowadays expect state-of-the-art, modern fixtures and fittings –  renovation will also increase the value of your property as well as also broaden the range and number of prospective tenants.

Think outside the house

Never forget about the exterior of your property – not only should it look well kempt, but small additions such as furniture and pot plants on a patio, terrace or balcony are always recommended, especially in the summer months.

Failing to heed this can be disastrous, as an overgrown garden will feel like a millstone round tenants’ necks before they’ve even moved in. ‘If a garden looks out of control, they’ll start to imagine all their free time being dominated by getting on top of it,’ says Nigel Mitchell. ‘Often they’ll just walk away.

Stay away from Magnolia

Although there is no specific colour scheme to follow when styling your property, Susan Cohen recommends that you offer a style and standard that will appeal to the majority of prospective tenants – personal taste should not influence your choice when it comes to decorating a rental property.

But just make sure that your neutral style steers clear of magnolia. Furnishing styles and colour schemes have changed considerably over the years, and the old standard ‘neutrals’ have changed. No longer is Magnolia the standard – you’d be better off with white.

There are now a wonderful range of smart, subtle colours – each of which blends smoothly with furnishings and floor coverings. Tasteful and restrained splashes of brighter colours can be added to create impact, without imposing more permanent colours that may be disliked by some tenants.

Keep it modern

However tempting it may be to put your grandmother’s cherished dresser in the kitchen along with that spare role of William Morris wallpaper – don’t. Traditional finishes are less sought after, as more tenants want modern, uncluttered finishes and clean lines.

Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, suggests that the odd flourish is fine though: ‘We recommend one painted or wallpapered accent wall in the reception and maybe master bedroom to give an interior design look,’ he told the Telegraph recently. ‘It’s not expensive but it makes the flat stand out.’

A tidy, clean home is a happy home

Nothing is less appealing than a stain, so make sure all the beds are made up with good quality, clean, white linen. The kitchen should have pristine appliances; and the bathrooms should be dressed with new sparkling clean towels. It may well be worth paying for a top-notch cleaning agency to spruce up your property before hand, ensuring that premium shine.

Then, there are the four deadly sins which put buyers off: detritus from pets, tobacco, children and chip pans. You don’t need to pretend that you don’t have children or pets, but if prospective tenants trip over toy trains or choke get covered in pet hair when they sit down, they’re likely to head for the exit.

Light it up

Before a visit, it is crucial that you turn on radiators, light fireplaces and candles, and most importantly – turn on all the lights. Cohen advises against opening windows, unless if there is outside space. Making sure your property is presented in the best possible light immediately increases its appeal.