Creating a ‘Wow’ Factor

Layout and specification are about giving maximum comfort while extracting maximum cash-flows from every available space. Imagine a typical five-bed HMO rents for an average market price of £75 per week per room, or £375 total. If you can refurbish and reconfigure the property to push this up to £95 per week per room, or £475 total, you can generate an extra £100 per week. Over the course of a year, that generates an extra £5200. Over 15 years, it generates an extra £78,000. When doing a refurbishment and reconfiguration, I decide on the final stud wall layout details of the floor plan on-site, on the day the builder makes the room partitions, as you cannot rely on architectural drawings for the optimum layout.

EN SUITES
En suites increase both rental price and demand. You would be surprised at the spaces they can fit into; if an architect tells you an en suite cannot be fitted in a smaller space, it is worth taking another look. You can build a wet-room-style en suite, for example, where you are not constrained by smaller shower tray sizes. The Frederick Street site is a prime example of this. The architect incorrectly advised me that adding the en suite would not be possible, but I went ahead regardless and increased my room rental rate by £10-20 per week.

LUXURY AND DETAIL
If retail is detail, then renting rooms is super detail. It’s all about luxury and attention to detail, ensuring the tenant has no reason inside of your control to move. To give the property a luxurious ‘hotel room’ feel, I follow the template below.

WALLS
Wallpaper on the wall behind the bed will warm the room. Unlike hallways, this area has low wear-and-tear, so the wallpaper is likely to last years without damage. I also buy artwork that is printed on the same type of foam boards commonly used for commercial signage, as they can be printed cheaply and easily glued to the walls. These commonly used boards are frameless, but you can buy affordable frames from The Range, Wilko’s, eBay, Clas Ohlson, etc.

FLOORS
Laminate flooring is cold on the feet and can be noisy, especially when people are walking in high heels. Vinyl Click is similar to laminate, but I find it to be quieter to walk on. It is made from a waterproof, plastic-based material and
uses tongue-and-groove click boards for easy installation. You can use it throughout the property, including bathrooms and kitchens, to give a seamless look without the need for thresholds between rooms.

For carpeted areas, I usually choose a high quality, short-pile carpet. To give the right ‘luxury hotel’ look, I choose carpets designed specifically for hotels, as opposed to residential- type carpets. I install Regupol 3912 6mm soundproofing underlay under all floors instead of standard carpet underlay, which is especially useful in older buildings.

BED AND MATTRESS
The bed is very important and the mattress should never be cheap. Use a hotel bed supplier and choose a mattress at least nine inches deep with at least 1,000 pocket 16 springs, made to BS 7177 standards. “Pull-up flap” storage beds are an excellent way to increase storage space. They are effectively another wardrobe and do not having any moving parts, which usually break over time.

LIGHTING
Add a wall-fitted bedside lamp each side of the bed so the tenant can reach the switch from the bed with ease. They are very cheap to buy and fit, and they add to the ‘hotel room’ feel.

WINDOWS
I recommend ‘blackout’ roller blinds as they improve heat insulation.

FURNITURE
If space allows, chests of drawers should be placed under the bespoke table. If space is tight, the best option is to fit storage drawers each side of the bed. You should pull the bed forward so that the tenant can still access it easily. Whenever possible, buy IKEA sofas with removable covers. They tend to have a much better seat depth than many sofas, which makes them feel much more comfortable and luxurious.