For serviced accommodation providers and those equipping homes temporarily for employees renting furniture can prove a cost-effective option, as Anna Lambert discovers.

Renting furnitureThe current property sales slow-down has at least meant good news for those involved in rental especially for relocating employees who need homes they can settle into quickly if they`re to continue to work productively.

But it`s not just rental of bricks and mortar that`s on the up: when you need furniture fast as relocatees, especially those coming from abroad, are likely to do -rental can provide the ideal solution. Properties can be furnished within a day with everything from kettles and cutlery to dining tables and sofas. This not only means that relocatees can get on with the business of living in their homes almost straight away, it also gives HR professionals and their employees the flexibility, if needs be, to replace what they`ve hired with bought pieces selected over time to the inhabitant`s taste and requirements. Moreover, in these increasingly cost-conscious times, furniture rental is being touted as the choice of the budget-savvy professional. Says Roger Hollis, MD of furniture rental providers, RSbC (Roomservice by CORT), `An extensive survey of shipping costs compared to rental was undertaken by CORT in 2002. It clearly showed there were cost savings of up to 70 per cent for assignments lasting between six and 24 months. Since that time, rising fuel and transportation costs especially those we`ve seen within the last couple of years together with issues of sustainability have undoubtedly enhanced the benefits of renting, rather than buying, furniture.

Steve Russell, MD of Fully Furnished agrees. `It`s certainly the case that clients are more cost-conscious than they were where once we`d have seen them order our complete house-furnishing package without any issues, these days they`re after greater flexibility and added value wherever possible. They need to know that, if they have an employee whose rental needs have to be met within a couple of days, we can deliver and we do. One of the things that makes things easier for everyone is the fact that we have huge storage facilities, both here in Staines and in Birmingham, so even if we have to supply furniture to say, Glasgow, we`re able to do so, and quickly.`
The need for speed

All too often, speed is of the essence: Steve Russell cites a recent case where a VIP employee rented a furnished flat in London that subsequently proved unacceptable to his wife. `She then fell in love with an unfurnished property,` he explains, `And were given just 24 hours to kit it out to their exacting standards. We met the deadline and the brief, so everyone was happy.
When VIP clients have more time at their disposal, options such as RSbC`s Select Service can prove useful. Says Roger Hollis: `It`s a tailored rental solution providing high-end customised interiors for senior executives. Our design consultants will work closely with the assignee to create the interior that meets their lifestyle requirements helping them to fully experience the home away from home. For example, a top US investment banker recently relocated to London with his family for three years. They took a prime property near the West End that was unfurnished. The family rented furniture short term from RSbC and flew their interior designer over from New York to furnish in accordance with their lifestyle needs and to make them feel at home. After RSbC had introduced its Select Service and their design ideas the decision was made to work with RSbC and rent long term. When the family returned from New York after their summer vacation they were delighted with the look we`d created for them.`

Guarantee of quality

One of the advantages furniture rental affords is the knowledge that clients will receive furniture in top condition. `It`s all part of our service,` explains Roger Hollis. `If clients want to, they can come and view our range at our showroom in Chessington, and our service guarantee requires us to always deliver furniture that is in showroom condition.

It`s a similar story at Fully Furnished, `On average, we`ll replace everything within two years, but of course there are items such as mattresses that are replaced after every rental,` says Steve Russell. `Clients are becoming increasingly discerning, too that`s why we re-source furnishings on a regular basis so that we can offer leading styles and finishes. And what people are after changes seasonally. In the summer, for instance, we were required to source a fair amount of garden furniture.` So what does happen t

So furniture that`s in less than lovely condition? `RSbC has a clearance centre that sells gently used` furniture approximately three years old at a discounted price,` explains Roger Hollis.

Another advantage for those taking the rental route is the straight-forward nature of the costing system and the lack of hidden extras.` `We only charge for rental of the furniture and accessories and installation, which involves positioning the furniture in each room in accordance with the property design or assignee`s requirements, and unpacking and putting away housewares and accessories. Rental cost also includes insurance covering fire, theft and flooding,` says Roger Hollis. At Fully Furnished, a similar system applies, though the company doesn`t charge for installation. `We do ask for a contribution, though, if our staff are required, say, to pay the London Congestion Charge or need a parking bay,` says Steve Russell.

As business continues to boom, it seems new opportunities are arising all the time. Says Roger Hollins: `We were recently approached by a major property investor to furnish a top-end house in Mayfair so that it could be marketed for sale. As a one-off project, an RSbC interior designer installed a show flat` within ten days, meeting the company`s marketing objective. The project has been so successful for both the investor and RSbC that we`re now considering the launch of a Dress-to-Sell` service to the property market to provide marketing support in what`s proving to be a very difficult sales period.