Real Estate

How to Furnish Your Short-Term Rental


For some of us, the most fun part of the real estate journey is actually furnishing and decorating your STR properties (Okay, the revenue part is pretty great, too). But purchasing a house worth of furniture in a matter of days or weeks can be overwhelming for anyone. 

There are certainly services you can employ to help you, including your property manager, but this task is also definitely something you can tackle yourself. Here’s what to consider as you get started.

What’s Your Vibe?

Always start with the mood you’re trying to create. A lake house in New England or a cabin in the Smoky Mountains has a very different feel when it comes to furnishings than a condo in Fort Lauderdale or a single-family in Austin, Texas. The furniture you bring in should support and enhance your rental’s “brand” and help your home feel representative of its town/city/surroundings. If you’re inheriting any furniture, you’ll want to consider how those existing pieces support or distract from your vibe and whether you can work with them or need to start over.

You’ll also want to consider your audience and their expectations. Are you trying to attract families? Are most of your guests on weekend getaways from the city? Or are you the luxe beachfront bungalow charging $750 a night? Or the cozy bargain one-bedroom cabin?

The answers to these questions will help you understand the expectations of your guests when they arrive. A family-friendly rental should ideally include a high chair, and a super-luxe beach bungalow should not be decorated with IKEA furniture.

What’s Your Timeline?

Do you have a few weeks to get this place listed, or do you need to get it rented yesterday? The amount of time you can personally devote to the project, as well as how much time you have before you need it rented out, will have a lot of impact on your furnishing options. 

If your plan is to make all the furnishing decisions from your laptop in a weekend, your shopping options are going to be fast-delivery places like Wayfair and Amazon or one-stop-shop local furniture stores (which can range in cost and quality) that can deliver quickly. If you have a little longer, the world is your oyster. 

Durability: AKA the IKEA Question

If the “vibe” of your place would work with IKEA furniture, should you do it? My advice is that with anything that will get regular use, such as couches, dressers, dining tables, and coffee tables, you’re better off skipping IKEA and buying better-quality items elsewhere. (Getting something like a mirror at IKEA is probably fine.) 

IKEA furniture tends to look shabby quickly and, well, break. Over the medium and long term, you will spend more money on replacements (and more time putting it all together) than you would if you had gone for something a little more well-made and spendy in the first place. 

Where Should You Shop?

The best way to get high-quality furniture, often new or almost new, at reasonable prices, is through places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and estate sales. (The good news is that guests at an STR would never expect to be the very first person to ever sit on your couch, so even in the most luxe environments, “like new” works perfectly.) 

But you can’t do this kind of shopping in a day, and it’s more opportunistic hunting in that you never know what you’re actually going to find. But consider that for the price of an IKEA dresser, you can easily find a real-wood, dovetail-joined dresser that will look amazing and last for as long as you own the property. It’s a no-brainer choice if you have the time. 

A few strategies to get the most out of online shopping:

  1. Use quality brand names like “Pottery Barn,” “Crate and Barrel,” “Room and Board,” or “Restoration Hardware” in your search terms.
  2. Send out a bunch of inquiries on Saturday morning and ask to come see the items that same afternoon. Make sure you have a vehicle that can transport your purchases, and then go from one site to the next, evaluating and hopefully buying. 
  3. Try this first: See what slots you can fill by shopping Marketplace, Craigslist, and estate sales, and then supplement with online retailers or local shops.

How do You Manage it All? 

Go through each room (in your mind or in person), and list out what it needs. For example: “Bedroom 1: Queen bed, queen mattress, two bedside tables, rug, mirror, dresser, etc.” and put them all into an Excel sheet. Add columns for measurements, approximate budget, and where you’re going to look for them. Don’t forget the walls and art

Once you’ve ordered the item, put in the actual cost (including shipping) and the date it’s scheduled to arrive to keep track of it all. Will you need someone to put furniture together when it arrives? Make sure that’s in your plan somewhere, too.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.


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