In London, intense competition between landlords for tenants has driven rent levels down for most properties. However, if a property is refurbished to a high standard, a landlord can increase its rental value by as much as 50 per cent. Resale values can be lifted by a similar amount. 'Based on examples of works that we have undertaken to completely refurbish properties, the rents achieved can increase anywhere from 25 per cent to 50 per cent depending on the level of specification,' said Jane Ingram, national head of lettings at estate agency Savills. Alan Waxman, managing director of developer Landmass London, advised landlords to create a smart, modern look. 'For rental properties, the trick is to furnish it as if it's a hotel,' he said. 'It's best to keep the decor neutral to attract tenants. With resale properties, you also need to offer a bit of a wow factor, so you make the property stand out from others and encourage a transition from a practical purchase to an emotional one. This can be done by introducing some colour, but don't go over the top - a signature wall is a safer bet than painting a room one colour, as you may otherwise run the risk of putting buyers off.' Deciding on the target market for resale is important. To attract bachelors, the property ought to include ultra-modern furniture and some black in the colour scheme. But Waxman warned that this combination would put off families. 'Creating atmospheric rooms can help to encourage an emotional purchase, but the decor must reflect the intended use of the room.' he said. 'You can create cosy rooms with darker colours and relevant lighting, whilst you can make the more practical rooms light and airy, using light colours and mirrors.' Homes for sale ought to be furnished even if being sold unfurnished, he advised. Furniture packages can be bought or hired from companies such as Landlord Furniture, which sell packs from GBP499 (HK$6,185). 'Artwork is really important, as otherwise the empty walls will make a property feel unfinished and stark,' he said. 'The same applies to curtains.' Prints and other artwork can be bought from GBP5 from www.art.co.uk . Interior designer Katharine Pooley said walls in rental properties ought to be painted with emulsion paint, which was easy to clean, and that a property needed to be maintained carefully, with cleaning materials used that would not damage surfaces. Furniture ought to be made from hard wood which is longer-wearing. Whether refurbishing for sale or rent, investors should also consider structural issues, she said. 'There are so many elements to designing,' she said. 'You have to look at layout, putting sockets in the right place, lighting, the kitchen. It is not just a matter of 'let's get that sofa and put it in the corner'. It may not fit through the front door.' In London's most desired locations, Pooley said it was important to focus on detail so that the landlord could offer a tenant a lifestyle. 'Landlords in Mayfair and Knightsbridge want to put in nicer finishings because they want to get better returns,' she said. This meant plug sockets made from chrome, not white plastic, even though they were more expensive, and completely kitting out the home with high-quality accessories, from cushions to bed sheets, she said. Pooley advised investors to hire an interior designer. 'Interior designers know where to get the right things, we know what goes with what, we know where it fits,' she said. Even though it could cost between GBP250,000 and GBP500,000 to have an interior designer refurbish a home in prime central London to a high standard, the investor would recoup these costs and make money on the resale, Pooley said. For example, a three-bedroom Knightsbridge flat refurbished by her company is now worth 30 per cent more than two years ago, even though the market had dropped 30 per cent over that period. 'We ripped out every bathroom and put in beautiful floor-to-ceiling marble tiles, a brand-new kitchen, an antique parquet floor and a brand-new terrace, and we've opened up walls so that there is one big living room rather than two little areas. We have also made the bedrooms en suite,' Pooley said. 'We've brought it up to a different spec for the rental market. The quality of the furniture is second to none. It's clean and neat, so someone will just walk in and say 'this is somewhere I want to rent'.' To decorate and furnish a two-bedroom flat in central London to a high standard, but without structural changes, new bathrooms or kitchen, would cost between GBP100,000 and GBP200,000, she said.