Furnished apartments normally attract a premium rent for obvious reasons. They are the natural habitat for people needing a shorter term stay of 3-12 months while working interstate, travelling or transitioning homes.
During Covid and travel restrictions (particularly in Melbourne) a couple of things have changed.
Firstly there has been a lot of furnished apartments put on to the longer term rental market recently, by owners that were previously leasing them for short stay accommodation and using platforms like AirBnB, or owners moving out of their own apartments to move interstate or home pooling.
Secondly the number of people needing short term rental accommodation has dropped. For the last few months very few people have been coming to Melbourne for things such as sporting events, corporate travel, interstate placements, tertiary education, or tourism generally. This includes not only international and interstate travelers but also people from country Victoria.
This has created an increased supply of furnished apartments for rent and decreased demand which as eroded the usual premium. Even in normal times the premium rent is reduced by the cost of maintaining the furnishings, higher turnover of tenants creating gaps of vacancy, cleaning, as well as addition letting and advertising costs.
Taking all those additional costs into account, and the negligible premium rent in the current market, and you may find a furnished apartment could well return you less than an unfurnished apartment.
In many instances it would be more profitable to put the furniture into storage and lease out the apartment vacant to a solid tenant for the next 2 years.