Staged homes are more attractive to buyers than vacant homes, especially when viewing listing photos online. But high quality staging isn’t cheap, and it’s not cost-effective for every listing. Virtual staging is an alternative that can enhance the listing photos of a vacant home to garner more attention online, without breaking the bank on staging costs. As graphics technology continues to improve, virtual staging is becoming more convincing, more affordable, and a more viable option for real estate listing photos.
Virtual staging is the process of using computer technology to add furniture and other decor or features to photographs of a real estate listing. It’s most commonly used for vacant properties when physical staging is too cost-prohibitive for the seller or for the value of the property. Because most people decide whether to view a home or move on from the photos they see online, this allows buyers to better envision what the home might look like.
The early days of virtual staging weren’t too popular because the photos looked computer-generated. It’s one thing to know they are. It’s quite another to see it on the screen. As companies and technologies have evolved, the final images look much more realistic, in part because many companies use real images of furniture to add into the photo.
Virtual staging is a lower cost option to physical staging of a home. It’s quicker, often taking a few days from start to finish and doesn’t require the time and effort of selecting, moving, and setting up of furniture. Stagers and real estate professionals don’t have to coordinate photo shoots with photographers or pay the additional fees.
Many companies also offer services to improve existing homes that may be stuck in previous decades. You know the homes – avocado green anything, purple carpet, and countertops discolored with use and age. Virtual staging can repaint the walls, swap out furniture, and give a home a complete makeover with a few clicks of a mouse.
The last thing you want is for a potential buyer to feel a property was falsely advertised. When you use virtual staging for your listing photos, add comments that clearly indicate that the property has been virtually staged and is actually vacant. If you go so far as to use furniture replacement or change existing features of the home, let people know. You may even consider showing the reality and an image of “what could be” to market a property to people who don’t mind a bit of sweat equity. Ultimately, though, make sure the virtual staging aspect of the image is clear to buyers to stay on the right side of ethics and the law.
Note: We’re not lawyers and don’t give legal advice. When in doubt, check with an attorney. If you’re a Realtor, talk to your local association’s Professional Standards Administrator to ask about the ethics of virtual staging.
The costs of virtual staging are as varying as the companies that provide the service. When choosing a company, don’t focus just on price but also on the finished results, how realistic the images look, and how often you can make revisions for no additional cost.
Virtual Staging Solutions offers a variety of packages and will add furniture, landscaping, and even missing appliances to the photos of your vacant listing. Prices start at $225 for three photos.
Obeo is a virtual tour company that includes virtual staging. They also offer virtual “correction” of ugly or out-dated furniture, walls, and flooring. Virtual staging isn’t their main product and is offered as an add-on to other services for about $75.00.
Spotless is a top-rated virtual staging company in 2016 according to FitSmallBusiness.com. All of their designers have architecture degrees. According to the review site, prices begin at $69 to $89 per photo.
PadStyler offers virtual staging, furniture replacement, curb appeal, virtual renovation, and 3D floor plan options. They offer a package of 8 photos for $472.
Virtual Staging LLC is a luxury home and commercial staging company that provides staging, furniture replacement, and landscaping. Their prices begin at $195 per photo
If the idea of hiring a company to do your virtual staging is too cost prohibitive or you’re really interested in interior decorating, there are DIY solutions like VisualStager, Home Design Studio by Punch Software, and Live Home 3D (available for Mac and Windows).
Virtual staging allows you to offer a benefit to home sellers that they might not otherwise be able to afford or that doesn’t make financial sense for moderately priced properties. Whether you hire a company or do it yourself, do your research to find an option that gives you the most realistic images for your money – and make sure to stay ethical while you do it.
Former Communications Director for a local Realtor Association and a big cheerleader for all things real estate related, Michaela is now a full-time freelance writer specializing in real estate and other business industries. When she's not writing the serious business-y stuff, she's likely to be found writing about the hilarity of being a Mom to two rowdy boys.