Virtually staging a listing

We live in a digital age where consumers are using photos and virtual tours to make purchasing decisions, and buying properties without ever stepping foot in the home, making what once was unimaginable, a reality. One tool that makes this possible is staging the home to help a buyer picture themselves living in the space. Physically staging homes with the right piece of furniture or artwork has been successfully used for years. Today, there is another option: virtual staging.

Today you are no longer required to only grab the consumers attention when they cross the threshold of the door. Now it’s all about catching their eye at the click of the mouse. Virtual staging is done by creating an interior design through graphic enhancements, with the goal being to make the space look as realistic as possible. While traditional staging has its benefits, virtual staging has many to consider as well.

  • Cost Effective: For various levels of virtual staging you can expect to spend only hundreds of dollars vs. the thousands of dollars you may encounter with traditional staging.
  • Time saver: With traditional staging you are limited on fast turnaround times with things like the hiring of a staging company and furniture delivery. With virtual staging you can have photos turned over to you within 24-48 hours.
  • Versatility: Say you are noticing a trend in buyers wanting a more Contemporary styled home but everything you have shown has a more Victorian style. With virtual staging you can easily tailor the interior style to your client’s taste. Virtual staging also offers flexibility on just how you stage a room. For some, a room may best be utilized as a child’s bedroom, while for others it may be a better fit as a home office or gym. With virtual staging you can show multiple options for the same room, to highlight more than one lifestyle and capture the attention of a broader audience.
  • Privacy: Virtual staging can also benefit sellers by eliminating any potential privacy concerns. Personal information or family photos being shown in a listing photo can be a turnoff for sellers. Virtual staging can offer a level of anonymity for your seller.
  • Declutter: Maybe your seller isn’t the most organized, or simply doesn’t have the time to thin out some of their personal items they have accumulated over the years. Virtual staging can tidy up and restore rooms back to their more spacious, presentable state.

For those who may question if this is a slippery slope into false advertising, it is true that as convenient as virtual staging is, it does present its own set of challenges, including ethical boundaries. Always disclose the use of virtual staging even if it is used to simply spruce up the landscaping or remove unsightly clutter from the front yard in an exterior shot. Properly disclosed, virtual staging can be used to demonstrate how a home “could” look, showing the potential of the home, and not what the home currently may look like (such as showing hardwood floors when the home currently has carpet). But making changes to the photo that erase power lines, enhance the home’s proximity to waterfront, remove interior walls, or other physically misleading alterations is not an honest depiction of the property.

REIN’s guidance is for full disclosure for all digitally altered photos. The space provided in the MLS for a photo description is the perfect place to make a note if the image has been virtually staged or altered in any way, as are the Public and Agent Remarks fields. At its core, the MLS is a database, and REIN’s purpose is to provide accurate data and information about properties. Virtual staging is a great marketing tool to have at your disposal, just make sure you are using it responsibly and with integrity.