Professional home staging is an effective marketing strategy for home sellers. Staging enables buyers to envision themselves in a space, and allows them to understand the intended use and size of a room.

When a home is vacant, buyers are often uninspired by the space. When a home is staged, the perceived value of the listing goes up and buyers can mentally see themselves living in the home.

But what can sellers do if professional home staging is not an option or not in the marketing budget? Virtual staging, like staging, is when furniture and decor is placed in a room to make the room seem appealing and livable. However, virtual staging differs from traditional staging in that the furniture is all virtual, or computer-generated. Virtual staging is used on photos so that buyers who are searching online will be able to understand what the home would look like if it were furnished.

No Virtual Staging

No virtual staging

Virtual Staging by IMOTO photo

Virtual staging by IMOTO photo

Traditional staging is expensive, and not all agents have a marketing budget that will allow them to invest in staging a listing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average cost of staging a home is 1 to 3 percent of the asking price. On a $300,000 listing, this would cost between $3,000 and $9,000. Although the potential return on investment must be considered for each case, this hefty cost is simply not feasible for many agents and home sellers. So, a more economical option is to go with virtual staging.

Although the cost of virtual staging can vary, agents and home sellers can get high-quality virtual staging for as little as $75 per photo. This one-time fee can feature everything, including furniture and rugs, artwork on the walls, roaring fires in the fireplaces and more.

Because staging every listing photo in a larger home can still run up the marketing bill, most agents prefer to virtually stage a few critical rooms. This is a great, economical option, as you can highlight the rooms you want to show off by including the virtually staged version of the photos and not break the bank.

There are many factors, aside from cost, that might also prevent sellers from staging a home, such as time, logistics and convenience. For example, it might be too difficult to stage a high-rise condo within the necessary time frame (and likely too expensive), so virtual staging would be a viable option. Furthermore, some sellers just do not want to deal with the hassle of staging a home, as it can be an extensive and exhausting process. In this case, virtual staging acts as a convenient solution to sprucing up a vacant home to appeal to online viewers, and it can be done with the click of a button.

Some agents might argue that virtual staging might not be worth the investment, as only the photos are staged, not the tangible listing. However, with the changing landscape of real estate marketing, the online presence of a home is becoming more and more important. The National Association of Realtors claims that 90 percent of buyers start their home search online, so it is critical to present a listing in the best light possible.

For a vacant listing, this means virtual staging. Vacant listing photos will get significantly fewer views than staged listing photos, as homebuyers are drawn to listings that look and feel like a place they would want to live. When presenting listing photos online, the goal is to hook viewers and convert them into potential buyers. If their interest is piqued, they will be persuaded to visit the listing in person. By utilizing virtual staging on a vacant listing, agents can increase their odds of making this conversion, meaning they will get more people through the door. Ultimately, this leads a listing to less days on the market and a higher selling price.

But what happens when buyers arrive at the house and find it to be vacant? Many critics of virtual staging feel that this will lead to disappointment and possibly even mistrust about being “tricked” by “fake” furnishings in the listing photos. Some people feel that virtual staging can cross ethical boundaries because potential buyers are being presented with an image that is not portraying reality.

There is a very simple solution to calm these critics — use both the virtually staged images and the vacant images in the online marketing for the listing. This way, buyers are not being misled, and they can foresee that the listing is vacant, while they also get the pleasure of understanding the use and size of the room through the staged images — it’s the best of both worlds.

No Virtual Staging

No virtual staging

Virtual Staging by IMOTO photo

Virtual staging by IMOTO photo

So what is the virtual staging verdict? Virtual staging will help agents optimize their vacant listings and attain a competitive edge, when used ethically and effectively (see “best practices” guidelines below).

Best practices for virtual staging:

When to use:

  • Use virtual staging on vacant listings when traditional staging is not an option or not in the marketing budget.

Ethical practices:

  • Do not use virtual staging to cover up any flaws in the home.
  • Include both virtually staged photos and unstaged photos in online marketing material.

Purchasing virtual staging:

  • Hire a professional real estate photographer to do your virtual staging. Professional photographers will be able to get the best angles for virtual staging and deliver high-quality photos.
  • Review virtual staging samples on your photographer’s website prior to purchasing to make sure you are satisfied with the quality of their work. Shadows and reflections from the furniture and decor indicate high-quality, realistic staging.
  • Be specific when telling your photographer what you want. This will help your photographer meet your expectations without any delays.

Darryl Glade is the CEO and co-founder of IMOTO photo.

Email Darryl Glade.

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