Now you see it, now you don’t: The ins and outs of virtual staging
July 27, 2021
I’ve always been a proponent of staging when getting a home ready to go on the market for sale. At the very least, a place has to be cleaned and decluttered before it’s ready for sale. We are all too easily distracted by knick-knacks, family photos, creepy doll collections…
There are two main reasons for staging:
1 – A home sells more quickly. Time is money in the real estate world and the longer a home stays on the market, the less likely it is to sell at its maximum value.
2 – Homes that are staged sell for more money. Buyers get easily turned off by décor choices that don’t match their taste. A home that appeals to a broader range of buyer will result in more offers.
Pre-Covid, or in “the before” as I like to call it, the process was straightforward. A seller would clean and declutter and we’d decide if the unit needed to be painted, if any repairs were necessary and if the furniture needed to be replaced. This all changed when the pandemic hit. Real estate was declared an essential service, but stagers weren’t as lucky.
If you’ve been browsing listings online over the past few months and noticed that the places look great, you may not be aware that many of the photos you’re looking at have been virtually staged!
Personally, I was hesitant to use virtual staging as a marketing tool at first. I thought potential buyers would be disappointed when they walked into the space and feel they were fooled. I spoke with a few agents who had used the service on some of their properties to sound them out and they all thought it was a great option, especially for condos.
Side note: even before the pandemic, it could be a challenge to stage a condo. Every condo corporation has different rules around contractors, movers and third party suppliers, but the pandemic compounded that. In addition to booking an elevator and potentially hiring security to stage a condo, there were new rules about non-residents entering a building and whether they would even allow showings to happen. Virtual staging eliminates many of those problems.
At its most basic, virtual staging is photoshopping furniture into a picture. The key is keeping everything in perspective, which is not quite as simple as you’d think.
It works best in a unit that’s vacant, because you’re working with a clean slate. Even if a unit is furnished, virtual staging companies can remove the existing furniture and put something else in. This is especially helpful if someone has decorated to a specific taste.
The big question of course is, does it work?
I’ve found it’s equally as effective as staging IRL. Everything still sells. There’s no indicating that properties sell for less because they’ve been virtually staged as compared to physically staged. The benefit to a seller is that it means less work on their part and can they still live with their stuff while showing off their unit to its best advantage. If they have an ugly sofa, for instance, it can be photoshopped out.
It’s also cheaper. Staging a condo IRL may cost up to $3,000 or more, but virtual staging is about $40 per photo.
Another benefit to the seller is that the unit can be on the market sooner. If you’re in a time crunch to get on the market, photos can be taken and virtually staged before is ready to be listed. If it needs to be painted, it can be done after the photos have been taken.
For full transparency on a MLS listing, I like to feature after and before photos side by side. One is virtually staged, one is empty, so people know what it really looks like and there is no surprise when they view a unit without any furniture. For a buyer looking at a vacant unit, virtual staging is helpful because it gives an example of furniture placement.
According to the rules, realtors need to state in the listing comments that the staging is virtual.
Though it’s easier for a buyer to picture where their furniture would go when there is already furniture in the condo, when a unit is empty, people can see what the flaws are, if any. Furniture can inadvertently be covering up scratches on the floor or dents in the wall. With virtual staging, a buyer knows exactly what they are getting.
How can you tell if you’re looking at photos of a unit that’s been virtually staged? First, as I mentioned, the agent legally has to note it in the listing. It’s often buried in the broker comments, but it’s there. Also, look really closely and you may be able to tell something’s been photoshopped.
They’ve done a really good job – they even photoshopped in a reflection of the shower curtain in the bathroom mirror!
If you’re thinking of selling your property and wondering if virtual staging might be right for you, please reach out. I’d be glad to help!