Virtual staging is more than having its moment these days. Virtual staging is a process in which photos of empty rooms are manipulated by computer to appear to be updated, furnished and decorated. Furniture is artfully placed, wall art is “hung”, rooms are made brighter, and walls and floors are often updated. Virtual staging companies know that actual, physical staging –bringing furniture and décor into an empty space—requires time, coordination and resources for Realtors® and/or their listing clients.  Virtual staging, the reasoning goes, is much less expensive and does the job.

Savvy Realtors® know furnished houses sell much faster than empty ones, and that unstaged and empty houses often stand out for all the wrong reasons. So, what’s the harm in using a computer program to fill empty rooms to draw people to a property?

Virtual staging is generally not a good idea for a number of reasons:

    1. Surveys consistently show that only 10 percent of home buyers can envision their belongings in an empty space. But the same buyers who can’t imagine their belongings in an empty house have the same problem when they see an actual house that was virtually staged. This can be frustrating for people.
    2. You got their hopes up. They walk in to see the rooms that were so well-appointed on the MLS listing…and are faced with empty spaces and—as is often the case—walls and floors that are different colors in “real life” than they were in the virtual photos. 1950s-era pink tile bathrooms are easy to change on a computer, but they’re still there in real life!
    3. Virtually staged rooms generally look fantastic and show off the high points of a room while minimizing the flaws. And then…they arrive at your listing. What do you think they will notice?

It’s only human! People expect to see in person what they’ve seen in online photos. Making a room look bigger, brighter, and up to date on a computer may get prospective buyers to a listing, but often, those same buyers can feel deceived when they walk a house that has been virtually staged and not really staged, with real furniture and décor.  Accredited home staging professionals don’t just furnish rooms! We showcase rooms by furnishing them so that the best qualities of the rooms stand out, the potential flaws are minimized, and they look brighter, larger, and welcoming! No imagination is necessary.

There’s plenty of research out there about real-estate decision making. A BMO Financial Group survey found 80 percent of prospective buyers know within SECONDS of entering a house if they’ll make an offer on it. In particular, an article that appeared in Domain Real Estate and Property focused on this very subject.

“The styling and marketing of your home should be geared towards that first impression,” said RE/MAX Realtor Beth Mitchell in the Domain article. “At this point, they aren’t looking at floor plans or taking in details. They are after the right ‘feel,” which can only be created through aesthetics, ambiance and presentation.” The National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), and other organizations have all surveyed the home-buying decision-making process, and results are consistent. Homebuyers know within 8-15 seconds if they like MLS photos online enough to visit a property, and the average length of time potential buyers spend in a home is 5-15 minutes…and that’s if they LIKE the house.

Don’t get me wrong: I do believe virtual staging has its place for certain empty properties. For example, a house with a low price point may not merit the time and resources of home staging. An empty condominium on an upper floor of a building with a small—or no—elevator can benefit from virtual staging.

Those types of exceptions aside, though, home shoppers deserve to see what they’d really be getting in a property when they bother to visit. Their time—and yours—is valuable. It’s better to deliver on a visual expectation, instead of disappointing your potential buyers.