Interest in virtual staging surges

Staging, the process of decorating a listing to make it more attractive for sale, is all but necessary in the world of Bay Area real estate. But traditional staging can be costly, time-consuming and a logistical challenge.

That’s why virtual staging, the process of using software to digitally enhance a space, has become more popular among sellers.

“Cost is one of the biggest benefits to virtual staging. It’s a tenth of the price,” said Michael Minson of the Level Up Group, a team of Realtors associated with Keller Williams. “The magic of Photoshop is real.”

Mike Brown, senior product manager for f8 Real Estate Media concurs.

“Traditional staging requires scheduling, finding parking for a moving van if you’re selling in an urban location, moving physical furniture into the home, arranging (and rearranging) the furniture in the home,” he said. “Virtual staging photos can be delivered quickly and efficiently for a fraction of the cost.”

Rooms don’t even need to be vacant in order to virtually stage them, Minson said. Photo editors can take an image of a room, remove the artwork, furniture and fixtures and replace them with more stylish options.

But Minson said it’s important not to get carried away while virtually staging.

“You don’t want to misrepresent the property. You don’t want the buyer to feel duped,” he said. “Our general rule is to disclose that it’s virtually staged. And we make all the photos available in our marketing. So we’re presenting it as it is and what it could be.”

Staging, both traditional and virtual, play a pivotal role in marketing properties. More people than ever get their first exposure to a property online, and Realtors want to make a strong first impression.

That’s especially true during the pandemic, which has curtailed the amount of in-person showings.

“Remote selling tools like virtual staging have helped agents communicate the desirability of homes over Zoom calls,” Brown said.

Virtual staging can help make fixer homes more attractive, but turnkey residences can benefit just as much, Minson said.

“One property we virtually staged was very much a fixer. We took six or eight photos of the home in its current state, then virtually staged six or eight photos to show what it could be. We just added furniture, we didn’t change any fixtures,” he said. “Another property was not a fixer at all, but we virtually staged it because it was at the start of the pandemic and we couldn’t get a stager.”

At its core, virtual staging remains about making a home stand out online.

Experts have some thoughts on the best way to do that.

“Paradoxically, an empty room looks smaller than one that is furnished because the furnishings enable better depth perception. Empty homes also suffer from feeling lifeless when compared to homes with furnishings, Brown said. “Most people have a hard time visualizing what an empty room would look like when it is furnished. This leaves them unsatisfied and causes them to move on to the next listing more quickly. Virtual staging addresses all of these critical information gaps and enables agents to put their best foot forward when displaying their listings online.”

Minson agrees.

“The most important thing in marketing real estate is gorgeous photos,” he said. “The return on investment is four to five times what it costs to virtually stage.”

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