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What Is Virtual Staging And How Can It Help You Sell Your Home?

Rachel Burris6-Minute Read
October 30, 2020

These days, the majority of home searches begin on the internet. Buyers scroll through hundreds of online listings in search of one that speaks to them. While your home may be just what they’re looking for, they won’t stop to consider it if your listing photos don’t present it in its best light.

Virtual staging elevates listing photos to ensure that buyers take notice. So, instead of taking a chance or spending money to redecorate a home you plan on selling anyway, learn how virtual staging can help you sell your home.

What Is Virtual Staging?

 Virtual staging brings the process of home staging into the digital world. It uses photo editing software to add new furnishings to any room. The technology enables potential buyers to see beyond the home’s current state. By either adding furniture to empty rooms or refurbishing outdated areas, staged photos provide a lens through which buyers can see the home’s possibilities.

How Does Virtual Staging Work?

To virtually stage a home, real estate agents begin by hiring a professional photographer to take high-resolution photos of each of the rooms they want to include in their listing. Once they get the images back from the photographer, they review them and determine how many rooms look like they need a bit of sprucing.

Agents choose the stagers they want to work with and upload the images of the rooms they want to be staged using the company’s virtual staging software. To provide the stagers with enough insight to achieve the desired look for each room, agents answer a series of questions. These questions usually fall into the following categories:

  • Furniture removal: As part of the process, stagers can virtually remove furniture that’s currently in the room. If a room contains bulky, dated or poor-quality furniture, agents can ask that it be taken out of the photo.
  • Design style: Stagers will virtually design rooms according to the style agents request. Typically, the virtual staging software will provide agents with a list of styles from which they can choose, e.g., contemporary, traditional, midcentury modern. If agents don’t see their preferred style listed, they can instead describe exactly what they want.
  • Color scheme: Stagers also question agents about the colors they’d like to be used in the decor. Agents choose a specific color palette and may also specify whether they’d like light or dark wood featured in the design.
  • Additional preferences: Agents are given an opportunity to describe any special instructions they may have that are not addressed in the previous questions.

The virtual staging company makes the discussed changes and returns the images to the agents. The agents upload the virtually staged images to their listing. To avoid misleading potential buyers, agents must:

1. Show the before and after: By including two photographs of each staged room, agents can illustrate how the altered photos differ from reality. This option is often chosen for vacant homes, as it helps buyers gain a better understanding of the space. Or,

2. Disclose the virtual staging: Agents can label photos and specify that they are virtually simulated to illustrate the home’s design possibilities.

How Much Does Virtual Staging Cost?

Virtual staging is becoming increasingly popular because it’s far more cost-effective than traditionally staging a home. Virtual staging services typically charge agents $75 – $100 for each staged photo. However, the cost is dependent upon the amount of work required and the intricacy involved.

For example, if the virtual stagers must remove furniture from a photo, they’ll often charge agents another $75 – $100. If asked to virtually stage a kitchen, the cost is usually $100 – $300 because it’s a more complex process.

If these prices seem high to you, hold onto your seat. Home staging is far more expensive due to the process. While virtual staging merely uses software to enhance the look of listing photos, traditional home staging requires agents to rent furniture and accessories to decorate the room while the home is photographed and shown.

When traditionally staging a home, agents must pay a much larger upfront fee. The cost, which can run anywhere from $2,500 – $30,000 or more, typically covers:

  • Moving services
  • Curating fees
  • Furniture and accessory rental
  • Installation and breakdown
  • Business expenses

The pricing varies from one stager to another but is usually based on the size and number of rooms staged, the number of months in which the rentals will be required and even the price point of the home. The upfront cost is for 3 – 6 months. Agents are charged a set fee for each month thereafter.

How Will Virtual Staging Help Sell My Home?

The reason virtual staging helps sell homes is that it provides every room with the kind of character and style you’d find in a magazine. The process can elevate your home by taking a dated interior and showing buyers what it could look like after renovating.

Virtual staging neutralizes and depersonalizes rooms to make them appeal to everyone. It can remove bold colors and replace them with more universal choices that freshen up the room. It can take a room that’s currently vacant or one that’s packed with bulky furniture and add scaled furnishings that give buyers a better sense of the room’s scale.

If you want your property to sell faster and for a higher price, you need to ensure that potential buyers connect with your home on an emotional level. Staged photos can remove the personal touches from your home and thus enable buyers to imagine what the space would look like if it were theirs.

Virtual Staging FAQs

There’s no question that virtual staging can be an extremely beneficial part of marketing your home. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have questions about it. So, let’s go over some.

What If I Plan To Sell My House Without An Agent?

Real estate agents may be the ones who most commonly use them, but virtual staging services are available to everyone. If you’re selling your home without an agent, it’s even more important to put your best foot forward when marketing your house.

Keep in mind that the key to getting high-quality staged photos is taking high-quality photographs. Real estate agents never take listing photos themselves, and if you can help it, neither should you. Assuming your budget allows for it, you should always hire a professional photographer to take your listing photos, regardless of whether you plan to have them virtually staged. 

Is It Ethical To Use Staged Photos? 

While doctoring photos to include space or views not actually present is unethical, there’s nothing wrong with using staged photos. Marketing your home necessitates that you present it in the best possible light, and sometimes your furnishings just don’t cut it. Virtually staged photos allow you to show off your rooms’ potential without having to spend a fortune.

However, if you’re using staged photos to change more than just the furnishings, you must clearly label them. Staged photos can certainly help you show buyers the types of renovations that can be completed to elevate your home, but you must make it clear that those “renovations” are virtually completed.

Is It Better To Use Traditional Staging Or Virtual Staging To Market Your Home?

Traditional staging can make a considerable difference for buyers who come to see the property during open houses or showings, but many agents now weigh the costs against the rewards. Nothing will ever beat having a professionally staged home ready for buyers to see in person, but most sellers don’t want thousands of dollars taken out of their profit.

Although buyers may have a harder time visualizing themselves living in the space, the virtually staged listing photos are enough to convince them to walk through the door. Meanwhile, buyers can always reference the staged photos again during or after their visit to remind themselves of the home’s possibilities.

Summary: Virtual Staging Puts Your Home’s Best Foot Forward

If you’re ready to put your home on the market, you need to make sure it’s looking its best. Instead of spending thousands of dollars renovating or buying new furniture, you can use virtual staging to show off your home’s potential. By adding staged photos to your listing, you can get more buyers interested, receive more offers and close on your home faster, so you can start planning your next adventure.

To learn more about selling your home, check out the articles featured in our Home Seller’s Guide.

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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Quicken Loans, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.