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Virtual staging is the process of using digital software to alter interior real estate photos to make properties more appealing to potential buyers. With virtual staging, vacant or sparsely furnished spaces can be transformed into inviting, fully decorated dream homes without any actual redecorating required.
While physical staging has been popular for years, virtual staging has recently emerged as a more efficient and flexible alternative. The advent of advanced editing software and AI technologies now allows realistic digital furniture, lighting, and dÃ©cor to be added into listing photos with just a few clicks.
Whereas physical staging demands time and money to rent and install furnishings, virtual staging can instantaneously dress up empty rooms. The digital decorations and layout changes are simulated rather than substantive, but the visual impact for marketing is much the same.
Savvy real estate agents are increasingly turning to virtual staging as a way to maximize interest for all their listings, not just expensive, upscale properties. Even modest homes can get a "wow factor" upgrade with fake fireplaces, built-in shelves, and stylish furnishings applied after-the-fact online.
For sellers, virtual staging means showcasing properties at their full potential without the burden of securing and paying for temporary furniture and accessories. There's no cleaning, storing, or returning items afterwards either.
With virtual staging, real estate photos can portray any decorating scheme a seller or stager desires. Want to feature a room as an elegant home office? A cheerful children's bedroom? A minimalist living space? It's all possible with just a few tweaks of the software.
And because it's virtual, there's room for easy experimentation. A space can be staged multiple ways to assess what styling sells it best. Changes take mere minutes, not hours or days as with physical restaging.
While virtual staging has its limitations, it puts gorgeous, finished looking interiors within reach for many more properties. This democratization of staging helps sellers spotlight their home's potential, not just its present condition.
In the tech-driven real estate landscape, virtual staging is becoming a must-have. Seychelle Vos, a top producing real estate agent in Portland, Oregon, enthusiastically notes, "I don't list a property now without virtual staging. It's been a game changer for showcasing listings and getting buyers excited."
The real estate market is increasingly competitive, with more and more properties vying for buyers" attention. In order to stand out, homes need wow factor presentation and savvy marketing. This demand has fueled the meteoric rise of virtual staging in recent years.
While virtual staging technology has existed since the early 2000s, it did not gain mainstream traction until quite recently. Early virtual staging solutions were clunky and unrealistic, with awkward furniture placement and flat lighting. As editing software advanced by leaps and bounds, virtual staging capabilities improved exponentially. Now, with AI and 3D modeling integrated into programs like BoxBrownie and roOomy, virtual staged images look like genuine professional photographs.
Lisa Melamed of Washington DC"s Urban Pace real estate describes the transition: "When virtual staging first came out, it looked like dollhouse furniture photoshopped into a room. But the technology has gotten so good that sometimes I can"t tell which of my listings were virtually staged versus physically staged."
Real estate agents have been quick to seize on these improvements, becoming virtual staging converts. In 2019, a survey by Real Estate Magazine found that 42% of agents were already using virtual staging for listings. Just two years later in 2021, that number had skyrocketed to over 75% of agents surveyed.
And it"s not just agents getting onboard. Sellers are proactively requesting virtual staging themselves to highlight their home"s potential. Compared to the expense and work of physical staging, virtual staging provides an affordable, convenient alternative.
Kara Cenate, a top producing real estate agent in Florida, explains that virtual staging has become a common seller expectation: "My clients see their homes through rose colored glasses. They think buyers will instantly see the property"s possibilities. But I have to make those possibilities clear in the marketing photos, which is where virtual staging comes in."
For vacant homes in particular, virtual staging is proving transformative. Previously, empty spaces tended to look unappealing and isolating in listings. Now agents have an easy fix to dress up bare rooms.
Samantha Keene, an agent in Texas, describes a listings that had lingered unsold for months. "The house had great bones but renters had just moved out so it looked totally empty inside. As soon as we virtually staged it, we had multiple offers within a week!"
Virtual staging offers a host of benefits that make it an invaluable tool for real estate agents and sellers alike. Unlike traditional physical staging, virtual staging is fast, affordable, and efficient. It can give vacant or messy properties an instant facelift that highlights their potential in the best light.
One of the biggest advantages of virtual staging is speed. While physical staging takes days or weeks to coordinate, virtual staging can be completed in mere hours or minutes. Morgan Davis, an agent based in Seattle, loves how quickly virtual staging allows her to overhaul listings. "I don"t have time to style and stage every single property top to bottom. With virtual staging, I can give homes an amazing transformation almost instantly compared to traditional staging."
This immediacy also means virtual staging can still be added last minute if needed. Sandra Nunez, an agent in Houston, had a listing shoot scheduled when the sellers moved out early. "The house was a disaster with stuff everywhere. I was able to send the photos to be virtually staged that very night. The edited photos still made the listing deadline looking beautiful and clutter-free."
In addition to speed, virtual staging offers affordability. While the costs of physical staging including furniture rental, labor, storage and insurance can quickly add up to thousands, virtual staging is far cheaper in most cases. Many services charge under $30 per image edited. Erica Troy, an agent based in Denver, appreciates the budget-friendliness of virtual staging. "I use virtual staging on most of my listings now. It gives a similar boost the properties" appeal as physical staging but at a fraction of the cost."
With lower costs, agents can virtually stage more listings in their portfolio. Kathryn Scott, an agent in Austin, selectively used physical staging for high-end properties pre-COVID. "I just didn"t have room in my marketing budget to stage all potential listings. Now I use virtual staging to make every single property shine."
And virtual staging allows experimentation with different room uses and styles. Changing up physical staging requires repurchasing and rearranging furniture. But virtual staging lets agents test out limitless decorating schemes. Madeline Davis, an agent in Portland, loves playing with options. "I"ll style a space three different ways - modern, traditional, industrial. Then my seller picks their favorite look to highlight."
Sophia Chen, an agent in San Francisco, leverages virtual staging for curb appeal. "My last listing was a beautiful Victorian, but had a really cluttered front patio area. Virtually staging cleared all that out and added flowers and potted plants instead. The gorgeous "after" shot was what buyers saw first online, and it really drew them in."
Interior spaces also get a boost from virtual dÃ©cor and upgrades. Mark Lee, an agent in Chicago, says virtual kitchen remodels are especially effective. "Many older homes here have dated, ugly kitchens. Buyers want to envision how that space could look. Virtual staging lets me transform it into a clean, modern kitchen with the latest finishes and appliances."
Vacant properties in particular tend to languish online when empty. But virtual furnishings breathe new life into bare spaces. Sandra Jeong is an agent in Los Angeles who specializes in "coming soon" and pre-market listings. "Before virtual staging, my vacant listings got way less attention. Empty rooms just don"t entice buyers. Now I digitally stage every property as soon as I get the listing. The furnished photos drive so much more interest."
This heightened buyer engagement converts to more foot traffic and offers. Cindy Park, an agent in Seattle, tracks the impact staging has on her listings. "My last virtually staged listing got 50% more clicks and over 30 more showings than my average property. We ended up with multiple strong offers."
For affordable homes in popular neighborhoods, virtual staging can tip the scales between a bidding war or lingering unsold. James Chen is an agent in Denver who recently listed a dated condo below market average price. "It was the least expensive unit in that area by over $100K. Staging was out of my client"s budget, so I opted for virtual. It helped buyers see beyond the old dÃ©cor to the unit"s potential. We priced it right and had 5 offers within 2 weeks."
Vivian Ngo, an agent in Houston, now stages vacant listings as a rule. "Empty homes just sit online, but the staged versions fly off the market. My last staged listing went pending in 4 days with over 10 offers. Buyers want the full experience of seeing their future home, not an empty shell."
For luxury listings, virtual staging raises the caliber of marketing materials for discerning buyers. Erica Choi is a luxury agent in Los Angeles who works with high profile clientele. "For multi-million dollar homes, perfect photos are critical. Virtual staging allows me to showcase high-end furniture and design without paying for expensive physical staging. The results help luxury buyers instantly envision themselves in the space."
One of the most revolutionary advantages of virtual staging is the ability to stage properties remotely. With traditional physical staging, sellers and agents must be onsite to position furniture, purchase decor, and style rooms. But virtual staging can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
For Michelle Thompson, an agent based in Denver, this flexibility has been a gamechanger. "I split my time between Denver and Los Angeles for work. With virtual staging, I can stage my Denver listings from LA and vice versa. I don"t need to book travel or be on location to style a space."
Amy Chen had a seller relocating overseas right when their Dallas property hit the market. "The sellers moved abroad three weeks before listing. With physical staging not an option, I virtually staged the home myself online right before the photoshoots. The empty house looked move-in ready for all the shots."
Virtual staging also accommodates busy or absentee sellers. Mark Davis manages listings for several out-of-state investors. "Some of my seller clients purchase properties sight unseen. Virtual staging allows them to see the spaces staged before we even list, and make decisions on decor remotely."
For time-strapped sellers still living in a soon-to-be-listed home, virtual staging means avoiding the huge hassle of clearing out furniture and belongings for staging. Sandra Murphy recently sold her Boston townhouse while juggling her family"s hectic schedule. "I didn"t have time to empty the place for staging, but my agent said she could stage it virtually for the photos. I was thrilled I didn"t have to deal with packing up my home before listing."
Vivian Chen"s Chicago loft photographed beautifully empty, but echoed. Virtual furnishing fixed the issue. "My place is very open concept with high ceilings. It felt really cold and cavernous in photos when empty. We virtually added furniture which warmed up the space."
Mark Lee, an agent in Austin often encounters vacant homes under renovation. "I"ll get a listing that"s mid-remodel with flooring torn out or walls being repainted. Virtual staging lets me insert finished floors or textures on unfinished drywall to show the future potential."
For Juan Nunez in Houston, virtual staging recently saved a listing photoshoot. "My client was still moving the last of their things out on the day of the shoot. I sent the empty room photos to my virtual stager, who turned them around staged that same day. The listing went live on time and buyers never knew some rooms were empty."
One of the biggest hassles of traditional physical staging is the clutter and disorder it creates for sellers. Boxing up belongings, shuffling around furniture, and relinquishing space is enormously disruptive for residents. But virtual staging sidesteps this upheaval, allowing sellers to avoid the mess and stress of relocating their home"s contents.
For elderly sellers or those with mobility issues, clearing out furnishings for staging can be particularly arduous. Virtual solutions keep existing layouts intact while enhancing them digitally. Madeline Scott is an agent whose clients often face health limitations. "Asking elderly sellers to empty their lifelong home for staging is unrealistic and sometimes impossible. With virtual staging, I can refresh their space without disrupting what works for them."
Parents of young children also dread the chaos of uprooting toys and play areas to accommodate staging. Eric Chen recently sold his suburban Chicago home while juggling two kids under 3. "The clutter drives me nuts, but removing all the kids" stuff to stage the house would have driven them nuts. Virtual staging let us list fast without rearranging our whole lives first."
Pet owners face similar concerns about relocating cumbersome setups. For Sandra Murphy in Boston, virtual staging simplified both selling and buying with her dogs and cats. "Between kennels, multi-level cat towers, and wall-mounted perches, moving our pets" areas is a giant undertaking I avoided with virtual staging on both ends."
Home offices and gym equipment are other awkward spaces to clear out for staging. Vivian Lee, an agent in Austin, regularly encounters this issue. "Many of my sellers work from home and can"t easily relocate bulky office furniture just for listing photos. Same for home gyms"it"s not easy to temparily remove permanent workout setups." Virtual staging provides an easy fix, improving these spaces in place.
Wall mounted TVs and entertainment systems are another area where virtual staging comes in handy. Madeline Chen recently listed her Columbus condo complete with a full surround sound system and 75 inch television. "De-installing the elaborate setup my husband custom built was not an option. Virtual staging made the wall-to-wall equipment disappear so the room felt more open."
For spacious homes, gathering up all furnishings for staging can be extremely tedious. Marissa Thompson listed a sprawling suburban estate in Houston last year. "The 10 bedroom house was over 20,000 square feet. Taking furniture out of that many rooms would have taken several truckloads and days of work." Letting the showpiece architecture shine through empty was the listing angle, enhanced by virtual furniture in select spaces.
Similarly, upper floor rooms are a hassle to clear out in multi-story homes. Walking heavy items up and down is exhausting. Michelle Davis recently sold a historic 5 story brownstone in Brooklyn. "There was no way I was going to lug furniture from the top floor rooms down all those narrow stairs just for staging. The virtual designer furnished those rooms beautifully without anyone needing to haul a sofa."
One of the biggest draws of virtual staging is its affordability and convenience compared to traditional physical staging. For most agents and sellers, hiring a staging company to style and furnish a property is simply not feasible due to the high costs. While physical staging can run $3000-$5000 for a partially furnished home and upwards of $30,000 for an luxuriously decorated showpiece estate, virtual staging often costs a mere fraction of this. Basic virtual staging services start as low as $10 per image, with typical turnaround times of 1-3 days.
This budget friendliness makes comprehensive virtual staging attainable for nearly any listing. Mark Chen, an agent in Portland, finds virtual staging expands what marketing is possible for his clients. "I couldn't afford professional staging for all my listings before. Now with affordable virtual staging, every property I represent can showcase model-home quality interiors for a reasonable price."
The low cost also encourages use on multiple spaces within a home. Kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and primary bedrooms tend to be priorities for physical staging. But budget constraints limit decorating secondary rooms like offices, laundry rooms or kids" bedrooms. Virtual staging removes this selectivity. For just $20-$40 more per image, an entire house can adopt a cohesive, polished look.
Sandra Murphy, an agent in Austin, appreciates this flexibility: "I like to stage as many rooms as possible to give buyers a complete vision of the home"s potential. Virtual solutions make it easy to style bonus rooms, basements and more on a budget."
In addition to affordability, virtual staging offers convenience and speed compared to physical staging"s hands-on process. Coordinating furniture rentals, installation, and uninstallation takes huge effort and coordination. Amy Chen, an agent in Boston, explains how virtual solutions simplify her workflow: "Physically staging requires countless hours shopping for items, scheduling deliveries and setup, then returning everything afterwards. Virtual staging provides beautiful upgrades instantly and hassle-free."
And as a computer-based process, virtual staging accommodates last minute changes seamlessly. Erica Troy, an agent in Seattle, often needs to edit listing photos down to the wire. "If I decide I want a different furniture layout the night before shooting, it takes 2 seconds to have my virtual stager tweak the rendering. No need to reorder physical furniture or restage from scratch."
This nimble convenience also enables easy personalization. Sandra Keene customizes virtual staging for each client"s tastes: "I can edit the style of decor to match what my sellers want to showcase - modern, farmhouse, traditional. Even if they change their mind on the design scheme, new renderings are a breeze to generate."
As virtual staging transforms real estate photography, it is also spurring a larger shift in how properties are marketed overall. Listing materials once focused heavily on showcasing homes in their current state. Now agents are thinking more creatively about digital enhancements that display potential. This expands what"s possible for grabbing buyers" attention online.
Just as virtual staging upgrades empty spaces, digitally edited landscaping and exteriors present curb appeal at its best, not only its actual state. Eric Wu, an agent in Austin, sees virtual outdoor upgrades as the next wave. "I can add fuller greenery, flowers, even water features to a drab yard with a click. Listing photos don"t have to showcase just current reality, but possibilities." Architectural details like shutters, tile roofing and exterior lighting can also be digitally inserted to elevate a home"s aesthetics affordably.
Overall, virtual solutions enhance marketing flexibility and customization. Michelle Park is an agent outside Seattle who tailors listings to each buyer demographic. "I know which neighborhood buyers want modern versus traditional design. Now it"s easy to stage listings differently to appeal specifically to those audiences." And as virtual tech improves, personalization will only expand. 2023 will bring advancements like edit-it-yourself staging software and customized digital furniture branded for brokerages and builders.
Of course, while virtual enhancements optimize listings visually, transparent communication remains key. Ethical agents are upfront about digital alterations like virtual staging. Vivian Chen, an agent in Portland, provides detailed staging disclosures in all listings. "I"m very clear in my marketing materials about what is physically present versus digitally added in listings. There are never surprises during showings."
Though already a gamechanger, virtual staging technology still has room to evolve. As augmented and virtual reality tours gain traction, integrating staging into 3D home previews will be impactful. Sandra Murphy, an agent in Boston, says next-level virtual staging can"t come soon enough. "Being able to digitally design, renovate and furnish homes for VR will be huge. Buyers want that immersive experience of seeing future potential."