Cluttered rooms, worn-out furniture, and rows of knickknacks can be a turn-off to homebuyers who are hoping to imagine themselves in a new space. Yet, empty rooms lack warmth and can be a bit intimidating. That's why real estate agents have relied on home staging as a marketing tool for many years.
The traditional staging process involves adding, removing, or rearranging furniture and paying close attention to the details and decorating of a home. In recent years, sellers and agents are relying more and more on virtual staging as a way to showcase the potential of a property.
With this technique, you can virtually add or subtract furniture and décor to impress buyers. It's a process that can save everyone time, money, and a whole lot of aggravation.
According to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 25% of buyers' agents and 22% of sellers' agents said that home staging increases the offer price up to 5%, compared to other similar homes that aren't staged. According to the report, more than half of sellers' agents say staging decreases the time a home is on the market.
In this COVID-influenced real estate market -- in which 63% of 2020 buyers made an offer on a house they had not seen in person --virtual staging is a tool you should add to your marketing kit. However, virtual staging is not the same thing as virtual reality – you do need to follow some rules and guidelines. To help you get the most out of virtual staging, here are five top tips.
1. Do begin with the best "canvas." Whether you're shooting empty rooms or ones full of "stuff," virtually staging that attracts buyers begins with professional photographs.
A professional photographer will know how lighting and shadows affect the room and will account for that in the process. High-quality lenses also will assure that the existing architectural and design details of the home will display to their best advantage.
2. Do be upfront and ethical about virtual staging. The goal of virtual staging is to show a home at its best and to help buyers visualize it as their own. It is not an attempt to deceive buyers.
Virtual staging should only involve the placement (or removal) of furnishings and accents into photos. Don't use the technology to hide flaws in the home's interior –such as a stained ceiling – or exterior – such as a power pole.
MLS rules on virtually staged photos vary from state to state. If your MLS allows them, clearly disclose that the images have been virtually staged in your listing description.
3. Do match the furnishings and décor with the style of the home. In an effort to declutter or de-personalize a home, you can go overboard. Digitally placing sleek, contemporary furniture in a rustic cabin or turn-of-the-20th-century house can turn off buyers, for example.
Also, consider your buyer's tastes and needs as you stage the home virtually. Would a home office set-up be a better fit for that spare bedroom than a queen-sized bed? Or what about digitally adding some attractive outdoor furniture to the backyard?
4. Do break up boring walls. While it's easy to go overboard with staging, there's also the risk of going to the other extreme. Empty walls can look, well, boring. While you don't want to distract your buyers with photos or other collectibles, some things make a home livable to everyone.
Try virtually hanging a wide-screen TV on a living room or a mirror on a bedroom or dining room wall, for example. Simple artwork can help make the home more inviting as well.
5. Do remember the floors. While it is unethical to change the color of walls or the finishing on a floor, you can add rugs to lackluster flooring with virtual staging. Area rugs can add warmth, interest, and a pop of color to an otherwise ho-hum room.
A vase of flowers or a bowl of brightly colored fruit can complete the picture.
1. Don't conceal or misrepresent problems. While "editing out' the holiday lights that are still on the roof or the broken bench on the back deck is fine, virtual staging must not mislead the buyer in any way. It is unethical to digitally alter the color of the walls or the material of the kitchen counter, for instance.
2. Don't overdo the virtual furnishings and décor. It's best to keep things simple when staging a home. You want to give your buyers ideas of how they will furnish the space, not overwhelm them with your ideas.
3. Don't forget the bathroom! You can't alter the tub or vanity, but you can spruce up a lackluster bathroom considerably with virtual staging. Here are a few tips:
- Add a vase of flowers or a plant or two to bring color and warmth
- Place a lamp on the vanity to boost lighting
- A colorful rug in front of the tub or shower can add interest
4. Don't skip out on the exterior. Online home shoppers are looking at photos with a very discerning eye. Outdated porch furniture and dying doorstep plants can be a turn-off in pictures just as much or even more so than in person.
You can use virtual staging as a way to liven things up with modern tables and chairs and colorful flowers and hanging baskets.
5. Leave it to the pros. Home shoppers will want to zoom in on features that catch their interest. You'll want crisp, high-resolution shots to show off the home to its best advantage.
A professional photographer has the lighting, the lenses, the knowledge, the experience to shoot homes at the best angles and in the right conditions. Proper editing technique can make a significant impact on the overall outcome of the photos as well.