If you've been looking into virtual home staging, also sometimes called digital staging, real estate virtual staging, or virtual house staging, here's an article you need to read first. The virtual staging vs real staging debate can get a little heated between homeowners and agents looking to save money, and those who provide real home staging. I'm on team real home staging, and here's why:
Virtual Staging Doesn't Work
I say this a lot, but it bears repeating: Home buying is a process of elimination, and the first elimination round occurs online. If buyers are not inspired by the photos, they’re not likely to schedule a showing to see it in person. That being said, please don’t try to save money by virtually staging your home listing. Virtual staging doesn’t work. If it did, I’d eagerly build my entire business model around virtual staging, because then I’d have much lower overhead costs.
Have you ever tried online dating? Ever meet someone in person who doesn't look anything like they did in their online profile pics? Think about how deceived you felt. Deceived, angry, let down, sad... however you want to describe your emotions at the time, I'd bet they weren't positive. But, hey! Those photos got you to agree to meet up for an in-person meeting! Unfortunately for the person who posted the deceiving photos, however, it didn't get them what they wanted: another date.
Virtually staged photos may get buyers to the home, but like online dating, these buyers are going to feel very let down when they enter a home that doesn’t look anything like the photos they saw online. Buyers' agents have reported that they can visibly see their buyer deflating with disappointment when they enter a home for the first time after seeing it virtually staged. My peers in this industry report that listing agents all over the country have resorted to bringing in a home staging company to stage a home that was previously virtually staged because their listing was languishing on the market without real staging.
Let’s be honest: virtual staging is bait and switch. When the buyer realizes you’ve wasted their time by tricking them into coming to the property using virtual staging, they will start wondering what else is being misrepresented.
In my article, Benefits of Staging a Home, I explain confirmation bias and how it affect buyers psychologically. If they walk into the home and their first reaction is anger or disappointed, if they even bother to proceed with their tour, they will seek out reasons to validate that reaction. They will nick pick at every tiny flaw and focus on all the ways the home doesn't meet their needs. While they mentally fill out the list of pros and cons, they will be actively seeking out things to add to the "cons" column.
Buying a home is a very emotional experience. They will be investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, and they need to feel good about their decision. It's also where they will be spending most of their time and possibly raising a family. You want them to start forming an emotional attachment to the home the second they walk in the door. You don’t want them feeling tricked or disappointed, because when making their decision, buyers rely far more heavily on how they feel about a home than any other factor, even price.
I know that real staging is more expensive and you may be reluctant to spend that much money. However, home staging should be viewed as an investment. You will get your money back and then some when you close escrow. But if you blow money on a service that isn't going to work, that's not an investment. That's just money down the drain.
A final word of caution: Not only is virtual staging ineffective, it's unethical. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a strict code of ethics that prohibits Realtors from misrepresenting a property. Virtually staged properties include digital furniture that has been resized to fit into a room that would not actually fit that much furniture. For example, if a full size sofa, loveseat and two chairs are not going to fit into a family room, it's unethical to digitally shrink the furniture to give the impression they will. Unfortunately, I see this happening in virtual staging far too often. I've also seen virtual home staging in which the virtual stager removed stains in flooring, changed the walls to a different color, added or removed wallpaper, upgraded the appliances... I've even seen beautiful landscaping added to a front yard that, in reality, had nothing but a patch of dead grass. Please don't do this.
If you're a real estate professional using virtual staging, it is my opinion that you're doing a disservice to your clients. As I said earlier, if I felt virtual staging achieved the desired results - faster sales and higher offers - I would sell off all my staging assets, layoff my employees, shut down my warehouse and move to a virtual staging business model. It would honestly be a dream come true! I could do my job from anywhere! All I would need would be a computer and some great software. So, I would love to proven wrong. If you know of any statistics on virtual staging vs real staging that indicate virtually staging homes works better than real staging, I would genuinely love to see it. Please feel free to link to those statistics in the comments section.