Luxury Virtual Staging: Is it Right for High-End Listings?

Updated January 17, 2023 09:55 AM

Not all virtual staging is created equal. The concept of digitally staging properties is growing in popularity, but is it right for the luxury real estate market?

Read on to learn what not to do for luxury real estate listings - and how virtual staging can be an incredible marketing tool for high-end properties.

Here's what we'll cover:

Virtual staging for high end real estate sales

What Luxury Virtual Staging Means

To understand the concept fully, we need to define virtual staging and luxury real estate.

A basic definition of virtual staging is placing digital renderings of furniture and decor to photos of vacant spaces. However, virtual staging is really an umbrella term that encompasses an extremely wide range of services (from simply adding furniture to doing virtual renovations) and levels of quality.

A quick Google search will immediately introduce you to a large number of popular virtual staging companies. Many of them seem similar on the surface, but there are actually many important differences in each company's offerings - and most virtual staging companies do not fall into the category of "luxury virtual staging."

On the other hand, the term "luxury real estate" doesn't have a cut-and-dry definition. According to The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, it's defined as homes in the top 10% of their local market. With this definition, luxury homes can mean $30 million mansions in Beverly Hills or $1 million homes in smaller markets like Kansas City.

Logically, luxury virtual staging could be defined in a similar way - the top 10% of all digital staging services.

But there"s much more to consider than price alone. In fact, some of the most expensive virtual staging services, like VHT Studios, would not meet the standards expected of luxury real estate. Read more details in our full breakdown of the costs of virtual staging.

To determine the highest quality virtual staging services, you need to look at the following six qualities:

1. Photorealism and Image Quality

With modern technology, it requires minimal skills and time to generate a digital rendering of furniture. Almost anyone can find a way to edit photos or add virtual furniture to a photo of a room. If you want to find an extremely cheap way to digitally furnish a room, you wouldn't have to look very hard. However, adding a rendering of furniture to a photo and the result looking incredibly beautiful and realistic is very rare.

In high-end real estate, presenting a beautiful, realistic visual is a must. When considering anything luxurious - custom cabinets, handbags, art, even food - what makes things or experiences luxurious is the marriage of good design and an attention to the fine details. Luxury staging is the same.

Luxury virtual stagers have the highest level of photorealism - all the way down to the details. All furniture and decor added is to-scale in the room. There are no blurry edges or awkwardly shaped proportions. Virtually staged luxury properties are interchangeable with high-quality real estate photography.

2. Furniture and Decor

The most high-end virtual staging services don't simply add any sofa to a living room and check off the box. Rather, luxury virtual staging services hand-pick furniture that is tailored to the location of a property and the style and size of a space. Stuccco is the only virtual staging company that uses digital renderings of furniture and decor from high-end companies that can be purchased. Read more about Stuccco's online interior design services.

3. Proportions and Composition

One of the most popular reasons that real estate agents use virtual staging is because virtually staged photos help buyers understand the potential, size and intended use of a space. Composition is key in all great real estate photography, and there's a clear difference between vacant and staged real estate images.

Custom virtual staging work for luxury listings, Stuccco before and after bedroom

Unfortunately, this is also one of the first things that other virtual staging companies get wrong. Again - adding furniture is easy but appealing to high-end buyers who have particular tastes and high expectations is much more difficult.

For example, here's an example of poor image quality and composition. Because of the poor virtual staging, the focus on the photo is the back of the couch. As a result, it is very difficult to appreciate what the rest of the space looks or feels like.

Unfortunately, this is from one of the most popular virtual staging companies on the market. PadStyler. Read a full review of Padstyler.

Padstyler poor virtual staging example

Poorly staged living room by Padstyler

4. Style

A common home staging tip is to opt for neutral colors over bold colors. This is because home staging is designed to appeal to the widest range of potential buyers, and bold colors can be polarizing for large numbers of people.

However, common or forgettable is the opposite of luxury, which needs to stand out and impress. Staging a luxury property with "basic" furnishings is a surefire way to unimpress buyers. In million dollar homes, flat beige walls, carpet, and decor will not cut it. Luxury homebuyers aren't looking for a home that they can upgrade to fit their style. They're looking for a home that already reflects their unique personality and style.

Part of the home staging process is to determine the appropriate design style to use when staging a property. Stuccco offers seven different design styles to choose from:

  • Comfortable contemporary
  • Farmhouse
  • Industrial/Urban
  • Modern
  • New Traditional
  • Scandinavian
  • Sleek Contemporary

At Stuccco, a seller or their real estate agent can choose which style best fits the home - or they can leave it up to Stuccco's design professionals to select for them.

Virtually staged open concept, living and dining area

That brings us to one of the most important elements of luxury home staging: expertise.

5. Interior Design and Home Staging Expertise

If you're a real estate professional, you know that selling a luxury property requires specialized experience and knowledge. Similarly, virtually staging luxury properties requires trained professionals. There's simply too much on the line (your time, a big commission check, opportunity costs) to risk virtually staging photos of luxury properties on your own or to hire a photo editor to do it for you on the cheap.

Stuccco is one of the only virtual staging and online design companies who employs professional stagers and interior designers. No matter what virtual staging service you may choose, your photos will be staged using furniture and decor that is constantly being curated by professional interior designers and home stagers so as to maximize the appeal of each space in a listing.

6. Photo Editing and Rendering Capabilities

As we mentioned above, "virtual staging" often describes only adding products to a photo of a vacant space. However, that doesn't always fulfill the primary purpose of home staging - to help homes sell faster and for the best value.

The right virtual staging may include removing furniture, replacing furniture, editing the photo's background, adjusting the lighting, changing appliances or cabinets, or even changing flooring or wall colors. Luxury virtual staging shouldn't be limited, but it should maintain the highest standards of quality.

You'll find that some virtual staging companies, like BoxBrownie, offer a vast array of services, from photo editing to virtual tours to 3D floor plans. But by offering a vast array of services, companies like this are "a mile wide and an inch deep" (i.e. focused on offering so many services as possible, thereby sacrificing their ability to focus on developing world-class expertise in a particular service, which is what luxury properties demand).

On the other hand, other staging companies like VRX Staging only offer a small number of basic services like staging, furniture removal, and wall color changes. This limits your staging abilities and doesn't provide you with the services a luxury property needs.

With Stuccco virtual staging, the priority is offering the highest quality of virtual staging services without limiting your abilities. You won't see additional services like 3D renderings or walk-through tours, but you will receive the highest level of service and quality with each virtual staging order placed.

Stuccco offers only what luxury buyers, sellers and real estate professionals expect - access to experts who can perform a variety of virtual staging services.

Office space in construction, before staging
Stuccco virtual staging example from construction

Luxury Virtual Staging vs. DIY Virtual Staging

Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative representations of virtual staging floating around the internet. The quality of virtual staging primarily depends on two elements:

  1. The quality of the virtual staging software
  2. The designer's level of expertise

Even though both services are technically under the "virtual home staging" umbrella, do-it-yourself ("DIY") virtual staging is a completely different service than luxury virtual staging.

DIY virtual staging is intended to put digital furniture into a space in the quickest, cheapest way - there is no consideration for quality, realism, or actual staging expertise.

Agents or homeowners who choose to use DIY virtual staging services are almost always looking for the most affordable possible option. They are not looking for the best quality or composition that attracts luxury buyers.

Unrealistic furnishings, poor staging example from Visual Stager

Low-quality example from Visual Stager

It's not wrong to prioritize budget over quality. However, most virtual staging services that are competing on price are not the right fit for luxury real estate professionals and the properties and clients they represent.

The purpose, process, and results of DIY staging or extremely low-budget staging vs. professional virtual staging are completely different.

Virtual staging with a luxury company like Stuccco means getting the highest level of design and staging expertise, image quality, and built-in real estate marketing features like a free single property website, which can be automatically generated for each property that Stuccco stages.

In fact, high-end virtual staging is more similar to traditional or physical home staging than DIY staging. Read more about the differences between virtual staging and real staging in our guide.

Examples of Virtually Staged Luxury Properties

Virtually staged bedroom example by Stuccco
Kitchen images before and after staging
Dining room virtual staging image, before and after
Modern home exterior, before and after virtual landscaping

Virtual Staging for Luxury Homes: Is it the Best Choice?

The facts are undeniable: not all virtual staging services or companies are right for luxury properties.

However, not all common beliefs about virtual staging are factual. Many real estate agents believe that virtual staging is only appropriate for budget-friendly properties.

There's also a false belief that all home buyers prefer traditional staging with real furniture.

But when you think about what home buyers really want, this isn't accurate. More than anything, buyers want to feel confident about the biggest purchase of their lives. In particular, luxury home buyers are often considering spending millions of dollars on their home.

What they really don't want is surprises.

When you virtually stage a home, you use visual marketing to show the home's full potential. At the same time, potential buyers have the ability to walk through the vacant property and see the home as-is, with no surprises waiting for them during the final walkthrough.

Instead of being distracted by the beautiful furniture and decor, empty spaces can actually help buyers visualize their own furniture and decor in the home. It keeps them from being distracted and finding any unpleasant surprises during the walkthrough.

In some ways, virtual staging is actually considered more honest than traditional home staging.

Virtual staging image sign in physical property

Plus, when you take the physical elements out of home staging, you also remove any risk of property damage. You don't need to have a team of strangers coming in and out of the house, and you don't have to worry about the logistics of carrying large furniture around fragile or unique home designs.

So, is virtual staging the right choice for luxury properties?


luxury bedroom virtually staged

The Spruce even named Stuccco the best virtual staging company.

Ready to get started? Start your virtual staging order here.

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