How to Choose the Best Virtual Staging Software
There's a lot of chatter about virtual staging because it looks incredibly realistic and is faster, easier and more affordable than physically staging properties.
Like any new, disruptive technology, virtual staging can be confusing - even frustrating - for those trying to figure out what it is, how it works and what software tools and services to use.
This article will help you get clear on these topics; however, if you have any questions about virtual staging, call (1-833-788-2226) or message us via live chat at the bottom right of your screen and we're happy to help.
Here's what you'll learn in this article:
- What is virtual staging software?
- Who uses virtual staging software?
- What does virtual staging cost?
- How do I use virtual staging software?
- Is virtual staging legal or ethical?
- How virtual staging actually sells houses
- How to choose the best virtual staging software
What is Virtual Staging Software?
Think about all the times that you've seen physical home staging used in the real estate industry and on TV - virtual staging is the digital version of that. By using technology, you can get furniture and decor added to any photo of an empty space. If you have photos of a furnished space, you can get existing items removed and new items added in their place. You can even go so far as getting wall, cabinet and/or door colors or landscaping changed. The possibilities are endless.
When someone refers to "virtual staging software” they're either referring to:
Scenario 1 ("do-it-yourself virtual staging software”): The software tools that design professionals use to virtually stage photos of a space, or…
Scenario 2 ("done-for-you virtual staging companies”): The online platforms used by real estate professionals to get photos virtually staged by design professionals.
DIY Virtual Staging Software vs. DFY Virtual Staging Companies
The DIY software tools that are most commonly used by design professionals to produce high-quality virtually staged photos are:
While some designers use Sketchup or VisualStager to virtually stage photos, we do NOT recommend using these tools because neither tool produces virtually staged photos that are as high quality as those produced using 3ds Max, at least not as of publishing this article.
In addition to the software tools listed above, you will need:
- A good eye for and understanding of interior design and home staging best practices
- Images of each space
- A computer that meets certain technical requirements
- A library of 3d models of furniture and decor
Like any design profession, it takes a lot of time and training to learn how to produce high-quality virtually staged photos. The software tools listed above do not produce instantaneous results with a click of a button. Rather, a professional designer leverages these powerful tools to help him or her produce high-quality virtually staged photos.
Any reputable DFY virtual staging company (Scenario 2) will have professional designers on staff who use the virtual staging software tools listed above (Scenario 1) and have access to a vast yet highly curated library of photo-realistic 3D models of furniture and decor.
If you are a real estate professional who needs photos of a property virtually staged, we do not recommend pursuing Scenario 1 because it will be expensive, time-consuming and it will not guarantee that your virtually staged photos will be of high quality. Rather, Scenario 2 is a much more economical and reliable option. For example, here are two virtually staged living rooms:
Living room virtually staged by Stuccco
Photoshopped living room, via The American Genius
We believe Stuccco.com is the best done-for-you virtual staging option. We've done the research (read: The Best Virtual Staging Companies Reviewed and Compared), have operated in this industry since 2015 and we invite you to do your own research as well. When you compare virtual staging companies, we believe you'll also find that Stuccco offers the best combination of speed, price, design quality, service and value.
To get photos virtually staged by Stuccco, you just need to place a virtual staging order, which includes uploading the photos you'd like staged and answering a few questions about how you'd like them to be staged. Upon receipt of the order, Stuccco's designers will professionally stage your photos according to your requirements within 12 - 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Related reading: How to Virtually Stage a Property on Stuccco
What does virtual staging software include?
Each virtual staging platform (i.e. company or service) offers different services, capabilities, and quality.
The most-commonly offered types of virtual staging services are:
- Add furniture and decor
- Furniture removal
- Image enhancement
- Day to dusk (also referred to as "Virtual twilight”)
- Virtual renovation
Who Uses Virtual Staging Software?
Virtual staging is different from interior design because the purpose of virtual staging is to display a space's potential so as to attract buyers and offers. Therefore, the individuals who use virtual staging software most often are:
- Real estate agents
- Real estate brokers
- Homeowners listing their home for sale by owner (FSBO)
- Real estate photographers
Virtual staging is beneficial for the same people who hire traditional physical staging companies. Staging isn't the right service if you're trying to decorate and design your home - it is strictly a real estate marketing tool.
However, it is worth noting that Stuccco is the only virtual staging platform in the world that offers virtual staging and online interior design services, which means that real estate professionals who use Stuccco to virtually stage their properties' photos can refer the eventual buyer to the same company to turn the virtually staged designs into reality or customize the designs to fit the buyer's unique budget or style.
What Does Virtual Staging Cost?
Virtual staging costs between $16 - $199 per photo depending on the virtual staging company you choose and the type of virtual staging service(s) you need performed on each photo.
At Stuccco, real estate professionals typically get 3 to 10 photos virtually staged per property, which amounts to a total cost of $100 to $300 and takes 12 to 24 hours to complete. In comparison, the national average cost of traditional staging is $1,456 (HomeAdvisor), which takes an average of two weeks to complete.
Price is an important factor to consider when choosing a virtual staging company but it should not be the only factor you consider.
When you consider the value of virtual staging, consider:
- Cost per photo
- Design quality
- Real estate and design expertise
- Virtual staging services (staging photos of vacant spaces, staging photos of furnished spaces, changing floors, changing walls, etc.)
- Revision policies
- Full service or do-it-yourself (DIY)
- Customer reviews
- Customer service
- Turnaround time
Stuccco is not only one of the most affordable virtual staging companies, it's also the only American virtual staging company that employs professional designers and offers 12-24 hour turnaround times and unlimited free revisions.
How Do I Use Virtual Staging Software?
With a variety of types of virtual staging software, the way that you use it will depend on the company or tool that you use.
When you work with a virtual staging company, there is very little that you need to do to get your photos staged.
On the other hand, if you use DIY software tools, you'll have to navigate a significant learning curve.
How to Use Stuccco Virtual Staging
With Stuccco, the only thing you need to provide are the photos you want virtually staged. You can hire a professional real estate photographer to take the photos or you can take the photos yourself; in fact, you can learn how to take photos for virtual staging here.
You can have as much or as little control over the design of your photos as you want. When placing a virtual staging order, you are given the option to provide design instructions, attach reference photos and choose a design style (like industrial, farmhouse, or Scandinavian) and Stuccco's designers will design your photos accordingly.
Sleek contemporary design style from Stuccco
On the other hand, if you have no idea or preference for how a photo should be designed, you can leave it up to Stuccco's design team and its designers will make all of the design decisions for you based on what we've found works best to showcase properties given our experience virtually staging thousands of properties all across the USA.
Is Virtual Staging Legal or Ethical?
A lot of real estate agents question the legality of virtual staging. Generally, what they're most concerned about is misleading potential buyers and losing bids on their listings.
If you're worried about the ethics of virtual staging, it's a good sign. It means that you're running an honest business and that you want to serve people as much as you want to make a good living.
The short answer to the question is that, YES, virtual staging is legal, and it can and should be ethical.
However, to quote Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility.” If you cared more about dollar signs than actually running an honorable business, you could use virtual staging to deceive people.
Of course, abusing the power of virtual staging would backfire on you, so this wouldn't make you any extra money in the long run anyway.
In general, DIY virtual staging is a much riskier option than using a company. Staging companies should already have strict standards and suggestions that protect you as well as the buyer.
You can read more details about the ethics and legalities of virtual staging as well as the right way to use it. When it's done well, virtual staging elevates the buyers' experience instead of deceiving them.
When sharing your virtually staged photos, we always recommend:
- Disclosing that the photos of the property have been virtually staged
- Including the virtually staged photo immediately before or after its untouched equivalent so viewers clearly understand that the current, in-person state of the property that's being marketed
The Power of Bad Virtual Staging
To further explore the ethics of virtual staging, let's look at some examples. Here's an example of very poor virtually staged photo that was shared on Reddit:
Image via Reddit
This example was created and shared by an online real estate company. It takes less than two seconds to look at this image and see that all of the decor and furniture is digital and cheesy.
Plus, the furniture is not arranged correctly at all. The fireplace is sitting behind and beside the furniture instead of becoming the room's focal point. The modern furniture style just further highlights the dated wood paneling in the room.
It's better to do no staging at all than to do bad staging. It's safe to say that this furniture is probably not to scale in the room, so it only serves to confuse the buyer.
Image via Reddit
What's especially interesting about the example above is not only the hilariously obvious and fake car in the driveway, but how it impacted viewers.
This image was widely shared on Reddit, where many people commented that this "virtual staging” made them suspicious - and for good reason. It seems unlikely that this image was edited to help show the beauty of the property, and more likely that it was edited to hide something.
This, of course, is not an ethical use of virtual staging.
The Power of Great Virtual Staging
In comparison, high quality virtual staging should be used to give buyers an accurate understanding of a room's potential. It's especially useful when the listing is empty or when the buyer's existing furniture is not the best use of the space.
Since the average buyer struggles to visualize the potential of a space and how to best set it up, virtual staging is a tool that saves them the effort and displays the true potential.
Here's the power of virtually staging a room with highly realistic technology and interior design expertise:
Empty living room before being staged
Living room after virtual staging
This is a clear, accurate depiction of what the space could look like with the right design.
How Virtual Staging Actually Sells Houses
The best virtual staging software isn't successful because of pretty, edited photos. Virtual staging is only successful when it helps attract buyers and sells houses for more money.
As you might be able to guess, badly photoshopped images don't yield the best results.
What actually moves the needle is when buyers see a property and start imagining themselves living in it. It's a lot easier for them to imagine hosting parties or raising kids in a furnished home than in empty rooms, even though the bones are the same.
For more details about how and why virtual staging is so effective, read the top 3 reasons virtual staging works.
Plus, virtual staging can be even more powerful when used in combination with a strong marketing strategy. Here are a few basic ways to market your properties with virtual staging:
- Post on social media, including Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
- Create a free video slideshow
- Email your contact list
- Run a Facebook ad campaign
- Create a free single property website with Stuccco
- Print brochures
Get many more marketing tips in the beginner's guide to real estate marketing.
How to Choose the Best Virtual Staging Software for You
If you do a quick Google search for virtual staging, you'll get bombarded with many options that are each slightly different. Then, you'll probably start getting ads all over the internet for companies like Visual Stager, Virtual Stager, Real Tour Vision, Spotless Agency, VRX staging, and of course, yours truly, Stuccco.
If it's your first time looking for this type of software or company, it can be extremely confusing. To start, read our breakdown of the best virtual staging companies to get an idea of the difference between some of the most common ones.
In order to truly determine which virtual staging service is the right one for your needs, you need to understand what those needs are. Do you need simple lighting edits? Large-scale property renders? How important is price, turnaround time, quality, or having a money-back guarantee?
For example, if you are a real estate agent or broker, it's appealing to have the ability to generate a 3D floor plan or virtual tours. However, choosing a company that offers this feature, like Virtual Staging Solutions, costs more than three times the price of virtual staging with Stuccco. On the other hand, that's a necessary feature for builders and architects. You can read the full comparison and review of Virtual Staging Solutions.
If what you're looking for is the best and more efficient way to sell houses for more money, these are the features you should pay the most attention to:
- Design expertise
- Custom requests
- Revision limitations
- Turnaround time
- Variety of staging services
- Customer support availability
- Customer reviews
This is the case for most real estate agents, brokerages, and teams, and essentially anyone who is trying to sell a property. If that's you, the clear choice for virtual staging is Stuccco.
When you compare the quality, price, and service of Stuccco to any other virtual staging service, you'll find that it comes out on top.