Virtual Staging vs Real Staging: Which is Right for You?

Updated January 17, 2023 10:34 AM

Home staging is the most well-known method of selling a house for the best value. In fact, 85% of staged homes sell over the asking price by 5-23%. However, the staging industry has changed drastically in the last decade, so now real estate agents and homeowners have a common question: Is virtual staging or "real" staging better for my listing?

To help you answer that, we're going to cover:

What is virtual staging?

Virtual staging is the process of digitally adding or replacing furniture and decor to a photo of a room for the purpose of increasing its real estate value. Put simply, virtual staging means adding digital furniture to photos.

With the development of technology today, virtual staging software can be almost indistinguishable from traditional or "real" staging. With the top-quality software and professional designers, it will look completely realistic, with to-scale furniture, and be strategically designed to highlight the space.

virtually staged open concept living room and kitchen, property listing marketing strategy

Example of Stuccco virtual staging

Read more about what virtual staging means in the full guide to virtual staging.

What is "real staging" or traditional staging?

Traditional home staging involves bringing in physical pieces of furniture and decor for a home for sale. It's much more familiar to the general public--you see a home being staged every time you watch an episode of Fixer Upper or Property Brothers.


Example of traditionally staged living space

The purpose of home staging, whether it's virtual or traditional, is to attract potential buyers and motivate them to offer the highest possible price for the home.

This is why home staging is not the same as interior design. Interior design is used to create a functional, customized home for a specific individual or family. Home staging requires a different set of skills to strategically select layouts, furniture, and decor that highlight the most appealing and most valuable features of the home.

That is why a homeowner with an eye for design won't get the same results as a home staging professional. When you're looking to get the maximum ROI (return on investment) for a home sale, you need to work with experienced designers who know the ins and outs of luxury virtual staging.

What's the Difference Between Virtual Staging and Traditional Staging?

The most obvious difference between virtual home staging and traditional home staging is all in one word: "virtual."

When you use virtual staging to sell a home for more money, there is no physical furniture brought into the space. Instead, the space is digitally staged in order to show potential buyers what it could look like. However, when they walk through the space, they will be able to see it as is.

The purpose and results of virtual and home staging are identical. Both strategies are not used to make a home look or feel pretty--they are meant to increase real estate value.

Therefore, the real question isn't whether virtual or traditional staging is better. Both strategies can be used successfully in the right situation.

The question you should be looking to answer is which home staging strategy is best for each individual agent and listing. To make that decision more easily, read on for the pros and cons of each.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Staging

The biggest benefit of physical staging is obvious; the in-person experience. Homeowners love the idea of interested buyers getting to walk through the home and experience it as a perfectly manicured space designed to appeal to them.

Home staging is also much more familiar to consumers--you see staged homes everywhere you turn. They're on Pinterest, Instagram, magazines, and TV. We even see the process (and the emotional result) of staging every time we watch popular shows on HGTV.

But if the statistics show how incredibly valuable home staging is for real estate listings, why don't you actually see all real estate agents staging every single home for sale?

Well, it is possible to overestimate the power of an in-person experience.

There are four basic obstacles to traditional home staging:

  • Cost
  • Turnaround time
  • Difficulty and inconvience
  • Design limitations

The cost of home staging depends on many different factors, but you can plan on paying an absolute minimum of $300 for a consultation. On average, home staging costs about $6,000.

If you're selling a $10 million home in LA, then spending four or five figures on traditional staging may be a great investment to maximize the sale.

However, for the majority of real estate agents across the country, that is far too much to pay for each listing.

Another major problem with "real" staging is the logistics. First, the homeowners have to move all of their furniture and decor out of the home. Then, the staging company has to schedule a few days to bring all of the staging furniture in and set up all decor.

Plus, the staging process can be long and difficult. It can take weeks for an agent or seller to find a staging company, set up a consultation, wait for the design, wait for the sellers to move everything out of the home, and then bring in the furniture and set it all up.

The inconvenience of traditional home staging can be a deal-breaker for many sellers.

Finally, many agents don't realize the limitations of physical staging designs. The quality of your design depends on the expertise and the inventory of your home staging company.

Ideally, you'll find a stager with years of experience and a massive inventory selection. But the reality is that many professional home stagers have a limited number of furniture pieces to choose from.

Plus, if the home happens to be an NYC apartment or penthouse, traditional stagers aren't going to carry in large, heavy pieces of furniture that won't fit through the door. They're forced to choose furniture that is logistically easier to move.

In the end, traditional staging gives you a fraction of the design options of virtual staging, at 10-20x the price.


Stuccco virtual staging living room example

Example of virtually staged living room by Stuccco

Pros and Cons of Virtual Staging

The primary benefit of virtual staging is the result: it helps homes sell faster and for more money. In addition, when compared to physical staging, there are a few major reasons why virtual staging is often a better choice:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Fast turnaround time (12-24 hours with Stuccco virtual staging)
  • Easy and convenient process
  • Unlimited design options

While traditional home staging costs thousands of dollars, the cost of virtual home staging with Stuccco is $29 per photo.

It doesn't matter where you live, what kind of room you're staging, what design style you want, etc, etc. Even if you choose additional staging services, the overall price of virtual staging is quite literally a tiny fraction of the price of traditional home staging.

cost and value of virtual staging

With traditional staging, you'd spend 24 hours just waiting for a consulting appointment with a staging company. Instead, you can get an entire house worth of virtually staged images back in the same amount of time.

Virtual staging includes the best features of home staging, without the time restraints and inconvenience. Homeowners don't need to worry about moving everything out or renting another place--they just get the benefit of having more home showings and more interested buyers.

Plus, since virtual staging doesn't deal with physical furniture pieces, inventory isn't an obstacle. Stuccco can use any piece of furniture on the internet to stage a room, so we can truly choose the best pieces for each space without considering movers, shipping delays, or availability.

You don't need to shop around for designers, stagers, or furniture--all you need is to click "place order."

Bonus Benefit of Virtual Staging with Stucco: Online Interior Design

An added benefit of virtual staging with Stuccco is that you actually have something to offer the buyers of your or your clients' home--the design!

Stuccco is the only virtual staging company that also offers online interior design.

If the buyers love the way your rooms were staged, Stucco's online interior design services can actually turn it into reality. After they purchase the house, they can contact Stuccco to get the exact products in the images into their new home!

Stuccco online interior design example

Stuccco online interior design concept and final design

Virtual Staging vs Real Staging Comparison

  Traditional Home Staging Virtual Staging
Cost Average of $6,000, up to $25,000 or more $29 - 39 per photo with Stuccco virtual staging
Turnaround time 7-14 days for plan and set up 12-24 hours
Ease/convenience Requires a team of manual labor Online, order completed in five minutes
Design availability and flexibility Limited to designer's expertise and inventory Unlimited
In-person experience Yes No

Although virtual staging has significantly increased in popularity over the last ten years, there are still many agents and homeowners who are skeptical about it. There are a few common questions asked about virtual staging, so read on for some answers.

Is Virtual Staging as Effective as Real Staging?

In short, yes. Both virtual and traditional home staging are used for the purpose of selling homes for the maximum value, and home staging statistics show that both staging and marketing strategies do this successfully.

However, since virtual staging is more unfamiliar to many prospective buyers, it should be used with care in order to be fully effective.

First, you should start with the best-quality listing photos possible. Poor quality listing photos won't allow our professional stagers to make the best of your space. The good news is that you can easily learn how to take photos for virtual staging with our tutorial.

Another important factor of using virtual staging effectively is that it should not be a secret. Make sure to include both staged and unstaged listing photos and disclose the use of virtual staging in the property description. Read more about how to use virtual staging legally and effectively below.

Is Virtual Staging Misleading?

Virtual staging is not more misleading than traditional or physical home staging. In fact, it may even be more honest.

Both types of home staging are designed to make a home as appealing as possible--not to deceive prospective buyers or hide problems.

Of course, if a physical home stager strategically placed furniture over water leaks, it would become deceptive and unethical. Similarly, if a real estate industry professional lists a virtually staged home for sale without also posting unstaged photos or mentioning staging in the description, it would become deceptive.

However, those are clearly not recommended tactics when you use any kind of professional staging.

In a sense, virtual staging could be considered the most honest form of staging. It helps buyers see the home's full potential, but doesn't impact the home's physical state at all. Prospective buyers have the visual of what the home could be, but there is nothing in the space to hide or distract from reality. They are able to fully see the home in its correct state.

For more details about the legalities of virtual staging, read the full article: is virtual staging legal?

Does Virtual Staging Help Sell Houses?

The statistics about virtual home staging have proven it to effectively sell homes for more money. The best virtual staging results come when you use it strategically and intentionally. That means:

  • Taking clear and correctly spaced listing photos
  • Including staged and un-staged photos in the listing
  • Disclosing virtual staging in the listing description
  • Posting virtually staged images in the property

When you take care to help buyers connect the virtually staged images with the property in real life, you will see the best feedback and highest offers.

How to use virtual staging in physical property showings

Read more about how virtual staging sells houses in real life.

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