What is Virtual Staging? The Definitive Guide for 2023

Updated January 13, 2023 09:38 AM

Real estate agents have been using home staging since the 1970s. It's not a new concept, but many home sellers, home buyers, and real estate professionals aren't familiar with virtual staging or how it works.

So what is virtual staging - and does it really work to sell properties? Here's what we'll cover:

What is Virtual Staging?

Virtual staging means digitally adding furniture and decor to a photo of a property for the purpose of increasing its appeal and value.

The top virtual staging companies use 3D software and gaming technology to make the added furniture look indistinguishable from physical furniture. Plus, only a handful of virtual staging services employ actual, professional designers to design the room with the maximum expertise level.

Ultimately, virtually staged photos make it easier for homebuyers to see the full potential of a space or a home. The vast majority of buyers cannot visualize the possibilities of a home without physically seeing what it would look like. Virtual staging can get buyers excited about a space's size, intended use, and true potential of the space as their home.

So why haven't you heard as much about virtual staging as you've heard about home staging?

The main reason is because it looks the same as “regular” staging (i.e. in-person, physical staging). In fact, chances are high that you have actually seen virtually staged rooms online without realizing it.

Example of virtual home staging, looks the same as traditional home staging

“Home staging” is really an umbrella term that describes both physical or traditional home staging as well as virtual staging. Both types of staging make it easy to market a real estate listing, attract more interested buyers, and increase the perceived value of a home.

To dig even deeper, virtual staging is also an umbrella term used to edit and optimize real estate listing photos. A virtual staging service can mean staging an empty room or vacant house, but it can also mean:

  • Removing existing items and adding new furniture and decor
  • Changing interior wall, trim and/or cabinet color
  • Changing flooring
  • Changing ceilings
  • Changing exterior wall, trim and/or door color
  • Changing landscaping
  • Applying a day to dusk effect on a photo of a property's exterior
  • Enhancing a photo's lighting and/or orientation

A few of the reasons why so many customers believe Stuccco is the best virtual staging service is because of its combination of services, quality, and pricing structure. It can be confusing to choose which services you need for each photo, and there are too many virtual staging companies with very misleading or confusing pricing structures. You'll start placing a virtual staging order thinking you know the price, but your total cost will end up being much higher than anticipated.

Now that you know the definition of virtual staging, the natural response is to have even more questions. Let's start with the most important one…

Does Virtual Staging Actually Work to Sell Houses?

The simple answer is yes; virtual staging sells houses faster, more easily, and for more money.

Let's say you have two identical vacant homes for sale. One home is listed with vacant photos and the second is listed with beautifully staged photos that show the space's scale and full potential.

empty spaces are poor listing photos, before virtual home staging
virtually staging a vacant home gets more views, showings, and offers

Which home would you rather walk through?

Staging statistics show that it is not a mystery which listing will attract more buyers, book more showings, and ultimately sell for more money.

Neither traditional nor virtual home staging changes any of the facts about a property--the room size, location, and home layout all stay the same. But staged houses sell 87% faster and for 17% more money than vacant houses or non-staged houses (Forbes).

Virtual staging shows buyers the potential of any space, which can change a buyer's view of the entire property.

The answer of whether or not virtual staging sells houses is easy. The real question you might be asking is “Should I use virtual staging or traditional staging for my listings?”

That answer isn't nearly as clear cut, although there are many distinct advantages and disadvantages to both types of staging. Check out the comparison between virtual staging vs. real staging for the best information.

Examples of Virtual Staging: Before and After

We can talk about virtual staging all day, but the proof is in the pudding--or rather, in the staged photos and the above-asking sale prices. Check out just a few examples of homes that have been virtually staged with Stuccco:

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #1

vacant real estate listing photo, virtually stage it as a living room or bedroom
Stage empty rooms, Stucco virtual staging example
Ahhhh. So much better, right?

Even though this vacant room was photographed well, it's difficult to understand what the room feels like when it's empty. Once it is staged with furniture that is the right style and size, it's easy to understand the size of the room. Potential buyers can easily envision living in this beautiful space.

Plus, another benefit of virtual staging is that you can actually show one room in more than one way. The living room above could also be staged as a bedroom.

Virtually stage property photos to increase appeal in real estate listings, Stucco

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #2

Real estate listing photo before staging
Real estate listing with virtually staged photo
More often than not, listing clients are still living in the home when it goes on the market. In these cases, there is existing furniture that can't be moved out of the home but isn't the best suited for showing the property's full potential.

This example shows what virtual furniture replacement actually looks like. The virtually staged photo looks completely realistic and makes the space look more modern and appealing. Here's another similar example:

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #3

living room before virtual staging service, dated furniture and design
Living room example after virtual staging process, realistic virtual furnishings
These examples prove how much of an impact you can make on your space with experience from a professional. Neither living rooms needed to be completely redone, but a few simple changes completely transformed the space.

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #4

kids bedroom example before virtual staging, bright blue walls and stuffed animals
kids bedroom virtually staged with more appealing bedroom design
Sometimes, a room needs a little bit more than a change of furniture to make the biggest impact. In this example, all the furniture was replaced and the wall color was changed. Without this change, it might be difficult for prospective buyers to picture any member of their family in a room with such a bold color. Even though painting the walls is a relatively simple task, it's difficult for buyers to gain motivation until they can envision the end result.

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #5

For rooms that need more changes, like flooring and appliances, this becomes a virtual renovation. Here's an example:

Dated bathroom design, before virtual staging or real estate marketing
Bathroom after a virtual renovation, modern white cabinet and modern shower tile
In this bathroom, we virtually changed the shower tile, cabinet, mirror, and wall color. For many buyers, the original bathroom may cause them to walk away from the property altogether. However, if you can show them the “after” picture, it can motivate them to put in the work to update the bathroom.

Of course, you will not get a positive result from virtual renovations at all if you do not use it honestly and ethically. If you use virtually renovated photos in your listing without any mention of virtual staging, buyers will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they walk through the home. For details on how to use virtual staging correctly, keep reading.

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #6

Construction listing, unfinished space before virtual staging
Virtually staged space, after construction, added flooring, wall color, and furniture
Virtual staging is also an asset to properties still in construction. Since so many home buyers struggle to envision changes to a space, it can be difficult for them to emotionally connect with an unfinished space. By staging the home and doing a virtual renovation, they can clearly see and understand the size of the finished space and how it will feel.

Again, these pictures are not meant to deceive potential buyers. Instead, they should be used as a supplement to give them a visual of the end result.

Virtual Staging Before and After Example #7

Home exterior, empty deck for no curb appeal, before virtual staging
ome exterior design, virtually staged deck for curb appeal
Don't forget about the home's exterior! Curb appeal is a major part of many buyers' decisions. Stuccco virtual staging can add furniture and decor to exterior spaces, as well as landscaping.

Common Concerns about Virtual Staging

Since virtual staging is still an unfamiliar concept to many people, there are a few common questions and concerns you may have. They usually include:

  • Does virtual staging look fake?
  • What do potential buyers actually think of virtually staged properties?
  • Do I have to take perfect pictures?
  • How does virtual staging work?

Does Virtual Staging Look Fake?

No, it doesn't.

Virtual staging software has become so incredibly advanced that we can confidently answer this. Plus, our interior designers are experts at what they do, so photos that have been staged virtually are so realistic that you can't even tell the difference.

Here's a quick test. Which of these photos do you think was virtually staged, and which was traditionally staged?

Staged photo number 1:

Realistic virtual staging design example, Stuccco virtual staging

Staged photo number 2:

Traditional home staging example


Traditional home staging example
Scroll down to the bottom of this article for the answer (we couldn't give it to you that easily!).

What Do Buyers Think of Virtually Staged Homes?

This is by far the biggest concern that real estate agents have about staging homes virtually. What do buyers think when the home isn't physically staged?

The answer? Buyers think very little about it.

Of course, that may not be true if you use virtual staging unethically.

We strongly recommend that you include both empty and virtually staged photos in your property listing, as well as a disclaimer about the use of virtual staging. This prevents agents and buyers from feeling like something was misleading. For more details, read: Is virtual staging legal?

However, it's common for listings photos to be furnished, and the home for sale to be vacant even without virtual staging. That's why buyers almost never have a negative reaction to virtual staging.

Staged listing photos attract buyers and show them the home's potential, just like traditional home staging. But buyers don't come to the house to see the furniture.

As long as the listing is clean and decluttered, we've found virtual staging to have the same benefits as traditional staging--without the cons.

How Do I Take Photos for Virtual Staging?

Virtual staging can be used with or without a professional photographer. To figure out the best way to take your listing photos (regardless of virtual staging), read our tutorial on how to take photos for virtual staging.

How Does Virtual Staging Work?

Getting a property staged is extremely easy, and breaks down into X steps:

  • Take photos of the property
  • Determine your preferred design style or staging preferences
  • Place a virtual staging order (takes less than five minutes)
  • Get your staged photos back in 24 hours!

Benefits of Virtual Staging

The goal of virtual staging is the same as the goal of traditional staging. Therefore, the ultimate benefit of both types of home staging is that it sells houses for more money and less time.

But there are a few additional benefits that come with virtual staging instead of physical staging:

  • Low virtual staging cost: The cost of virtual staging is quite literally a small fraction of the cost of traditionally staging a home. Traditional staging costs an average of $6,000, and virtual staging is just $29 per photo.
  • Ease and convenience: You don't have to move one item in the entire property to complete virtual staging. With traditional home staging, the process of taking furniture out and bringing new furniture in can be a massive undertaking that drives costs up. Virtually staging is a much more fitting option for real life in a post-pandemic world.
  • Fast turnaround time: Virtual staging is done in 12-24 hours with Stuccco, and your listing is ready to be published on the real estate market. With physical staging, you'll have to wait 24 hours just for your initial consultation.
  • Unlimited design options: Traditional home staging furniture is dependent on your staging company's available inventory and expertise. With virtual staging, we can use any piece of furniture online. The quality of your design will truly show the best pieces for the space, without having to worry about the logistics of moving the piece or a lack of inventory.
  • Virtual design translates to real life: If the home buyers love the virtually staged design, they can actually get the exact pieces from retail partners and recreate the space. Stuccco is the only virtual staging company to offer online interior design, so real estate agents can offer both of these standout options to buyers.

Ready to Try It?

Virtual staging is undeniably the best way to sell a home quickly, easily, and for the highest value. Ready to try it? Learn more about virtual staging.

P.S. “Staged photo number 1” is virtually staged. Did you get it right?
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