What is Virtual Staging? The Definitive Guide to Virtual Staging for Real Estate 2021

Updated September 14, 2020 12:00 AM

Real estate agents have been hiring professionals to physically stage properties (i.e. prepping properties to impress potential buyers) since the 1970s. Today, more and more agents are virtually staging properties instead. So, what is virtual staging and why are so many agents making use of it to market properties?

If you haven't heard much about virtual staging or don't understand what it is, you're not alone! Most people - even many people in the real estate industry - aren't familiar with virtual staging (yet).

And the main reason you haven't heard much about virtual staging is because it looks the same as 'regular' staging (i.e. in-person, physical staging).

In fact, you’ve probably seen virtually staged rooms online without realizing it. Since nobody wants to look at houses covered in clutter and the sight of empty spaces can be underwhelming, staging is a vital part of selling a house for top dollar.

However, do you love the idea of paying thousands of dollars and having to rearrange your lives for weeks or months so that you can get a property professionally staged? Probably not. And that's where virtual staging comes in - it's an easy, fast, and affordable solution that offers similar benefits as physical staging.

Need more details? Here's what we're going to cover:

What is Virtual Staging?

Virtual staging is utilizing professional designers with 3D software and gaming technology to add beautiful furniture and decor to photos of empty spaces of properties. Virtually staged photos make it easier for homebuyers to understand and get excited about a space’s size, intended use, and true potential.

To put it simply, virtually staged spaces look like physically staged spaces. 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.

A photo of a beautifully virtually staged photo makes a more positive impression on buyers than a photo of an empty or cluttered space. Because of virtual staging, you can turn an empty room into a beautifully designed space that makes buyers think, “OMG I have to go see this place!”

Here is an example:

What is virtual staging before and after

Ahhhh. So much better, right?

To dig even deeper, virtual staging is really an umbrella term used to edit and optimize real estate listing photos. It 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

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

Examples of Virtually Staged Rooms

We can talk about virtual staging all day, but the proof is in the pudding--or rather, in the staged photos and the sold home prices. So here are a few examples:

virtual staging item removal before and after
A virtually staged space with existing items removed and new items added
virtual staging bathroom wall change and floor change before and after
A dated bathroom virtually staged to show the space’s potential

Why Should I Use Virtual Staging?

So, why use virtual staging? Because virtual staging sells houses faster, easier, and for more money.

If you’ve ever walked through a non-staged and a staged home, you can understand the difference.

Let’s say you have two identical homes for sale. If one house offers nothing but empty rooms and the other house has beautifully staged listing photos, it’s not a mystery which one will have more showings, attract more buyers, and 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).

The numbers don’t lie. If you’re going to be marketing a home for sale, home staging will be vital.

However, to determine if home staging is really a good choice for you, you should be consideringthe ROI (return on investment), and not just looking at the dollar amount. If staging only decreases your profit, then it’s not the right investment. However, if it ends up increasing your profit, then it’s a no brainer.

So the real question you’re probably asking is why you should use virtual staging instead of traditional home staging. So let’s dig into the differences.

Traditional Staging vs. Virtual Staging

Traditional staging has been around since the 1970s. You see it every time you open Pinterest, Instagram, HGTV, or TV commercials. Traditionally staging homes for real estate is when home staging companies, or sometimes interior designers, design every room in a house and physically bring in new furniture, picture frames, rugs, lamps, and other decor into a house before listing it for sale.

Benefits of Traditional Home Staging

Home staging is fundamentally an element of real estate marketing. Having a beautifully staged home will attract more buyers and increase the buyers’ perceived value of the home. It also allows buyers to physically walk through the staged space and imagine themselves living there.

However, if the numbers 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?

Cons of Traditional Home Staging

Although there are pros and cons to everything, there are basically three cons to traditional home staging that prevent the vast majority of agents or home sellers from actually doing it. They are:

  1. Cost
  2. Inconvenience
  3. Time delays
  4. Design limitations

Cost of Traditional Staging

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 $6,000 is probably a great investment to maximize the sale. On the other hand, if you’re selling a home in the midwest for $150k, the ROI on $6,000 worth of physical staging is non-existent.

The Inconvenience of Traditional Staging

Other than cost, another problem with traditional staging is the logistics. It can take weeks for an agent or seller to find a staging company, set up a consultation, wait for the design, and wait for the sellers to move out, and then bring in the furniture and set it all up. The staging process is long and difficult.

If the home sellers are planning on living in their home until it’s under contract (like most sellers)…. Well, they can’t. With physical staging, the home has to be completely empty of furniture, decor, and people to bring in the staged furniture. This inconvenience alone can be a deal-breaker for many sellers.

Design Limitations of Traditional Staging

One of the biggest problems with traditional staging is the design limitations. Even the best staging companies can only access furniture that’s in stock or available at the right time, which limits their options significantly. They also have to plan for the actual moving of furniture in and out.

If the sellers live on the eighth floor in NYC, traditional staging isn’t going to carry in large, heavy pieces of furniture that won’t fit through the door. In the end, traditional staging gives you a tiny fraction of the design options at 10-20x the price of virtual staging.

Cons of Virtual Staging

Virtually staging is the process of using interior design to optimize listing images instead of bringing physical items into a space. There are a few questions and concerns that agents and homeowners usually have about virtual staging:

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

Does Virtual Staging Look Fake?

No, it doesn’t.

Virtual staging software has become so incredibly advanced that we can confidently answer this. 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?

traditional staging vs realistic virtual staged properties from Stuccco

Harder than you thought, right? Go to our virtual staging page to find the answer. :)

How Do I Take Photos for Virtual Staging?

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take great pictures for virual staging. If technology is not your friend, read our instructions to learn how to take photos for virtual staging.

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 will buyers think when they walk through a home and realize it’s not physically staged?

The answer? Buyers think very little about it.

We recommend that you include both empty and virtually staged photos in your property listing, and add a disclaimer stating that you used virtual staging. This prevents agents and buyers from feeling like something was misleading. But even without virtual staging, it’s common for listings photos to be furnished, and the home for sale to be vacant.

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.

Benefits of Virtual Staging

The primary benefits of virtual staging are the same as all types of staging; it helps homes sell faster and for more money. But there are a few additional benefits to staging virtually instead of traditionally:

  1. Low cost
  2. Convenience
  3. Fast
  4. Unlimited design options
  5. Offer design to buyers

The Cost of Virtual Staging

Traditional home staging costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on your area, the home you stage, and the staging company you hire. But home virtual staging with Stuccco costs $29 per photo.

Boom. There aren’t a million factors to figure out--it doesn’t matter where you live, what kind of room you’re staging, what design style you want, etc, etc. The price is straightforward, and it is quite literally a tiny fraction of the price of traditional home staging.

value and cost of virtual staging

Speed and Convenience of Virtual Staging

Once you send your listing photos, it takes 12 to 24 hours to receive your staged images. In fact, you can also rush photos for an extra $10 and get them back in only 12 hours.

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 staged.

Plus, the homeowners don’t need to do anything except keep their home clean. They 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.

Unlimited Design Options

Since virtual staging isn’t dealing with physical furniture, “inventory” is not something you have to worry about. We can use absolutely any piece of furniture on the internet to stage a room, so we can truly choose the best pieces for each space without considering the movers, or shipping delays, or availability.

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

Interior Design Services for Buyers

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

If the buyers love the way your rooms were staged, Stuccco’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!

how does virtual staging work

How Does Virtual Staging Work?

Getting a property staged is extremely easy. Simply take photos of the property, describe your style and furniture preferences, and get your staged image back in 24 hours!

You can use a real estate photographer, or learn how to take photos yourself. Read more tips about how to take photos for virtual staging and learn how to choose photos for virtual staging.

Once you have your listing images ready, placing a staging order takes about 2-3 minutes.

Ready to Try Virtual Staging?

Virtual staging is undeniably the best way to sell a home quickly, easily, and for the highest value. When you’re ready to try Stuccco’s virtual staging service, you can place your order here.

If you enjoyed this article, we think you'll enjoy Stuccco, where you can get any room professionally designed in as little as a day. Learn more below:

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