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Home Staging

How and When to use Virtual Staging [homeowners guide]

If you are preparing to buy or sell a real estate with or without an estate agent, the chances to hear the term virtual staging is rising with every day. My research shows that the usage of virtual staging has increased for 2018 by 27% worldwide.

Before I explain How, Why and When Virtual Staging can come in use, it is a good idea to tell you what about that service is.

What is Virtual Staging?

Virtual Staging is a type of photo-enhancement of real estate. It is a marketing service that is used by estate agents or sellers to promote the property they are trying to sell in the best possible way.

Fundamentally, Virtual Staging is similar to the Home Staging, or you might hear terms as Furniture Staging, Home styling, Property Styling or Property Presentation which are all staging maneuvers.
Virtual Staging comes with the difference to how your real estate photos can be staged virtually, since 2010 the whole staging industry and It plays an important social role in real estate sales.

This type of staging has the power to present the property in the best possible style in a very cost-efficient approach and takes 1 to 5 days (most of the cases).

Virtual Staging can be used and applied for:
Residential use:

  • Houses
  • Holiday homes
  • Apartments, Lofts, and Penthouses
  • Village cottages and townhouses
  • Farms
  • Outdoor facilities
  • Public amenities

Commercial use:

  • Offices
  • Hotel rooms and spaces
  • Restaurants
  • Clinics
  • Stages
  • Warehouses
  • Industrial areas
  • Golf courses
  • Yachts
  • Marinas
  • Even centers

Practically the possibilities are almost limitless.

When and Why to stage virtually?

WHEN.
If your first question is WHEN to use it and this is your first time selling a house, the answer is divided into two simple parts:

  1. At the beginning (best option possible) Stage it before the listing goes with an estate agent and take into account the supply and demand currently on the market to adjust your asking price.
    I know that you would like to get the highest possible price, but that might not be the best reasonable strategy all the times.
  2. In the end after the listing expiration (least option possible, but still works out well). Possibly you should wait for a couple of weeks after the expiration date, reconsider your strategy, price and do the staging then. When you are ready, list your property again with a different rate (higher or lower) depending on your strategy.

Timing while selling real estate is one of the most critical aspects of the process. If you mess it up, you lose a high percentage of the value of what you are selling.
Size of the property does not matter, nor the type of it. It does not matter if it is a high-end, middle or lower end of the real estate ladder.

Let me explain why I think this way.

Do not make that mistake to list your property without taking off:

  • taking decent photos with photographer
  • to stage it (virtually or physically)
  • to get a 2D floor plan
  • bring its best features upfront
  • research which is your best buyer

If you skip some of these steps your chance to get the right price decrease drastically, and later if you take it down for the staging and update those photos, the effect will not be the same if you made it the right way since the beginning.

Some professional buyers or ones which are well informed will follow the market for some time before they take a decision.
If they spot a change on your listing, it will ring an alarm that you are desperately trying to sell, which is one more reason to cut the price down.
Staying longer on the market is terrible for your property as well.

The longer it stays, the more the price drops - respectively agents will lose patience tо deal with your listing.

Often I spot some agents to play the dirty game, were they re-upload the listing again with the new description, often they misinterpret some features, to make them more appealing.
These are all sings of the inexperienced and honest agent that will hurt buyers experience, and it may hurt sellers pocket.

Eighty percent of the estate agents (non-experienced ones) do not care about the status of your property, they will not optimize your spendings and not likely they will provide you with constructive advice on how you can stage your property and increase your profit.

I am not saying there are no experts out there, which takes sincerely and professionally their work, but many of them are doing it just because of the money.

Do you find this being normal?

Although if you do decide to go along the way with an estate agent, ask them if they work with a company providing virtual staging services.
In the different countries, this service may differ a bit due to the nature of the market, the buyers and the way down to the way your chosen company works.

Here is some info. On how virtual staging has been used.

Virtual Staging in USA and Australia
If you are in the US or Australia, the chance is 57 percent higher to get a proposal from a company to virtually enhance your photos.


Virtual Staging in the United Kingdom and Canada
If you are in the UK, Canada or other parts of the world, where virtual staging is still catching up with the industry, you might get questions like – what is that or we don’t use it as we don’t know how to use it.


Virtual Staging in Scandinavia
Staging became popular in that region since the ’90s and after 2010 is widely used in all Scandinavian countries.


Virtual Staging in Central Europe
It’s a somewhat conservative part of the world, where only Germany and France are using this service by as last hope. The recent movement it’s seen and more and more estate agencies starting to use these services for their listings.


Virtual Staging in Asia
By some reason Virtual staging is perceived as a luxury option so therefore is used only for the luxury part of the market. In Singapore is offered as an option by some estate agents.


Virtual Staging for the rest of the world
Moscow, Dubai, Hong Kong, and some other megacities are making baby steps in that direction. Again, the service is used mainly for luxury properties.

WHY.
For those of you asking WHY should I use this service, the answer is rather simple again.
Logic and math! Virtual staging is 90% cheaper than traditional home staging, so if you are short on money, this is your way to achieve good results.

And if the house you are selling looks like that, definitely you may consider staging as an option

house in need for virtual staging

The overall state of the house is not good and the way it’s presented wouldn’t help either to justify the asking price.

@image from Flickr

With Virtual Staging, sellers can avoid problems and hefty fees that might occur with the traditional way:

  • hiring a moving company
  • transport fees
  • insurance costs for the protection of all the furniture and decors
  • hiring a construction company or handyman
  • paying the rates and profit to the home stager/designer

It is the time to mention that often Home Staggers use 3D visualizations techniques which are another way of having Virtually staged photos to justify their ideas.

What If you are the first-time seller type?

As a first-time seller, you should prepare yourself in advance, in other words – do your homework before taking a step.

Many agents spot almost instantly when you are an amateur and not well prepared.
Because of that, they may take you on the spin of fees, wrong advice, and their conveyor belt.
I know, it does not sound professional, while their commision depends on the price of the property, but I found that it is the sad reality.
I have assisted many deals over the years and saw it with my eyes.

How to use virtual staging?

This is the beauty of it. It’s all done remotely, and on PC, so you don’t have to do anything apart of approving the concept and passing on the images.

Let assume that you are ready to use virtual staging service to sell your property.
If you got an offer from staging company already, probably you will know what possibilities are, if not this list of options come with using virtual staging service:

The power to declutter everything

If you got a bit of messy situation at your property, too many types of furniture, decoration or has not been updated for a long time ago, it may not be the best way to sell it that way, unless you want to sell it to a considerable discount.
Virtual Staggers can declutter all the mess, can clean the floors, walls, throw and remove that waste bin, move away from these boxes in your storage.

To present a new layout

Yes, with virtual staging you can tailor your floor plan into a reorganized composition of spaces — modern soft furnishings, new light fixtures, paint, floors, and windows.
You have the advantage to show multiple options of furniture, that will target a specific type of buyer. This is why it is essential to do your homework beforehand as I mentioned already, as this way you know whom you are aiming for.

Different wheater conditions

If your photos are taken at an inappropriate time of the day of the year, with virtual staging, it can be all changed to a sunny day with clouds, a warm dusk day with loads of internal lights and so on.

Refresh the landscape

If you were one of those people that loved their garden too much and planted too many flowers, bushes, and trees it can be challenging to take those best photos needed for the listing. Here virtual staging comes in hand again. You can show the option that the new buyer can have the best garden in the world if they want.

Choices are limitless.

Options and expectations

By the moment you agree to enhance your property’s photos digitally with a company, you should expect from them to ask questions and provide different options.

They might send you a questionnaire or web-page with choices of design style, types of furniture, colors in between to chose.
Based on your preference you have to get images in a few days.

Often there are no Interior Designers or real Stagger involved in the process, as some companies are using ready-made presets which scatter across the photos.

90% of all staging companies on the market are offering multiple variations because of that which in a way is not bad for some specific types of clients, where they can’t decide straight.

On the other side, the more experience companies do have on-site designers, and they ask more questions, their turnaround will take a bit more and respectively they might be more expensive than the rest.

Price of virtual staging?

Rates.
Like any other digital service, the price range is vast.
Companies and freelancers are competing for buyers, on top there are few companies that offer DIY solutions.

Some of them doing great, delivering a quality product while another… let’s say they’re just average.

How prices are calculated for Virtual Staging

Per photo or per bundle of photos (project)

  • Single orders of photos are typically are more expensive.
    The positive side is the option to order just one photo, is lower than the amount of bulk price.
  • Bulk order/price

It means you have to pay for the set amount of photos per project
The positive side is you can stage more rooms or additional angles per room.
You can buy additional photos if you need, but the price is higher per photo than the bulk order.

DIY solutions for virtual staging.

Positives:
15$ per photo

Negatives:
This is DIY, so what you deliver is all your fault
License fees
Game type quality of the photos
Restrictions of the style, models, and materials
You have to learn how to work with the software
Many more

Advice / opinion

I wouldn’t advise sacrificing personal time to stage your photos on your own and save few dollars or euros. It won’t work, not because the quality is terrible, but because you will spend unnecessary time doing things you shouldn’t suppose to do.

DIY staging software for small estate companies which are not willing or can’t pay someone to do a proper job or when the clients are not so picky.
Works fine for the below average property market, where the realtor provides this service for free as a bonus to bring more, but to me, this causes more harm and drives away customers.

Freelance rates.

Positives:
15-20$ per staging photo
They offer changes of the style

Negatives:
No consistency for delivery
90% of them don’t offer bulk discounts
You have not got any design support
There’s no refund
No invoice against your taxes
No company to represent their service

The lowest prices in the world you can find are provided by Vietnamese, Pakistanians, Philipinos and Chinese stagers on websites as the Fiverr, Freelancer and other.

Advice / opinion

I wouldn’t advise ordering such a service if you don’t know what you want or if you like to get just another staged image among of thousands other with a similar style.

Yes, there are thousands of staged images looking all the same.

As freelance staging rates are amazingly low, a big chunk of the virtual staging companies is using these freelancers to do their job as outsourced service while adding a fee and selling it on.

This is causing a repetitiveness of the quality service, which warrants quality and different price however, who I am to challenge the market.

George Nicola
Company rates.

Again the same here with that difference the price starts with 30$ per photo for the low end and ends up at 500-900$ for the whole project.

Positives:
Design support and Advice – some (not significant percent) are providing design support and advice *
Strategy and added services *
You can make changes to the photos and style
Company to represent the service
Safety

Questionable:

Refund policy

Turnaround policy

Design support – a very small percent of staging companies are providing that service (some use cheap freelance labor, they have not got much control over the style)

Strategy and added services – an even smaller percentage of them offer additional services that help you to achieve the best results for your sale

Invoice against your taxes (if you have company)

Negatives:
30-90$ per staging photo or more
70% of them offer bulk discounts (if you are real estate agent)

Advice / opinion

My advice is to prepare your description and end goal in advance. Often staging companies, throw some furniture and decors without any idea behind that. This small mistake may cost you a lot later on when presenting the property.

Catches.

What to avoid.
Whatever you chose as a buyer, you get the highest price possible, only because you ordered once.

Freelancer staggers.

If you place an order with a freelancer, you might not get the best out for your money design wise, although the images may look good.
Also, the risk to receive your order late is high, as probably these guys are busy running multiple agent’s orders simultaneously.
So order ONLY if you know what you are aiming for.

RULE OF THUMB:
There is no such rule, you chose this type of service purely for the low rates.
Get rid of all expectations and if you get a decent product, then treat yourself as a lucky.

Staging companies.

You might be charged on top of the regular service.
This is not because all companies out there are a scam, but because you are a one-time customer to them and they have to make the best out of you.

RULE OF THUMB:
Whenever you decide to take on that path with the virtual staging company, ask them if they provide some design advice or if they work with real-life furniture models, which is another plus for your buyer because you can tell them they can have the same achievement in design.

Is virtual staging compliant with the law?

Sensitive part of this topic.
Virtual staging has the same marketing power and legal use as the Physical (traditional) staging. Both services can drive away if not done correctly.

The most significant difference is the investment that goes for the traditional staging, maybe it helps a bit more to justify and therefore is perceived for legal.
Many realtors are avoiding the use of virtual staging because of the lack of knowledge for legislation. So if you meet one of these, move to another one.

I do not suggest to argue with people on topics just because you have read something on the internet (even if you know more than them).

Misrepresenting the reality using virtual staging.

I have not done vast research for all countries on that topic, but In almost every country, there should be established laws protecting real estate consumers.

The best thing you can do, to be on the safe side is to put a Disclaimer as:

  • All Pictures shown are for illustration purpose only. Actual product may vary due to product enhancement.
  • Please note the furnishings are for illustration purposes only and are computer generated.

In simple words, always state that these images are being staged and show the originals alongside the staged ones. This rule is applied to both types of staging services.

Avoid

You should not do heavy amendments to the structure of the property. As these changes will and may require an architect to be involved, documents submitted to local authorities and high costs, effort and time for the buyer to execute and have the up to that shown state which is a lot more than paint and furniture.

Final words
I have tried to cover most of the Virtual Staging industry while including and concluding some thoughts of mine.
If you really want to get decent results, I would advise you to go and pay to a company.
If you still have questions, please ask.

DISCLAIMER. I am not advocating for Virtual Staging or Home Staging to be used, as both services have the power to achieve one thing – to increase or defend properties prices.
Nothing on this site constitutes legal advice. Specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances.

By George Nicola

After a ten+ years working in high-end design and real estate business as an independent expert, I realised that we are missing a critical part. We were not providing enough value to the real estate consumers.

Not every consumer would have the opportunity to see the potential and be patient to wait for months to see the result or close the sale of his/her estate.
Almost nobody provides such pieces of advice.

Here is why I developed a unique approach to helping first time sellers and buyers to keep up with their focus and avoid costly mistakes.
It took me more than three years of research, trial and error to find the right ingredients for a successful strategy.

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