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May 25, 2020

Virtual Staging No Substitute for The Real Thing

Virtual staging grew in popularity after the San Francisco shelter in place (SIP) began in mid March. Buyers couldn’t physically get into properties for about two or three weeks, and listing agents had to quickly adapt to include virtual marketing pieces like 3D tours and photo galleries showing furniture in rooms that were technically empty. Stagers weren’t able to do their jobs, so staging wasn’t an option.

But now that we can physically show property and stagers are working again, it’s become obvious to me that virtual staging can only take sellers’ marketing so far. Sure, virtual staging is a lot less expensive for sellers than the real thing. Agents generally pay for the virtual staging on a per photo basis, so sellers avoid paying thousands of dollars for actual staging.
But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Virtually staged photos and tours online can motivate buyers to schedule an appointment to see the property. And it’s sound practice to include photos that feature virtual staging alongside the empty rooms so buyers are clear that the rooms are empty.

But there’s still a big difference between visiting a staged house and an empty one, especially if the virtually staged version looks almost like a completely different property. I’ve seen examples of this lately, and it ends up doing a disservice to the property.

Staging is worth the cost, in my opinion, because it helps buyers emotionally connect with a home. Buyers can visualize themselves living in the space, and can aspire to live in the stylish, organized way that might currently elude them. And if a home has a challenging floor plan, staging can help bridge the gap between confusion and functionality.

I’ve had two recent showings with buyer clients at homes that were virtually staged. When my clients entered the properties, they were struck by how different the homes looked without the furniture. They left feeling lukewarm and didn’t end up taking any next steps.

Qualified buyers are out there looking at homes and ready to write offers. Sellers looking for top dollar—in what many would consider to be an uncertain market—should strongly consider springing for staging to seal the deal.

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