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Deceptive or Compelling? Virtual Staging

Real Estate Agent with EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates 9506757

Virtual staging examplesI recently wrote a blog post on virtual staging. I was prompted to write the article after having a string of vacant listings. 

Unfortunately, marketing a vacant home can present some challenges. Vancant room after vacant room, especially when they have no defining features tend to run into each other and all look the same. 

This leaves us with web appeal lacking and marketing materials missing some sizzle.  How do you tell the differnece between the living room and the bedrooms?  How big is the room? 

Furniture defines the room and gives scale to a room, as well as can create some visual interest.

So on my last vacant listing, I decided to virtually stage some key areas of the home.  It certainly helped when it cam time to prepare marketing materials.  I virtually staged the living room, the dining room, the two bedrooms and the office.

Lastly I fully disclosed that the photographs were virtually staged and was used to give an idea of use and space, but upon arrival the house would be vacant.

Is Virtual Staging Deceptive?

There are some in the industry that feel virtual staging is deceptive.

So is virtual staging manipulating the buyer?  My first thought is we are selling space, we arent selling furniture.  I am not adding or taking anything away anything that would be included in the sale of the home.  Really, a home that is physically and beautifully decorated definitely creates appeal for many buyers.  It gives them an idea of what the space could look like.  But yet, the decor is not included in the sale.

Or what about new construction, the photos of a staged model home thats been sold but the model home photos continued to be marketed with the staged photos.

I am certainly not talking about altering what actually exists that is included in the sale.  Removing property defects, altering bad views, etc...  Or some services offer greening the lawn.  Which I do have a problem with because the sale includes the lawn. 

Is Virtual Staging Enhancing Your Vacant Listings?

As listing agents we have a fiduciary resonsibility to our sellers to act in their best interest.  Isn't presenting your clients home in the best light in their best interest?  I personally did my own virtual staging with Visual Stager at $15 a shot.  YOu can also send in photos to be virtually staged to different services for between $30 and $60 a shot..... very short money that I believe provided big results.

Virtual staging creates appeal, gives a sense of use and helps provide scale.  Being able to virtually stage the home allowed me to provide some appealling top notch marketing that would have been a little difficult if I was dealing with vacant photos.

To take it one step farther, in the MLS listing I did present both the vacant photos as well as the virtually staged photos. 

I believe next time I will take it one step farther and add visualization on the bottom of the staged photos to make it ultra clear.

The Results

The seller was very pleased, I received great feedback from buyers and agents all except one.  And the home was quickly put under agreement.  Buyers at the open house understood the house would be vacant and commented they liked the staged photos.

So the one.... one agent complained the house was vacant and he seemed quite disgruntled.  But, I clearly noted the home was vacant and the furnished shots were virtually staged in SEVERAL places.  He didn't read the listing.

So what do you think of Virtual Staging as an agent?

Other Resources:

Comments (36)

Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Kathy Streib I from now on will watermark each virtually staged photo as a visualization.

Dec 08, 2018 11:33 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Judith Sinnard the program I used does have controls in place to accurately size the furniture with a fair amount of accuracy.  I am not overly concerned as it is disclosed.  Based on comments here I will always watermark visualization on the photos.

And thank you for bringing some great points for people to consider to the table.


Dec 08, 2018 11:36 AM
Anne Corbin
Long and Foster - Lake Anna - Spotsylvania, VA
Serving Lake Anna & Central Virginia

I like the idea, personally. I like seeing both vacant and staged pictures.

Dec 08, 2018 04:23 PM
Kevin Vitali

thanks Anne Corbin 

Dec 10, 2018 05:26 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

It can be a futuristic trend if stager kept raising prices. Right now they will hang up on your for $2k budget.  I can envision lawyers will go after realtors if someone was unhappy with purchase. That is even with disclosure unless the buyer signed that page. Now I stay out of it to be in harmony with 1000 of lawyers.

Dec 08, 2018 05:17 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign


                                     Thank you, Kevin. 

Dec 08, 2018 05:53 PM
Kevin Vitali

thank you Kathy Streib 

Dec 10, 2018 05:25 AM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, Kevin Vitali virtual staging is a Blessing for real estate agents who are faced with marketing a vacant home.... we use it... not only do we use it, we enlarge the photos and place them on stands in each respective room on the first floor.... great marketing presentation and we always sell the house....

Dec 09, 2018 04:15 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I like it and I like this post. You've used a disclaimer, you've been upfront and the house looks great with virtual staging. I see no difference between this and move-in day to a home that's been just recently vacated. It doesn't matter if it previously had furniture. This is what the property looks like empty when the purchaser closes and is ready to move in and it's always a bit disappointing until you have the time to fix it up again.

Dec 09, 2018 07:55 AM
Kevin Vitali

great poin Jill Sackler 

Dec 10, 2018 05:31 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

LOVE LOVE LOVE IT !!!!   Somewhere in the annals of staging knowledge you will find a statistic that says something like....Buyers have NO imagination ...or spacial conception....as long as you identify the staging as being VIRTUAL ...it is INVALUABLE !

Dec 09, 2018 08:02 AM
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Broker
Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

An agent in Sacramento I know paid $150 for 4 virtual staged photos. That seems expensive compared to what you paid, Kevin. But there is nothing wrong with virtual staging as long as it's disclosed.

I also find the loudest, grumpiest complaining agents are typically wrong because, like you said, they don't read. So many of the problems with other agents would be resolved if they would just read the darn MLS information!

Dec 09, 2018 10:11 AM
Kevin Vitali

Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents  I did the virtual staging myself.  The 150 would be in line for someone else doing it.

Dec 10, 2018 05:32 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Staging is supposed to help a potential buyer to visualize themselves in a home that they are thinking of buying. Virtual staging can do that on a computer. When the potential buyer arrives to view the actual home, there is no furniture, causing the buyer to have to use their imagination. I don’t want to assume that all buyers have the ability to see a furnished house in their heads as they walk through a house that is empty.

We will stick with real staging. We know it works.

Dec 09, 2018 03:48 PM
Kevin Vitali

John Juarez in no way am I suggesting this should replace traditional staging.  But, not every home has the budget to spend on renting furniture and staging a home.

Dec 10, 2018 05:33 AM
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

I am of the mindset that most Buyers do not have the imagination to visualize their furnishings in another home. Therefore any attempt to allow some extra vision into that cause will benefit all in the long run. RE: the one agent. I have not come across any app that can make them read let alone understand what was written in the MLS. Go virtual staging!

Dec 09, 2018 04:35 PM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Thanks for sharing this discussion, Kevin Vitali. I've not used virtual staging but have thought it could be an advantage. Buyers commonly struggle with "what will fit" when there's nothing there.

I've learned a lot thanks to you and all the commenters.


Dec 09, 2018 06:59 PM
Kevin Vitali

Bruce Kunz I wanted to use it so I had marketing photos that differentiated themselves instead of one vacant room after another.


Dec 10, 2018 05:34 AM
Bill Dandridge
MKB, Realtors - Roanoke, VA
GREEN, ABR, GRI, EcoBroker

Your photos appeared quite reasonable, and if you clearly state that it is virtual staging, you are properly representing your client well.

I have seen other virtual staging that obviously did not fit the space, and detracted from the rooms.

Dec 09, 2018 07:29 PM
Anne Edwards Johnson
All City Real Estate - Austin, TX
Austin Realtor | HookemhomesATX (512)917-5260

@Kevin Vitali - I am a fan of virtual staging....when needed.  It does make a difference and as stated....should be fully disclosed.




Dec 09, 2018 10:19 PM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

I think it's a great tool. As stated by Judith Sinnard though I would be cautious not to misrepresent what could actually fit in the room. I've seen some really bad virtual staging. As long as the depicted furnishing would work in real life I'm all for it.

Dec 11, 2018 11:13 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Kevin Vitali,

Glad to see your post was featured as I think its an important discussion. If done well and disclosed I think its a real help to buyers who generally have a tough time imagining their things in a house.

Dec 11, 2018 02:41 PM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

thanks Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR 

Dec 12, 2018 07:15 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

Hi Kevin,
Great post and discussion on virtual staging.  Love all the input in comments as well.

Dec 15, 2018 05:25 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Hi Kevin! There's not a thing in the world wrong with it - unless you don't tell the perspective buyer (ON THE PHOTO) that it's virtually staged. 

It helps them visualize the space and you're doing everything you can to sell your clients' vacant homes AND get them more money while doing so!

In MHO (for what it's worth) the agents who rally against it, just don't want to spend the money. They are the very ones who won't pay for professional photos or a professional to measure their homes for listings! Perhaps we're both wrong but, honestly, there's no difference in taking the photos and the seller moving out before the home sells. Right?!

Happy Monday!

Dec 17, 2018 08:11 AM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Orange County, CA

From a professional stager's perspective: In my book, the purpose of staging is to add perceived value to the subject property and help create an emotional connection for the buyer. While pretty renderings on the MLS will get potential buyers to come see the house, once they walk in the door, any excitement is dissapated by walking into vacant rooms. Flaws and awkward floorplans are in your face, even with virtual staging photos displayed on easels in each room. In my market, I've heard of buyers and buyers agents getting angry that the house isn't actually, physically staged, when the listing agent had virtual renderings on the MLS. I've been called in numerous times by agents and homeowners that tried virtual "staging" and the house didn't sell after 2 or 3 months. Once we physically stage, these houses usually go under contract in 2-3 weeks, sometimes faster.


Aug 23, 2019 10:05 PM