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Real estate photography and virtual home staging rely on one basic principal to look great… adequate lighting!
As a matter of fact, real estate photography is all about staging and lighting. When I walk into a house to photograph it, I go room to room and look at it strictly for lighting potential. If the ocean is sitting behind windows filled with glare chances are the viewers will never see it. So we treat the lighting first and the staging second. If there is a fire place in the room, chances are if we cannot light it on the spot, I will add a fire in post production.
Keep in mind that on the MLS, you have about 1 inch to make a picture “pop” enough to make a buyer want to set up a showing. I turn all lights on inside and outside and light candles. If a light is burned out, the shoot is finished until a replacement bulb is put in.
When I get to the shoot I will remove or move furniture around and typically ask the home owner or agent to help declutter. Agents have different standards as to what good staging is about, but most real estate photographers have a very set pattern in their mind that they follow regardless of the price of the home.
Also a day time shoot is much different than a sunset shoot because of the lighting challenges that both have. Generally speaking, the non-professional photographer has a better chance of seeing what is outside the windows at sunset.
So in closing, consider the lighting for each room and how best to eliminate glare, and then move to staging each room as a uncluttered mini-set that leaves the buyer lots of room for their own ideas.