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I’ve been following virtual staging for the past five years… and last year as a real estate photographer and realtor® decided to start virtually staging some of my listings and then helping other realtors®.
I have always had tons of respect for the local home stagers I work with in Albuquerque. They make my job easy!
So imagine my reaction when I started reading some really negative reviews about virtual staging and how deceptively dishonest it appears. I researched further that almost all the negativity is coming from one individual poster who runs an online home staging school/referral service. I read an analogy about how virtual staging is akin to altering a photo for an online dating site and how the individual is shocked when they show up for the date and see the person looks nothing like the photo. Rather than replying to the poster, I thought it would be better to post my response here as a realtor® and professional who virtually stages listings with as much concern for buyers as sellers.
In New Mexico about 25% of listings use home stagers. There are some really great stagers here and it is growing in popularity! That leaves 75% of listings that I either view or photograph that are not professionally staged. These ones are either staged by the realtor®, left with the seller’s furnishings or vacant and empty. Virtual staging is a service to help with empty homes. Some folks use it for decluttering but we don’t.
Going back to the “first date” analogy, it’s doesn’t work for me because you would expect your date’s attributes to convey with the relationship… No one EVER expects furniture to convey with the property. Further, the same problem exists when home stagers take their furniture out after some period of time because the seller can’t pay the monthly rental rate, or a seller moves after photos have been taken. This means that the MLS pictures are not up-to-date. I have also seen some stagers add window coverings which typically would convey with the sale.
The only thing this poster brought up that makes any sense is “where does it end?” That’s the important question. You can get the answer here from NAR. Bottom line is not to touch anything that conveys. Just use furnishings and pictures. Don’t touch landscaping, window coverings, flooring type or wall colors. Also, leave a MLS comment that some of the pictures have been virtually staged. In your virtual tour have a before and after shot to show the home’s potential.
The real estate industry, as heavily regulated as it is, will certainly provide a method of better disclosure for staging if more than a few buyers complain about it. Probably will take the form of yet another MLS check box for home or virtual staging so agents can let potential buyers know if there is or isn’t furniture in the home.
In closing, I can think of a better analogy: not everyone can afford or wants to drive a car to work. Some take the bus, walk or ride a bike. Similarly, not everyone can afford $1,000’s of dollars for home staging. Some may want staging but can only afford virtual staging which costs on average one tenth the cost of home staging. Those of us that work with realtors® should help teach new virtual staging companies what will work best for the MLS listings and have a wide variety of types of staging available for all agents and sellers regardless of budget.