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It’s one thing to virtually stage a room for a realtor® who is planning to list the pictures on their MLS, but quite another to take those staged images to the next marketing level.
Many agents view home stagers as a vital part of the listing marketing arm. It’s a bit like a building a house, while the painters may just be one piece of the picture, they need to have vision to see how their job impacts the entire process and final outcome. Home stagers need to think about colors, style, balance, disclosure issues and marketing direction. Many of the virtual stagers out there have a strong background as home stagers. That makes color and style easy. Balance comes from the idea of staging just enough to let the buyer’s imagination run wild with how their style will work in the space. Too much will lose people who can’t think outside the box and not enough will not draw buyers in to want to imagine the home for their lifestyle.
Disclosure issues seems to be an area where, to be blunt, several online virtual staging companies bomb. Not all realtors® know the potential outcome and subtleties of altering images intended for a MLS listing. These issues include changing wall colors, flooring styles, retouching landscaping, window coverings or any items that will convey. While home builders may benefit from multiple flooring and landscaping styles, it will not work for MLS listings of homes that do not offer these choices at closing. As an example, as a real estate photographer in Albuquerque I am asked monthly to “photoshop” water in pools during the winter. Seems harmless, right? Well in some areas of New Mexico, it can cost up to $1,000 to fill your pool. If the water is not going to convey at closing, this could be considered deceptive.
Most sellers and buyers love the notion of virtually staging empty rooms. They love it because of the early pioneers of virtual staging which put some safeguards on virtual staging for MLS listings. These include not altering photos as I just described, watermarking photos with terms like “photo virtually staged” and requiring clients to include a comment in the MLS remarks section about images being virtually staged. Some show 2 images before and after staging as well… even better! Agents need to be very aware when using one of the several services online that offer to alter items that convey.
Lastly, marketing direction works best when everyone can bring fresh ideas to the agent. Producing a virtually staged image is complex and a cost item. Making sure these pictures are syndicated broadly to the real estate search engines is vital to the success of the marketing plan. As an example, at Staging Pads, when a client stages 5 rooms we create a virtual tour and syndicate it to the major real estate search engines where buyers are looking. This is also a tour that can include branded and non-branded versions for local MLS’s. Staging Pads also offers specific pre and post photography consulting to insure a well-balanced picture to stage.
In closing, great home staging is the logical first step toward an effective marketing plan. Getting your vendors on board contributing to the marketing plan will ensure the best possible reach for your listing.