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Have You Ever Heard of “Virtual Staging?”

Real estate technology is making the industry faster, more flexible, and more nimble. The sales process can be faster than ever, and buyers don’t even need to visit a property to get a clear idea of a home’s layout and design.

One of the most popular up-and-coming technologies is virtual staging. Essentially, this is a photo-editing tool that can be used to show a home not only as it currently appears, but how it could potentially appear.

While useful in a vacant property, there are many situations that can make virtual staging an important part of listing and selling a home.

Virtual staging is not done by realtors or home sellers. It’s actually a sophisticated software, similar to a photo-editing program, that takes a fair amount of knowledge and experience. The best results, honestly, come from firms that specialize in this type of service.

One of the main benefits is affordability. Virtual staging costs about $50 to $150 per room, depending the contractor you use. Let’s assume it’s $100 per room. With four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, you’d be looking at about $800; possibly more if other rooms are involved. Even at $1,000 to $1,500 (again, it can vary), the price is still far lower than the thousands of dollars you could spend on traditional home staging.

It’s a convenient, affordable option, and it can do so much for the online listings presented to potential buyers.

Ways to Use Virtual Staging

“Furnish” a Room

An empty, unfurnished property simply doesn’t have the same appeal as a furnished space. It lacks the same livable warmth that you get when a room has couches, tables, beds, and chairs. You can take a photo of an empty property and digitally add furniture such as tables, lamps, and couches. You can also add decorations like paintings to make the home appear more welcoming.

Change a Room’s Use

With virtual staging, you can also take a room and present multiple options for their specific use. This allows you to market a property to a variety of different buyers. For example, you can take a single room and have it virtually staged as a child’s bedroom, appealing to parents. You can then take that same room and have it “staged” as a home office, appealing to working professionals. In one listing, you can target two types of buyers, which greatly increases your market potential.

Messy, cluttered teenage boy's bedroom with piles of clothes, music and sports equipment.
Virtual staging can be used to clear clutter from an image. But you’ll still need to clean at some point!


If a home has not yet been cleared out, virtual staging can be used to declutter the space and show the full potential of the home, which is often hidden when a space is cluttered. If you have a room full of cluttered papers, toys, or dishes, virtual staging can eliminate these items from the image.

This can also be useful for people concerned with privacy. If you haven’t had time to remove family pictures or items you’d rather not show in listings (expensive art, for example), virtual stating can “wipe” these items from the image.

Common Situations for Virtual Staging

So when might you use virtual staging? While it can be useful for any listing, here are some common situations when virtual staging could be appropriate.

You Need to Move Right Away

If you need to move quickly, and the home will be emptied before a real estate agent can come and take photos, you have a prime situation for virtual staging. Without furniture, a home can appear cold, hard, and unwelcoming. But virtual staging allows you to “fill” the space, all without the hassle of traditional staging.

Not Enough Time to Clear Clutter

On the other hand, if you have not had a chance to declutter and clean before photographs are taken, the technology can be used to “clean” your space, removing messes like laundry or dishes. It can also depersonalize your space to make it more appealing to buyers.

You Have Unique-Use Rooms

Suppose you have a room used for, say, sowing. This is a very specific hobby, one that few others share, so a sowing room may not appeal to most buyers. But if you can remove all of your sowing items from the room, it allows shoppers to visualize the space as their own.

Ethics Question: Is it Wrong to Doctor Photos?

All of this raises one important ethical question: is virtual staging false advertising? And what are the ethics of removing and adding items; where should someone “draw the line,” so to speak?

First of all, it’s best to note all photos that have been changed as “virtually staged,” “virtually adjusted,” or something to that effect. This makes it clear that you are not trying to deceive anyone, you’re simply trying to display the property to its full potential.

Most would also agree that it’s unethical to remove a permanent feature or aspect from a home. For example, if there is a not-so-attractive water tower in the window view, you should not wipe it from the image. The same goes for power lines, stains, or damage to the home or property. Even changing the paint color or countertops could be considered unethical, even if these are not exactly “permanent.”

Real Staging Still Has its Place

We don’t want to give the impression that real, physical staging has disappeared. Virtual staging is a different type of service, and both can work in tandem to support the marketing and eventual sale of a house. While its role may have changed, you can expect virtual staging to remain an important part of the real estate industry.

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Chad Baker, CrossCountry Mortgage   
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