Staged to Sell: A Virtual Transformation

Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett

The real estate professional: Cris Grayson, broker associate at Baird & Warner in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

About the home: The five-bedroom home in Glen Ellyn, Ill., was built in 1975. The home has been meticulously maintained, and the homeowners had recently made some updates to the interior as well. It is listed for $569,900. Grayson wanted to make sure the online presentation of the home would appeal to the widest buyer pool.

Grayson’s tips:

  1. Don’t skimp on photography. Grayson places a high value on quality photography for her listings. She uses a professional photographer who is trained specifically on taking real estate photos through VHT Studios, a national real estate photography firm. A good real estate photographer will know how to capture a space from the best angles as well as the flow of the home, Grayson says.
  2. Show off the possibilities. Grayson also likes to use VHT’s Virtual Redecorate tool, which allows spaces to be virtually changed and staged for photos.

Here’s the kitchen “before” and then virtually staged “after.” See how it changes the look of the table area.

Photo credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett

Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett

Grayson also used virtual staging to change the look of the home’s family room. In its current state, the family room appears comfortable and cozy, but some buyers may be looking for a lighter, more modern look. Through virtual staging, the wall décor and upholstered furniture was presented in a warmer look in the photographs.

Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett

Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios  – Chrissy Barrett

 

  1. Re-cast the room’s purpose. In some cases, you may want to change the purpose of the room to appeal to a wider pool of buyers. In the upstairs of the home, Grayson and her VHT photographer Chrissy Barrett used virtual staging to transform a teen room into a young child’s room with a play space. They also presented it another way too as an office and reading or crafts room. Grayson labeled any pictures as “virtually staged” when they appeared online. The virtually staged photos appeared after a photo of the actual room.

Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett

Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett

Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett

The Result?

Days after the home was listed with the virtual staging pictures included, Grayson said they received an offer and were in negotiations with an interested buyer. Grayson has found that using virtual staging in her listings doesn’t just show potential buyers the possibilities of a space but also offers buyers a styling guide to use when they move into their new home and make it their own.

Have a home you recently staged that you’d like to show off here at Styled Staged & Sold? Submit your staging photos for consideration, along with three to five of your best spruce-up tips. Contact Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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Comments
  1. Thank you for a very detailed but at the same time concise article. Are there any specific recommendations on how many virtually staged photos should there ideally be for multi-purpose rooms? Thank you.

  2. Even though virtual staging is something agents and sellers may look to as a money saver, these photos show why it is considered deceptive marketing – and a risk. The shelves that were built ins in the fam room were digitally removed in the “virtually staged” room. The shelves above the window were removed and the color changed on the built ins on the right. Was the house actually REMODELED prior to the virtual staging? If not, then the person doing the virtual staging took liberties with both the TRUE features on this house, and removed things that were permanent fixtures/features.

    I would also share as a professional Home Stager, the room arrangement in the family room would have been made better by a real person in that house Staging. It is too crowded with furniture placed at odd angles. All the photoshopper did was put different looking pieces in the same arrangement. A professional Home Stager would have arranged the room for better flow and fit for buyers viewing online and in person.

    As much as REALTORS dislike FSBO as it cheapens the process and DIY is not the way to go when selling, it is the same with virtual staging. It cheapens the look, the process, and Buyers feel duped when they walk in the door and FAIL to have an emotional connection. If photos were all that was needed to sell a house, REALTORs and Stagers would be out of business. Fortunately, the human interaction to provide guidance on what for many is their largest fiscal transaction is important.

    If the property was not remodeled prior to the photoshopping and the person behind the computer took liberties, and the virtual altering of photos is deceptive and in this case, truly a RISK to the agent using this service, for the Seller whose house was digitally photoshopped to remove built ins, and for the Buyer who looked at pics online but in person. If the house does not look like it did in the photos used to attract them as a buyer and a property is “advertised” for sale using these pics, that Seller would have to make the house look like it did in these fake renderings – and the Agent who hired the virtual photoshopping company would probably be the one having to FIX this situation. I wonder if the $$ paid to the photoshopping company would be seen as a bargain when faced with potential legal action or bills to remodel the house to match the pics? Is the risk worth it? I would say, no. #hireaprostager

  3. I’m a bit disappointed in NAR promoting the use of deceptive photography to sell homes. This article makes me believe that NAR has no problem with Realtors manipulating images of the properties to falsely represent their listings in MLS. These improvements definitely could have been made to a home like this using a professional Stager, adding value to the home, giving the seller an excellent return on their investment and not deceiving the public.

  4. Full disclosure: I’m a professional home stager. The family room virtual image is more of an interior design reimagining of what he room could look like after spending thousands of dollars remodeling. It’s not a realistic representation of what the room actually looks like. Built-in shelves were removed or added and the scale of the room is off. I though MLS photos were legally supposed to be an accurate representation of the home. This isn’t staging. Please stop calling it that. It’s an artist’s rendering, or edesign, but it isn’t staging.

  5. I am a seasoned interior architect with over 30 years experience. I am now focused on Home Staging. I find that offering actual home staging allows for great online presence, just as virtual staging might be able to do. I have seen many virtuals and with my trained eye , can spot immediately a space that has been rendered by someone with very little interior design experience. They may be great at understanding software applications, but they are certainly not interior design experts. The other big concern and is actually a detriment to the selling process is when the potential buyer books a time to visit the home, that first impression (which takes place within the first 5 seconds and is almost impossible to change, you get one chance), is going to be one of bewilderment when they realize this house is not the same as it was represented online! This is a “negative” impression, on the other hand, when a home is staged with actual furnishings, artwork and accessories, the visitor
    Feels warmly welcomed into beautiful surroundings that they immediately connect with and start to imagine what their own furnishings would look like, thus creating a positive first impression. It is a fact published by The National Association of Realtors that an unstaged home has a visit time of about 5 or less minutes whereas a staged home, visitors tend to stay on average for 40 minutes. Home staging is by far a more honest and fruitful approach. It increases value, increases clicks and showings and people are impressed, not bewildered. I feel that virtual staging can hinder the sale instead of helping it. There is no substitute for actual visual, tactile and well presented interiors by a designer, not fake renderings from a computer operator! Once the visitor realizes the Realtor was either cutting corners in his/her marketing of the property, they may turn the other way with this negative impression. People don’t like surprises like this, the most important purchase of their lives. It must be done correctly and honestly to best serve the need of the seller as well as the buyer!

  6. Ellen Mann

    I will disclose that I’m a stager. You may think that gives me a jaded view of virtual staging, however I will say I’ve staged a number of homes that were previously virtually staged online with no positive result. While virtual staging costs just a fraction of the cost of “real” staging, it leaves a potential buyer with a feeling of being duped.

    The scale of furniture can be adjusted which is simply deceptive just like the removal of the built ins in the family room above. One home I staged would barely fit a love seat in the living area, yet the virtual renderings showed a sectional and chair in the space.

    I’ll use an example I use with clients. All of us know someone who is struggling with internet dating. Virtual staging is similar to showing up for a date and finding the person you’re meeting is actually about 45 pounds heavier and 15 years older than their profile pictures indicate. It doesn’t feel very good. Even if the person has a great sense of humor, starting off that way isn’t honest. I met my amazing husband online. Why did it work for us? Because when we met in person he was EXACTLY as advertised.

    There IS a place for virtual staging when used properly, but actual staging will still invite a potential viewer to sit and take in the ambiance of a property they visit. Did you know that according to the NAR 78% of expired listings are homes that are shown VACANT?

  7. Traci Orr

    I’m surprised and disappointed to see Virtual Staging being endorsed. While I can appreciate the appeal, it can be seen as deceptive. In pictures shown the actual home has been altered. I’m not sure how that can be appropriate marketing. Staging is to show the home in its best light, not in an altered state. I’m concerned of the ramifications this could have on everyone involved.

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