This is the second in a two-part story on Virtual Home Staging.
by Shade Lapite
Thanks to virtual home staging, your clients don’t have to move a single piece of furniture or lift a paintbrush. It is now possible to stage a house digitally. Last month’s article talked about the benefits of home staging. This story outlines three key considerations for staging a home virtually.
One – Take great photographs
The photos you send off for staging need to be the largest size and best quality you can manage as these will be the actual photos the staging company edits and returns.
If you can afford it, hire an experienced photographer. This professional will have good instincts about angles and lighting. If you cannot afford it, get your hands on a DSLR camera.
Ensure the room is well lit. Photograph the rooms once they’re clear of unwanted boxes, trailing wires and other unsightly accessories.
Take the photographs at eye level – no bird’s eye views or crouched shots. The furniture perspective won’t match.
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Two – Can I do it myself?
Could you save money by using some out-of-the-box software and a few hours at the computer? Yes, you could save money, but you probably won’t like the results.
Virtual staging has come a long way. In the early days, images looked cartoonish and amateur. Now, the pictures are so realistic that it’s hard to differentiate between a room that contains real furniture and one with virtual pieces. Do-it-yourself (DIY) options have not yet made this leap.
There aren’t many DIY software options available, possibly because developers recognize that furniture styles change rapidly and they would have to update frequently to stay current. However, interior decorating tools like Autodesk Homestyler can be repurposed to virtually outfit a room. The results, while attractive, look like a 3-D rendering rather than an actual room.
There are also professional virtual staging companies that allow clients to access their online furniture gallery where they can select items and insert them into their uploaded photos for $10 per picture.
But you have to remember, when professional virtual staging companies edit photos, they’re not ‘dragging and dropping’. Companies employ 3-D artists to build furniture using 3-D rendering tools. The images are then submitted to a graphic design team that uses Adobe Photoshop to insert the furniture and ensure that it blends seamlessly into this new environment. The graphic designers check that shadows fall correctly, the light is consistent and the colour gradients match, among other things. A great deal of technical know-how and artistic talent goes into making the images realistic. It pays to let the professionals do their best work for you.
Three – Display your virtually staged images
Even when you’ve told potential buyers that the online images are staged, it can still be hard for them to imagine the potential in a stripped-down property when they are there in person viewing an empty space. One solution is to display enlarged versions of the virtually staged photographs during the viewing or open house. This reminds buyers of the potential that each room holds.
Some virtual staging companies offer a printing service and will produce the edited photographs on high-quality photo paper. They then frame the visuals on a board to give them a sturdy backing. The pictures can then be mounted on an easel or display mount. Beware, though, that printing costs can climb to about $70 per photo, or more.
Is virtual staging the future? Its popularity is growing, and the number of companies offering the service has mushroomed. This means techniques are improving and prices are dropping. Therefore, REALTORS® and consumers have more choice.
Virtual staging offers an ideal and affordable solution when listing empty properties, and the possibilities for furnished properties are also numerous. It’s a handy addition to the marketing toolbox of every Realtor.
This was the second of two parts. The first part of this article appeared in the January 2016 issue of The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter. View more practical tips from the first installment.
Shade Lapite is the web editor at the Ontario Real Estate Association.
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