by Shade Lapite
Most home buyers begin their search independently using the internet, a medium that skews largely in favour of the visual. A property listing can rise or fall on the strength of its accompanying photographs. It’s a simple line to draw: great imagery generates more interest, which encourages more foot traffic to the property, which sets the stage for more potential offers. Over the last decade, home staging has played an increasing role in this process.
Home staging has evolved beyond simply tidying up, putting away the kids’ toys and cutting the lawn. It has become conceptual. Sellers are told to purge in order to create the illusion of space, to “bring the outside in” with window treatments and earth tones, and to depersonalize the décor so that their home becomes a blank canvas of potential.
In order to be done well, home staging takes time, physical energy and money. At least, that was the case before virtual staging. Now you don’t have to move a single piece of furniture to declutter or lift a paintbrush in order to redecorate. You can stage a house digitally.
Here are four things to consider about virtual staging.
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1. Enhancement and Convenience
Virtual staging is particularly useful when you’re selling an empty property. Statistics show vacant properties spend longer on the market and sell for less than furnished properties. It’s hard for buyers to imagine the potential of a room while staring at a blank space. Empty rooms also seem smaller so it’s difficult for people to tell how much furniture can fit in the space without a few pieces to hint at scale. Virtual staging solves both of these problems. With the right keystrokes, you can insert appropriately-sized furniture to demonstrate the size of rooms and you can suggest how the space can be utilized.
Virtual staging can also be beneficial for furnished homes. It might be difficult for a family with young children to keep a pristine, minimally furnished house if they are trying to sell. It could be easier for them to leave the house untouched and digitally remove unwanted items from rooms. Or, if a house has an off-putting décor -- say 1970s psychedelic -- it is far simpler to neutralize the colours and textures with the wave of a mouse rather than a bucket full of brushes. Or if the sellers have a tenant and therefore lack access to all rooms to stage the house as they’d like, virtual staging can be used to update furniture and other aspects of the place.
"It’s hard for buyers to imagine the potential of a room while staring at a blank space."
The price tag for traditional staging can range from $2,000 to 4,000. Those funds must cover the cost of the designer, furniture storage and the rental of any additional furniture and furnishings.
Virtual staging costs only a tenth of that figure. If you’re virtually staging an empty house you can expect to pay $90 per photo. Many companies offer graduated package deals, i.e. $225 for three photos, $280 for four photos and $325 for five photos. Since you’re only spotlighting key rooms such as bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and living room, five photos is often sufficient.
If you opt to erase existing furniture and replace items through virtual staging, the cost of your bill may double. Each photo will cost an average of $145. Virtual staging companies can also upgrade a property’s furnishings, wall colour, flooring, or even landscape the grounds.
3. Truth in Advertising
It’s important to make clear in the listing that these are virtually staged photographs. You want potential buyers to feel guided and supported by your efforts, not manipulated or misled. Label each photograph as ‘Virtually Staged’ and pair it with photos of the actual rooms so they can compare.
Companies use 3D rendering technology that give the finished photos an impressive level of realism. The process generally goes as follows:
A) Send your chosen company photos of the rooms you’d like staged. Ideally the rooms are empty but you can also opt for the more expensive packages that involve staging furnished rooms.
B) Browse through the company’s gallery and choose from their furniture set options, or allow their design team to make the selections for you.
C) Wait two to three days to receive jpg files of virtually staged spaces.
D) Prepare to wait two to three days longer if you’re staging a furnished room, since “removing” furniture requires more time.
E) Feel free to submit changes if you are unhappy with the final photographs. Check the company’s terms and conditions, since some revisions are offered for free while others will incur an additional charge.
This is the first in a two-part story on Virtual Home Staging. Watch for more practical tips in Part Two, coming in next month’s issue of The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter.
Shade Lapite is the web editor at the Ontario Real Estate Association.
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