Every industry ebbs and flows with the economy, consumer demand, and fluctuations in availability. Industries like real estate are also heavily influenced by seasonal fluctuations like the holidays, school sessions, and seasonal weather patterns. Another aspect worth considering when studying the market flux are adaptations of new technologies. Virtual Home Staging (and the the sub-segment of Luxury Virtual Staging) are relatively novel technological advancements, and the boom in their availability, quality and application is turning the traditional home staging industry on its head.
Many real estate agents and home builders have not heard of virtual staging or they don’t understand it. Sometimes, they jumped on board to try it out several years ago and their experience was underwhelming, which leaves them hesitant to try it again. Other times, they assume it’s far more costly or time-consuming than it actually is.
For some reason, I find that luxury real estate brokers are more willing to give virtual staging a try. It’s kind of like the existential “what came first - the chicken or the egg?” question. Did they become successful luxury brokers because they are more willing to quickly and readily pivot towards promising new technology - or are they adapting towards new technology quickly because they are luxury brokers? Whatever the case, luxury agents are rapidly XXXX
In this article, I’ll break down the science and marketing genius behind new technologies paving the way towards realistic and luxurious virtual staging, and why virtual staging is the home staging of the future.
Traditional Home Staging
Traditional Home Staging is...well...traditional. “Conventional” isn’t typically how successful
realtors like to describe themselves and their marketing packages. Yes, it took decades for enterprising home stagers to convince home owners and brokers alike that any type of home staging was an essential real estate marketing tool. There are likely still thousands of agents in the US who prefer not to stage --they don’t see the point or they feel it’s impractical and “not worth it.” These agents pass their unfounded beliefs onto their clients, and in return cause their home sale to take longer, sell for less and have higher carrying costs! Any agent that doesn’t adapt with technology risks aging themselves right out of business.
Any broker in the know understands that staged homes sell quicker and for more money. It’s likely been a long time since you listed an unstaged home -- it’s par for the course.
You don’t want to be the agent left behind, because the industry is changing yet again. Rigid thinking and marketing inflexibility costs client and agent money. Who does that help? No one. Traditional home staging does work, and it is also expensive and impractical. It costs thousands (many, many thousands for luxury listings).
Virtual staging is the home staging of the future. It’s not just an alternative to live staging. It’s not second best. It’s not just a so-so substitution for traditional home staging. It’s way cheaper, the selection is at least ten times greater, and the flexibility is simply unmatched.
What Exactly is Virtual Staging? If you’ve heard of virtual staging, or luxury virtual staging, but don’t exactly understand what it entails you’re definitely not alone! Just like in traditional home staging, furnishings, rugs, art and décor are added to key spaces within the property when it’s listed for sale. This helps potential buyers envision themselves and their families within the home. It also helps foster an emotional connection, which in turn inspires buyers to purchase the property.
Virtual Staging also works to define spaces which are otherwise “hard to picture.” Great rooms, bonus rooms, finished basements and the like really benefit. Outdoor spaces are also enhanced by great staging, but often not within the budget when working with live staging. Here’s how the virtual staging process goes:
- Photograph the vacant spaces in your listing. A tripod height of 5 feet with as much visible floor space as possible works best.
- Email the photos or a dropbox link to your luxury virtual stager
- Your virtual stager spends up to a week (but usually just a day or two) perfecting the staging in your listing and send the staged photos back as normal .jpg images
- You upload them to your MLS listing and website
That’s it! It’s not complicated. You can also generally have as much say as you’d like in the design of the spaces. A good stager will also offer revisions and adjustments if the first round doesn’t look exactly like you’d hoped they would.
What are the Benefits of Virtual Staging?
Virtual staging fosters the same emotional connection that traditional staging brings at a fraction of the cost. That is the number one benefit. Typically luxury virtual stagers charge between $45 - $75 per photo. That’s a whole house staged for less than $1,000.00 in most cases. If money is tight, just pick the same areas you’d stage in-person: kitchen, dining, master bedroom and living room.
Flexibility is another essential benefit when using virtual staging. In a typical staging scenario, you might have some say in which pieces are used or what the overall design will look like. Generally, though, you’re limited to your designer’s inventory. With virtual staging, the inventory is essentially limitless. Winnow + Gild’s inventory is over 6,000 pieces and updated consistently in order to stay on-trend. Can you picture having a property staged and not being thrilled with how it turned out, but having no recourse? It would cost a fortune to re-stage the whole thing in person. With luxury virtual staging, you’ll be thrilled with every staged photo. Why? Because as a customer, you have the flexibility to choose exactly what you want, and to change it if you don’t like it.
Virtual staging eliminates every downfall of traditional staging:
- Finding an available stager
- Differences in furniture/décor preference
- Convincing your seller the high cost is worth it
- Inability to revise
So, How Does Virtual Staging *Actually* Work?
So now that we’ve talked about the pitfalls of traditional staging; the benefits of virtual staging and how the process works from start-to-finish - let’s dive into the technology behind virtual staging. How does it work? How does it look so realistic? How is actual furniture and decor turned into 3D? How does the texture and composition look so vivid and life-like?
How it Works
Virtual home staging is just one of many useful applications of 3D Rendering technology. 3D rendering is basically creating a 2-dimensional image from a 3-dimensional object - like a piece of furniture. A special type of camera copies the exact pixels created by rays pointing at the object. This is done in a way that preserves very well how light hits and reflects from the object; creating shadows and highlights. The technology is only mid-way through it’s infancy and the results are already incredibly realistic. It’s exciting to think of how it will continue to improve over time. In this short clip below, you can see how an item is added to a scene and how realistic it looks.
All of these pixels combine to create stunningly authentic scenes within a home. The textures on a sofa arm, or the dew drops on the leaf of a plant appear so genuinely “real” it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch them. Without fail, anytime someone asks what I “do” for a living and I try to explain it with words, I end up just showing them, and every reaction is the same: “That’s so cool!”
Increasing Acceptance Among Realtors
As with most novel marketing tactics, widespread acceptance and application is what it takes for a new technology to really take off. As realtors continue to use virtual staging, the stagers will continue to partner with developers, who in-turn will put even more effort into bettering the rendering technology, and it will improve faster.
I’ve been having great success impressing realtors and builders with the realities of today’s luxury virtual staging. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this growing new niche industry. I’m consistently impressed by how the real estate industry in particular is willing to pivot in times of necessity-- like instantaneously promoting widespread use and acceptance of virtual tours and 3D tours as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020. Similarly, drone photography has revolutionized the real estate photography industry and realtors have run with it from the get-go. I have no doubt that virtual staging will become widely used and realtors will lead the charge.