Real estate agents often have questions about whether to stage a vacant home or not. In nearly all cases this comes down to the price point of the listing.
Traditional home staging easily costs $500-800+ per month on the low end (this can be much higher in larger markets or for luxury homes).
While physically staging a property will likely have a return-on-investment (ROI) for high-end homes in the luxury market (defined as having a listing price over $1,000,000), high-quality virtual staging is probably a smarter move for the average home listing.
Let’s explore when to physically vs virtually stage and when virtually staging, what rooms to stage, what styles to select and how much virtual staging costs.
When To Physically Stage vs Virtually Stage A Home
First and foremost, staging a home (physical or virtual) is indisputably a good idea. Not only does it make you look really good to your current and prospective sellers, it will likely help your listings sell for more money and faster.
According to a 2018 survey of over 4,200 homes by Home Staging Resource, 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than comparable non-staged homes in any given US location. That’s real money.
Given the median listing price of a home in the US in June of 2021 was $363,300, this could help a home seller rake in an extra $20,000-90,000. Not bad! but… don’t go calling your local staging company quite yet. Physical home staging is almost always reserved for higher-end homes and thus the data from the survey above is likely skewed. It’s more likely that gains will be much more moderate (even nonexistent) when physically staging a more average home.
Since it can be hard to know if physical staging for a home will ultimately pay off, a good rule of thumb is if your listing is under $1,000,000, virtual staging is likely the best option for staging.
What is Virtual Staging?
Let’s keep this one quick. Virtual staging is the process of adding digital (‘virtual’) furniture to photos taken of a vacant or partially vacant home or commercial space. Typically this is done by a professional virtual staging company (see our list below) wherein you upload a few photos of a vacant home, select a style and volià, you have some not-so-empty photos within 24-48 hours that can be used for marketing a home listing. Let’s take a quick look at some examples…
Virtual Staging Examples
Here are some before and after examples of virtual staged images we’ve completed here at PhotoUp.
What Are The Benefits of Virtual Staging?
There are lots of articles on this, so let’s just look at the bullet points:
- Virtual staging is much more cost effective than traditional staging (as in, 60-90% less expensive).
- Realistic virtual staging can generate more online interest.
- All else equal, staged homes often sell for more money.
- A majority of agents say virtual staging helped them sell a vacant home faster.
- Less coordination and brain power. Upload photos and you’re done.
- The vast majority of buyers find it easier to visualize a staged space vs a vacant one (plus in 2017 nearly 1 in 3 home buyers bid on a home sight unseen).
- You can choose an interior design style that best fits your space.
Is There DIY Virtual Staging Software?
Yes and… no.
Let’s start with the yes. Yes, they exist. Yes, you can do it… but, between the time, cost and much lower quality output that you get from DIY apps versus a professional virtual staging company, it’s an easy choice, hire a professional. You will save tons of time (as in TONS, all caps) and get much better results with a professional company, often at or near the same cost.
That said, if you find yourself with some free time, the more popular DIY staging apps are:
- Visual Stager – web app, credit based ($16 per image)
- Room Planner – iOS, in-app purchases
- iStaging – iOS or Android, monthly subscription
One of the major reasons DIY virtual staging apps have not really taken off is that virtual staging is actually rather complicated. Even if you have a great eye for interior design, it takes a lot of time to select, rotate, scale and place virtual furniture one-by-one.
Additionally, professional virtual staging companies use much more advanced technology that is both a LOT more expensive and complicated, namely 3DMax by autodesk. This software allows for better digital lighting and rendering, which it turns out is one of the major factors in making virtual staging look realistic.
A lot of people ask us if you can virtually stage with Adobe Photoshop. And the answer is no. It’s a photo editing program that really can’t do professional virtual staging at any adequate level needed in professional real estate marketing.
Finally, beyond just the technical side, professional virtual staging companies often build their own proprietary furniture libraries which are going to be much more stylish than DIY apps. So in the end, sure, download an app and you’ll find out pretty quickly you should probably stick to what you are good at: selling real estate.
Where Virtual Staging Fits Into The Agent’s Sales Funnel
Whether from the buyer side or the seller side, virtual staging for real estate can play a critical role in an agent’s marketing strategy for vacant spaces.
It’s a well known fact that over 90% of home buyers search online for their next home, which is the beginning of the sales funnel for a real estate agent:
- Buyer searches for homes online
- Buyer contacts their agent for a viewing
- Buyer writes an offer on a property
A key tool to convert online buyer eyeballs into more physical viewings and therefore more buyer interest, faster sales and higher closing prices are amazing photos. However, even professional real estate photography can leave a vacant space looking void and empty.
In a similar way that an agent helps buyers visualize themselves in their future home by having their sellers take down personal photos from the walls, so adding photorealistic virtual furniture to a vacant space can help online home buyers visualize a space.
On the flipside, when you are interviewing with a new prospective home seller, having a few examples of your virtual staging offerings can really leave an impression and help you win new listings. This is best presented as part of your comprehensive media marketing strategy, which for most listings should include professional photos, a single property website and possibly some combination of virtual or 3D tours, virtual staging and a video walkthrough.
Most real estate agents know how to put a sign in the yard and print some flyers, but a strong, comprehensive digital marketing strategy will undoubtedly stand out and help you start winning more listings.
Virtual Staging – Just For Vacant Homes?
What’s that you say? Your seller’s home isn’t vacant? While true not every home will need virtual staging, at the same time virtual staging is not just for vacant homes.
Unlike photos, where you will want to have 20-30 photos of a property, for virtual staging often 2-4 photos is all you need. As such, for spaces which are overly cluttered, where the furniture is really dated or the space is just downright poorly decorated, virtual staging can save the day.
Most virtual staging companies, including PhotoUp, offer real estate photo editing services that include major object removal. Have too many family portraits in the bedroom? See yah later! A 70s retro orange couch? Bye bye!
While you need to take care not to remove any permanent fixtures in a home while marketing, US real estate law does allow for agents to edit photos to remove and add ‘personal property’, such as wall hangings, rugs and furniture of all sorts.
But what rooms are most important to stage? So glad you asked…
Which Rooms Should Be Virtually Staged?
Since 2011 PhotoUp has done real estate photo editing for nearly 10 million photos and virtual staged many thousands more. Pulling from our historical data we find that real estate agents order virtual staging for living rooms 33% of the time, bedrooms 31% of the time, with dining rooms coming in a distant third at 16%. Below is a full breakdown:
|Room Type||% of Virtual Staging Orders|
|Patios and Rooftops||4%|
So when in doubt, virtual staging a living room and master bedroom is your best bet and adding a dining room and patio is the icing on the cake.
What Furniture Styles Are Available With Virtual Staging?
Most virtual staging companies have at least a handful of popular interior design styles to choose from with the most common styles being American, Scandinavian, Modern, Farmhouse and some variety of east coast Hamptons or Coastal.
Our internal data at PhotoUp largely shows that these styles are indeed the most popular. However, because PhotoUp is a USA based company, unlike BoxBrownie and others, we also offer more regional styles that are specific to the US, including Mid-Century Modern, Luxury and Southwestern styles.
|Style||% of Virtual Staging Orders|
How Much Does Virtual Staging Cost?
Like all services, you do get what you pay for. However, increasingly there are many good virtual staging options in the $20-40 per image range. Yes, you can find virtual staging companies who charge many hundreds of dollars (and if you have a true luxury property, this might make sense), this isn’t needed in most cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the amount of service providers in the virtual staging space, which has had a very good market effect of pushing pricing lower and quality higher. Just two or three years ago, staging was not nearly as realistic looking and pricing was often $40-60+ per image.
In our experience (and we’ve tried every major provider), providers in the $25-35/image price point often offer the best quality to price tradeoff.
Who Are The Best Virtual Staging Companies?
To be certain we’re a bit biased on this topic given PhotoUp offers our own virtual staging service which starts at $25 per image. We’ve worked very hard for the past five years to build up one of the most comprehensive furniture libraries and we’re proud to say we offer more furniture styles, room types, and have a better online furniture library and ordering experience than any of our competitors.
That said, as part of our commitment to being the market leader in real estate marketing, our team reviews every major virtual staging company in-depth every year so you can see for yourself who is the best.
Find our annual Best Virtual Staging providers list on our main virtual staging page here.
Beyond Virtual Stagings
If you are a US based customer, there is a good chance PhotoUp is the right choice for your virtual staging needs. PhotoUp is the only real estate marketing company to offer not just virtual stating, but also real estate photo editing services, single property websites, graphic design and real estate virtual assistants. In short, we’re your one stop real estate marketing agency stop for real estate agents and media professionals.
Click here to sign up for a free PhotoUp account today. Mention this blog to receive 10 free credits to test out any of our real estate marketing products and services.