Are you trying to decide if virtual staging for your real estate business is for you?

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.

For starters, traditional home staging easily costs $500-800+ per month on the low end. And this can be much higher in larger markets or for luxury homes. 

While physically staging a property will likely provide a return on investment (ROI) for high-end homes in the luxury market (defined as having a listing price over $1,000,000), virtual staging is a smarter move for the average home listing.

Before virtual staging real estate by PhotoUp
Before: Empty Room
After virtual staging real estate by PhotoUp
After: Virtual Staging by PhotoUp

But what’s virtual staging, you may ask? Let’s clear that out first.

What Is Virtual Staging?

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.

Best of all, you’ll have your photos virtually staged within 24-48 hours, ready to market your property listing.

Let’s explore when to physically vs virtually stage a home, what rooms to stage, what styles to select, and how much virtual staging costs next. 

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 good to your current and prospective buyers, but it’ll likely help your listings sell for more money and faster.

For instance, 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! 

Before virtual staging real estate by PhotoUp
Before: Empty Room
After virtual staging real estate by PhotoUp
After: Real Estate Virtual Staging by PhotoUp

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Given the median listing price of a home in the US in October of 2021 was $380,000, this could help a home seller rake in an extra $20,000-90,000.

Not bad!

As good as this sounds, don’t go calling your local staging company quite yet.

Physical home staging is almost always reserved for higher-end homes, so the data from the survey above is likely skewed.

In fact, the gains will likely be more moderate (even nonexistent) when physically staging a more average home.

And since it can be difficult 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.

Now, let’s take a quick look at some examples.

Virtual Staging Real Estate Examples

Here are some before and after examples of virtually staged images we’ve completed here at PhotoUp.

Can you imagine yourself living in any of these rooms? We bet you can!

To sell a home, you need to convey a feeling of a stylish and “homey” place, where people can see themselves living.

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Staging?

Let’s elaborate on this further, and present the main benefits of virtual staging:

  • 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.
  • It takes 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. For instance, in 2017 nearly 1 in 3 home buyers bid on a home they hadn’t physically seen.
  • Lastly, you can choose an interior design style that best fits your space.

Is There DIY Virtual Staging Software?

The answer to this is both yes and… no. 

To start with the yes, DIY (Do It Yourself) virtual staging software exist. And you can do it yourself…

However, between the time, cost, and lower quality output that you get from DIY apps vs a professional virtual staging company, it’s an easy choice.

We recommend that you hire a professional!


First of all, when hiring a professional virtual staging company, you’ll save tons of time (as in TONS, all caps) and get much better results.

Second, often you can get your photos virtually staged at or near the same cost.

However, if you find yourself with plenty of free time, the more popular DIY staging apps are:

Room planner virtual staging app

Virtual Staging Is More Complicated Than You May Think

One of the major reasons why DIY virtual staging apps haven’t really taken off is that virtual staging is actually rather complicated.

For instance, even with 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’s more expensive and complicated, namely 3DMax by autodesk.

This software allows for better digital lighting and rendering, which is one of the major factors in making virtual staging look realistic.

Also, a lot of people ask us if it’s possible to virtually stage with Adobe Photoshop?

And the simple answer is no.

For starters, it’s a photo editing program that can’t do professional virtual staging at the adequate level needed in professional real estate marketing.

Second, beyond just the technical side, professional virtual staging companies often build their own proprietary furniture libraries, which are more stylish than DIY apps.

So, what we’re trying to say is…

When downloading one of these apps, you’ll quickly find out that 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. 

Let’s start with the buyer’s perspective.

Buyer Perspective

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:

  1. A prospective home buyer searches for homes online
  2. He/she contacts their agent for a viewing
  3. Buyer writes an offer on a property

And the key tool to convert online buyer eyeballs into more physical viewings, faster sales, and higher closing prices are amazing photos.

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, adding photo-realistic virtual furniture to a vacant space can help online home buyers visualize a space. 

Seller Perspective

On the flip side, when you’re interviewing with a new prospective home seller, having a few examples of your virtual staging offerings can really leave an impact 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 and a single property website.

Also, a combination of virtual or 3D tours, virtual staging, and a video walk through are common marketing tools.

Anyway, the point is that 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: Only for Vacant Homes?

What’s that you say? Your seller’s home isn’t vacant?

While it’s true that not all homes need virtual staging, virtual staging isn’t just for vacant homes.

Unlike photos, where you need up to 20-30 photos of a property, virtual staging often only requires 2-4 photos to showcase a home.

As such, for spaces that are overly cluttered and where the furniture is dated, or the space is downright poorly decorated, virtual staging can save the day.

In addition, 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.

For instance, they can remove and add “personal property” such as wall hangings, rugs, and furniture of all sorts.

But what rooms are most important to stage?

We’re 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 virtually 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 and bedrooms 31%.

Additionally, dining rooms are coming in at third place at 16%.

Here’s a full breakdown:

Room Type% of Virtual Staging Orders
Living Rooms33%
Dining Rooms17%
Kitchen Sets6%
Patios and Rooftops4%
Game Rooms4%
Gym Equipment1%
Kids Rooms1%
Nursery Rooms<1%

So when in doubt, virtual staging a living room and the master bedroom is your best bet. Also, 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.

That said, the most common styles are 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.

Even better, because PhotoUp is a US-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

Fast & Affordable

Virtual Staging Service

Interiors. Landscapes. Commercial. Virtually transform any space.

How Much Does Virtual Staging Cost?

Like any professional service, you get what you pay for.

Increasingly, there are many good virtual staging options in the $20-40 per image range.

Yes, you can find virtual staging companies that charge hundreds of dollars (if you have a luxury property, this might make sense), which isn’t needed in most cases.

Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the number of service providers in the virtual staging space, which has had a good market effect of pushing pricing lower and quality higher.

In addition, only two or three years ago, the staging wasn’t 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 per 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, starting at $20 per image.

We’ve worked very hard for the past five years to build 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 order process than any of our competitors.

Virtual staging style library by PhotoUp

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. 

Beyond Virtual Stagings

If you are a US-based customer, there’s 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 for real estate agents and media professionals.

So, why don’t you try us out?

Sign up for a free PhotoUp account today!

Don’t forget to mention this blog to receive 10 free credits to test out any of our real estate marketing products and services.

We hope you enjoyed this post on virtual staging 101 for real estate. If you did, you may also want to check out our reviews of other virtual staging companies:

Devon Higgins


Devon is a business owner, entrepreneur, licensed realtor, and sports enthusiast. Devon graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Marketing and he currently lives with his wife and two daughters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Devon's background in marketing and the deep knowledge of the real estate industry make him an integral part of the PhotoUp team.

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