In 2020, 97% of homebuyers searched for their future home online. This means that by the time most buyers hire a real estate agent, they’ve already reviewed dozens of online listings, chosen a few favorites, and eliminated homes that failed to capture their interest.
This also means, getting a buyer’s attention has never been tougher.
To nail that first impression of a home, it’s essential that real estate agents and their sellers be prepared to create an online listing that makes an impact.
But if your real estate photography is more womp-womp than WOW, you may have a hard time generating interest.
Some agents and sellers rely on professional staging services to finesse a home’s appearance and add that last little bit of sparkle that really entices prospective buyers. But the time, effort, and expense required to physically stage a home can be significant.
Fortunately, there’s a way to get many of the benefits of staging without spending all the time, effort, and money that a physical home staging process requires. It’s called virtual staging.
As virtual staging has become more popular in the real estate world, many new companies have hit the scene offering virtual staging services to agents and teams. But how do you know which tools and services are right for your business?
We’ll walk you through what you need to know about virtual staging for real estate, show you how to evaluate different providers and plans, and highlight some of the top platforms available.
Table of contents
- 6 reasons experienced agents use virtual home staging software
- Evaluating virtual staging software for real estate
- 9 virtual staging platforms — and why we love ‘em
6 reasons experienced agents use virtual home staging software
If you’re on the fence about virtual staging, consider how these benefits can make the work of selling homes even easier.
1. Capture interest quickly
As an agent, your goal is to make your real estate website listings unforgettable and irresistible.
But you don’t have to go for gimmicks to make a property stand out. Virtual staging software can turn a ho-hum listing into a stunner that must be seen in person with photorealistic furnishings and other enhancements.
2. Give prospective buyers a vision
A vacant property can feel cold, depressing, and small.
And the truth is, most people don’t have the imagination to truly envision the potential of an empty room. But virtual staging can help prospective buyers see what’s possible. In fact, 82% of buyers’ agents say staging makes it easier for their clients to visualize a property as their future home.
Whether you’re showcasing the dimensions of an impressive great room, making extra bedrooms extra useful, or turning a funky floor plan into a cool feature, virtual staging can help you shape buyers’ dreams.
3. Sell properties faster
It’s pretty simple math: the more interest you can generate in a property, the more likely you are to get a qualified offer…and quicker too.
And if virtual staging can catch a buyer’s eye and help them see the potential, odds are it’ll turn into a sale much faster compared to photos of vacant rooms.
4. Boost the sale price
Believe it or not, staging can actually make a property appear more valuable.
In fact, according to research by the NAR, 23% of buyers’ and sellers’ agents reported that staging increased a home’s dollar value by 1-5% compared to similar non-staged homes, while 18% of sellers' agents reported increases between 6% and 10%.
5. Keep it on-trend
Furniture and home decor can have a huge impact on whether or not prospective buyers can “see themselves” living in a home.
If you’re working with a seriously dated property, the mental leap might be too far for most people. Not to mention, with so many style options — contemporary, bohemian, industrial, Scandinavian, transitional — it can be difficult to connect with varying buyer preferences.
Fortunately, virtual staging makes it simple to show how different decor styles can come to life in the same property while shifting attention away from (but not hiding!) more dated or unattractive features.
6. Save time and money
Okay, so maybe we’re preaching to the choir about the power of staging.
But if you’re making a choice between physical staging and virtual staging, it’s pretty clear that virtual staging is much less expensive and time consuming than actually bringing in all new furniture and decor to fill an empty property. In fact, many virtual staging companies can turn around pictures in just a couple of days — no heavy lifting required.
Evaluating virtual staging software for real estate
Once you’ve decided to go with virtual staging for your real estate listings, there are a wide variety of options to choose from.
Here are a few things you should consider when evaluating each one.
First off...what kind of virtual staging do you want?
Virtual staging services typically fall into three main categories or levels of support:
- Full Service: You hand over the raw photos of a vacant or furnished listing, they do the rest — adding or removing furniture and decor, enhancing the lighting, even changing the landscaping, etc. Some services give you the option to collaborate with professional designers to perfect the appearance of a space.
- À La Carte Enhancements: If your listing photos need limited improvements, you can purchase specific adjustments à la carte. Typically these are small changes like improving the lighting, removing clutter, or adding artwork to a blank wall.
- Do-It-Yourself: Some virtual staging platforms are completely DIY. These apps offer a library of furniture and decor items that you can add to an image. Some may also provide tools for photo enhancement.
Prioritize image quality
One area you don’t want to compromise on is quality.
But the truth is, not all virtual staging services are created equal. Some virtual stagers are so good, it’s almost impossible to tell that it’s not real:
Of course, while some services can deliver incredibly photorealistic images — that’s not always the case with every staging service. In fact, virtual staging can also go terribly, hilariously wrong:
Take price into account
Of course, the cost of virtual staging can also vary greatly.
While there are some free DIY tools out there, typical prices start around $5 per photo for minor enhancements, and range from $35 to $200 per image for full service virtual staging.
Some providers offer subscriptions or credit-based plans, which can be helpful if you’re offering virtual staging as a service for your real estate team. You may also be able to save money on per-image prices compared to pay-as-you-go plans.
Consider virtual tours and 360° views
For some properties — especially those in the luxury market — you may want more than standard pictures.
Fortunately, some virtual staging companies also offer other premium services like 3D floor plans, virtual tours, and 360° views, whether the property is physically or virtually staged.
Review the revisions policy
When you’re evaluating staging services, one factor you may want to keep in mind is their revisions policy.
While you can easily make changes to an image you’ve edited yourself, sometimes you’ll get an image back from a virtual stager that just isn’t quite right. Depending on their revisions policy, you may be able to get a few tweaks for free…or you may have to pay more to get the image just the way you like it.
Ensure accuracy and integrity
No matter what type of service you use, you still want the photos to be honest representations of the property.
That means not hiding or removing unsightly features, and not adding items that appear built-in or would normally convey with the home. While you want the property to look its best in the listing, you don’t want to create an expectation that’s too far from reality.
👉🏾 Pro Tip: It may be wise to include both staged and empty photos to ensure that prospective buyers are prepared for the condition of the home — especially for those that may be purchasing ‘sight unseen.’ You may even want to add a brief disclaimer to the listing description, indicating that the staged photos are for inspiration only.
9 virtual staging platforms — and why we love ‘em
Not sure where to start your search for a virtual home staging app?
We’ve got you covered with a list of nine awesome options and what makes each of them great.
When you want the most trusted name in the biz
Virtually Staging Properties was developed by real estate agents and professional home stagers, so you know it’s the real deal. And with a track record of virtually staging over 100 homes per year, they’ve got experience to boot!
Services: Full service staging, Custom staging, Express staging, Order online
Price: Starting at $39 per image for Express, $60 per image for Custom
When your photos need a heavy lift and a premium finish
Created by the virtual staging pros at Hasten, Tantify makes it even easier to get staged photos, fast. And their team is equipped to handle more than just furniture and decor — they can even replace outdated furniture or show what renovation may look like on a potential flip property.
Services: Full service staging, 3D tours, 3D floor plans, Flythrough videos
Price: Starting at $69 per image (20% discount available with subscription package)
When you want incredible photorealism
There’s no doubt Spotless Agency lives up to their name — because it’s surprisingly hard to spot the ‘virtual’ in their staging services. Spotless can add or remove furnishings; change walls, floors, or cabinets; improve the landscaping; and much more.
Services: Full service staging, 3D floor plans, 360° virtual tours
Price: Starting at $79 per image
When you want the full service option plus a free DIY app
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? With roOomy, you can order full service virtual staging (even just virtual “cleaning”), or try your hand at interior design with their DIY app.
Services: Full service staging, DIY app, Flythrough videos
Price: Starting at $49 per image
When you want to pick and choose your enhancements
Working with BoxBrownie is like going to the buffet of image improvements. While you can get full-service virtual staging, you can also request smaller services like removing clutter from countertops or “turning on the lights.”
Services: Full service staging, À la carte image editing
Price: Starting at $24 per image for staging, or $1.60 per image for a 17-point enhancement
When you work with residential and commercial clients
Square Foot Productions is another virtual staging company that offers à la carte services. They also offer these services for both residential and commercial properties.
Services: Full service staging, Á la carte image editing, Aerial spotlighting
Price: Starting at $24 per image for staging, or $1.50 per image for basic editing
When you want to take matters into your own hands
If you’re committed to the DIY route, Visual Stager is a great option. With credit-based packages, brokers can easily offer virtual staging access or services for your agents.
Services: DIY staging
Price: Credit-based plans as low as $6.99 per photo
When you want great quality at a great price
With Virtual Staging Lab, you can get premium-level service without the price tag. Plus, you can often snag a promotional deal for 20% off or more!
Services: Full service staging
Price: Starting at $40 per image
When you want a luxury home stager
Exceptional properties deserve exceptional treatment, and that’s what you get with Barion Design. Founded by an experienced luxury home stager, Barion Design delivers the high-end, sophisticated experience that appeals to the most demanding buyers.
Services: Full service staging
Price: Contact for a quote
Virtual staging for real estate is here to stay
While real estate’s recent history has been cluttered with tech disruptions and passing fads, all signs suggest that virtual staging is here to stay.
And despite the fact that virtual and augmented reality have been on the horizon for a while now, it’s only recently that we’ve seen these trends transform into lasting demand for a largely virtual client experience.
With buyers expecting a digital homebuying and browsing process, and seller’s demanding the best marketing agents can offer — this is one real estate trend that probably won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
The only question is how you go about it.