A recent report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) states that sixty-seven percent of buyer’s agents believe staging homes increases the dollar value buyers are willing to offer. The same report states that ninety-six percent of agents believe at least some buyers see a home in a better light when staged. A March 2017 article published on Realtor.com claims that staged homes sell eighty-eight percent faster and for twenty percent more money on average than a non-staged home. So if this is true then why aren’t all homes being staged? Simply put, staging a home is not cheap as professional house stager Debra Gould explains.

“A two-hour home staging consultation should cost anywhere from $250-$800. After the initial consultation, a home stager can make at least $1,000 if the client wants the stager to complete the home staging project for them. This figure can go as high as $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the needs for that property, the home stager’s expertise, and where they live. Typically costs will be higher in major urban centers where house prices are also higher. If the home stager has to furnish and/or accessorize the home, that price can creep even higher.”

 Fortunately real estate technology advances are helping some sellers capitalize on the benefits of staging their home at a fraction of the cost. Virtual staging is a process by which digital pictures of empty rooms are made to include furniture, fixtures, rugs, carpets, and anything else that might be found in a home. The cost to virtually stage a property appears to be between $200 and $600 depending on how many rooms the seller wants staged. In fact the process is so cost effective that it could be used as an alternative to traditional staging by those on a tight budget, or in tandem with traditional staging if a buyer was planning to have the home staged anyway.

 Beyond the price, however, another major benefit to virtual staging is the flexibility the process offers. As stated earlier, staged homes sell much faster than non-staged homes. One widely accepted explanation for this phenomenon is that buyers have a difficult time picturing themselves in an empty home. With traditional staging the stager and the seller are restricted by the resources available to them. If a stager believes a periwinkle ottoman would really tie the room together but does not have access to an ottoman in that color, that’s it, no periwinkle. Also, typically once a stager has finished the staging process they don’t completely rework the staging in a new style. With virtual staging several styles, feels, and colors could all be done for a single room or an entire property, giving the buyer as many opportunities as possible to see themselves in the seller’s home.

A study in 2012 found that ninety percent of home buyers searched online at some point during their home buying process. The NAR research department released a study in 2015 that found eighty-three percent of home buyers rank photos of homes to be the most useful feature on a home’s webpage and forty percent found virtual tours very useful. With figures like these it’s easy to see why virtual staging has become popular, but as with all new technology there are some issues to be aware of. Some virtual staging agencies offer DIY or incredibly cheap virtual staging packages, and a wise seller will be weary of these. When virtual staging works it’s because it has created a connection with the possible buyer. A poor quality photo or an amateurish staging attempt will not create this connection and in some cases can have the opposite effect. Finally, there are those that take the virtual staging process too far and make some buyers feel that they have been lied to as Bill Petrey explains in an article published on Really Rotten Realty.

“Virtual staging started off as a way to add furniture to a photograph of an empty house, but now it’s evolved into virtual repairs and remodeling to “simulate” what the house would look like if the remodeling was done. The agent is basically lying to you by misrepresenting the house in its current condition.”

A buyer that feels they have been misled is not likely to make an offer, so be sure to speak with a professional home stager about all the options available.