Many of today’s top real estate agents understand the power that the internet has when it comes to bringing together buyers and available inventory. With recent estimates being that over 80% of home buyers starting their search for properties online, it’s imperative that real estate agents take advantage of the latest trends in technology.
One of the trends that has emerged recently has been to showcase homes online using virtual staging techniques rather than traditional in-house staging. Using a computer program, virtual home stagers are able to take a picture of a home and alter it any way they like. This can involve everything from changing wall colors to moving around furniture.
Fans of this technique say that virtual staging is far more cost-effective than traditional home staging, which can be expensive and time consuming for sellers. With a few clicks of a mouse, a room can be transformed from dingy to delectable.
Properties that benefit the most from this technology are the vacant homes that have no furnishings or personal touches. Empty houses can prove difficult to promote via photographs. All that buyers see in the pictures are four white and carpeting. It’s very difficult for potential buyers to visualize themselves living in the property because it appears so cold and uninviting.
In addition, many empty houses look alike when photographed. Architectural features can get overwhelmed by the lack of personality in the room, and buyers can’t see the home’s true potential.
With virtual staging however, you can easily add elegant furniture and area rugs in order to personalize the space. Buyers will see a home that is welcoming and homey, which is exactly what they’re looking for.
Opponents say that virtual home staging is deceptive and unethical. A buyer sees a perfectly staged and decorated home on the internet, but when they see the property in person, they’re disappointed. It is then up to the real estate agent to explain that the listing showed only a computer-generated version of the home–essentially showing the home’s potential rather than its present reality.
But if virtual staging is seen as deceptive, is it really any more misleading than traditional staging techniques? When you hire a home staging professional, they come to your home and either rearrange your items to make the property more appealing, or else they bring in their own furniture–props if you will–to make the space look its best.
Another part of the debate is where do you draw the line? If it’s okay to change the window treatments to something nicer, is it all right to erase wall cracks and other flaws? What if you want to add virtual furniture to a room? If the furniture you select isn’t to scale with the true dimensions of the house, you could make the rooms appear to have more space than they actually do.
It’s important for agents who decide to use this technology to be very aware of how they use it and what their intentions are. If adding faux furniture to an empty room can get buyers to view the property in person, then that’s fine. When you start to alter the image of the house itself in order to make it look like something it’s not, that’s when you’re crossing the ethical line.