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Virtual Staging a Home

Photographic evidence used to be as close to the truth as you were ever going to get.  What you see is what you get.  Computers and technology have changed that for both the better and worse.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote about painting your lawn green for curb appeal (update coming soon).  An article in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses virtual staging: adding furniture to the vacant listing pictures.

These are a before and after picture on Virtual Staging Solutions website, one of the companies cited in the article:

virtual-staging-before virtual-staging-after

I confirmed with RMLS that the picture on the right violates RMLS rule 3.7 which states, in part, “The photographs are to be submitted without any added text or graphics…” The article does not specifically mention whether the modified photos are being used or not being used in MLS photos elsewhere. They could be used in other marketing materials in our area.

They really aren’t any different than an architectural rendering of proposed new construction but is the expectation different in an existing home? I like the idea of showing what a room may look like but am also concerned that a buyer might feel duped when they walk through the door. Some of the agents in the article disclose the photos are enhanced, others do not.

Your thoughts?

11 Comments on “Virtual Staging a Home

  1. I can’t say that I would have noticed anything odd if I didn’t know it was ‘cyber furniture’. But, in looking close, nothing seems to be touching the floor.

    It reminds me of the computers in the auto accessory shops that let you ‘visualize’ a new set of wheels on your ride.

    Overall, pretty cool…. bordering on cheezy.

  2. How is this any different than an actual staging, i.e. bringing in furniture and decorations for some period of time, or even just for photos?

    The one gripe I would have is the inclusion of the window treatments, which are frequently believed to be fixtures.

  3. I agree with Ron, It’s the same thing as actual staging or taking pictures of a house with furniture and then moving out the furniture.

    I’ve used virtual staging from virtualstagingsolutions.com and I received tons of compliments from interested clients. People like to know what they can do with the room and it helps them see what it could actually look like when they are living there.

    The people that bought the listing actually contacted me after and asked where to get the furniture seen in the photos which was pretty cool because virtualstagingsolutions.com uses furniture from Ashley furniture which you can actually go buy in the store.

    I also had the listing on the MLS without a problem. Partly because Virtual Staging Solutions has a good reputation and specifically says on their website that they will not modify any structure of the home or hide anything.

    Overall, I had a great experience and plan on using virtual staging again… I would recommend anyone to try it out.

  4. I agree with Ron that the window treatments are probably fixtures and therefore the most suspect. The rest? If a seller moves out, the listing goes from furnished to unfurnished. New pictures don’t need to be taken. If the vacant house is staged new pictures don’t have to be taken. Is there a difference doing that digitally? Probably not. But what about moving the neighbor’s car that is on blocks? It’s personal property too. Where do you draw the line?

  5. This is interesting… RMLS prohibits digital altering of photos. I know adding window coverings would be prohibited, but I don’t know about furniture. Do you know about the legality of this for RMLS members?

  6. As stated above: “I confirmed with RMLS that the picture on the right violates RMLS rule 3.7 which states, in part, “The photographs are to be submitted without any added text or graphics…”” If you have any questions, verify with RMLS.

    Rules, like technology, are dynamic. Do you think they should allow for virtual staging?

  7. Can you add an attractive family sitting at the dinner table enjoying a wonderful meal and chatting about the day’s events?!?! :O)

    This reminds me of a moment when I was walking through the Sunnyside ‘hood and a very attractive man was gardening in front a house that was on the market, which happens to be back on the market (# 9010052) as a short sale. I was so tempted to ask if he came with the house!

  8. I think that is great. I have new homes that unfurnished and empty. I usually have them sold far before having them finished. However, this is a good way to give it a presents. I am going to look at the virtual site.
    Thanks, great post.

  9. The only concern I’d have is if they put furniture that doesn’t actually fit in the space in order to make it look bigger than it is. But even that isn’t much worse that the fisheye lenses, I guess.

  10. My father, who lives in the Bay Area, and Judy Richter, the author of the San Francisco Chronicle article cited above, have been corresponding. She replies:

    I talked with Jim Harrison, president and CEO of MLS Listings Inc., which is based in Sunnyvale and which serves much of Northern California.

    He said that using a virtually staged photo in the areas covered by this MLS “is not going to be any conflict with MLS rules.”

    He said it’s no different from showing a photo of a home that has been staged with rented furniture and accessories. “We’re not selling the contents” of a home, he said. “We’re selling the home.”

    MLS rules would not allow a photo that has been altered to add a permanent feature that’s not there or to eliminate one that is, he said. That’s similar to what the virtual stagers said — that they wouldn’t alter a photo to eliminate flaws in a home or to add something that’s not there.

    Different rules for different folks.

  11. Fantastic article. After reading the comments we realized that most readers might have a misconception of true virtual staging. The people at Virtually Staging Properties only use photos/images of real furniture not digital which can be out of correct sizing parameters.

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