Is Virtual Staging ” Bait & Switch”?

I have read in other articles where transitional staggers and purists are saying that Virtual Staging is a bit of a bait and switch. As a matter of fact, some Boards are not allowing virtually staged photos to be posted on the MLS ( Multiple Listing Service) This got me to thinking about the whole concept of virtual staging and if it would continue to grow in popularity?

Here’s what I came up with.

There’s a recent trend in the Real Estate industry that’s called Virtual Staging. Most of us are familiar with traditional staging where you either rent furniture and fill up a home with a lavish decor so that would-be buyers are so impressed that they find themselves signing a buyers agreement before they know it.

The New Way Of Staging

Virtual Staging is similar in nature but there’s a huge difference. You don’t move any furniture into the property physically, it’s all virtual. Personally, I love the idea. Here are are some thoughts on how Virtual Staging can help you market your property.

Let’s say that you are having an open house. The property is vacant and you need to put on the best possible presentation. Virtually stage the Living room, The Dining room, and the Master bedroom. These will be the key rooms in a virtual staging presentation. Put those pics in your promotional material. (At Least the Living room) This will help pull in visitors as they view the photos they will be able to get a true vision of what potential the property could have.

Take a photo of the staged room and put it next to the room that is empty. Have the before and after photo blown up to 11×17 and place it where the buyer will see it as they enter the front door. This will help your visitor get a much perspective of home their home could look with a little effort.

Putting the before and after pics in the MLS will also help fellow agents visualize the space for their buyers. You can use virtually staged photos in all your marketing pieces. Most people have a difficult time with envisioning how a room could look, staging can go along way to help sell the property.

Helping You Sell The Property

On the other side of the fence, sellers will really appreciate that fact that you have taken the time to put their home in the best possible light. As a sidebar, the process and expense of getting a couple of rooms virtually staged are very inexpensive. The national average for this type of service is between $35-$80 dollars per photo or room.

Many companies like ours, can also virtually remove objects from a room as well. As an example, if you have a room that was not cleared out and you need a good clean shot of the room for MLS purposes, this is a great way of getting a good shot without physically removing an old couch or table. In this case, the opposite may happen. The buyer may see an empty room on the MLS photos, but when taking a walkthrough, the find clutter.

If you entered a home that was virtually staged and when you entered the room what would your reaction be. “ Where is all the furniture?” Or in the property removal photos, “This is not what the house looked like in the photos”. These are some of the reactions that you may get. But let’s look at this more logically.

If you were going to look at new homes, you more than likely would start looking online to see what developments were in the area that you would like to move. You load up ou GPS and out the door, you would go. You arrive at your number one choice of communities, roll up to the model center and walk-in. What do you see, a model finished with beautiful living room furniture, bedrooms are furnished and perfectly placed flowers, candles and other objects that may or may not suit your taste.

Builders Have Doing It For Years

Lets’ faced it, you are not buying a newly built home that’s furnished. Are this bait and switch? I wouldn’t think so. My point is that builders decorate the model homes to get a reaction. An Emotional Reaction is what drives sales.

When I take a photo of a home, a landscape or just an intriguing photo of a friend or family member, and the makes me feel a certain emotion I’m more likely to share that photo. Virtually staged photos are designed to do the same thing, drive emotions. It’s a two-sided strategy. Number one you are helping the potential buyer to have and get a better perspective of the space, and secondly, you are driving emotions. In the end, a good marketer is able to do both.

Let’s look at another example. If you were to sell your car and it had bumper stickers all over it and it was dirty inside an out, wouldn’t you in an attempt to get the most out of your vehicle, remove all the stickers, clean it inside and out and take a nice photo of it for Craig’s list, auto trader, or whatever publication you were going to put it in? Of course, you would.

So Is It Bait & Switch

Is this bait and switch? Maybe, you just cleaned up and put in the best possible light a car that mechanically is no different than it was pre bumper stickers. It’s the same car. If had taken before and after pics, the car probably would look completely different. But by the fact that you put the car in It’s best possible light, the buyer can truly see what a nice car this could be.

It’s really no different than what we would do to assist a buyer visually with the home. Staging goes on in all walks of life. In marketing, you’ll hear the term “Lifestyle” photos. What this really means is that photos are taken with subjects using particular products that the manufacturer or retailer is trying to sell. AS an example. I love to cook on the grill. The manufacture of that grill could place their grills in the middle of a room and take some photos and simply use these photos in all of their marketing pieces.

Or, they could take some “lifestyle” photos with some handsome people using the grill on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by family and friends. Now let me ask you, what photos do you believe will help sell more photos? I would say without a doubt the “Staged” photos with people actually using the product.

So back to my original question, “ Is Virtual Staging Bait and Switch”? At this point, I would say absolutely not. However, let’s look at it a little further.

It’s About Emotion

Real Estate is no different. A home that can invoke the emotion that says to the buyer, “ I can live here” will far outweigh on that says, “I’m really not sure if this is the place for me”. Our jobs as marketers are to drive the emotion. How can you as an agent get those emotional responses that you need in order to get to a place where you begin to have the “Let’s see how this looks on paper discussion” with the buyer.

Additionally, as an agent of the seller, it’s your job to get as many eyes on a property as possible. As we have discussed in the previous post, Real Estate has become a digital strategy. Most people start their new home hunt online. The better you present a property online, the better chance you have of getting it sold.

Think about this, what better way can you spend say another $150-$300 on your marketing and get so much value. As a local photography company in Spring Hill Florida, we can take 5 photos and stage 3 rooms for around $125. We can stage photos that you already have for less than $100.

To wrap it up, Virtually staging isn’t “Bait and Switch” It’s Good, Solid Marketing that will go along way to help you, the buyer and the seller achieve their goal of either selling or new homeownership.

Staging has been used in high-end properties for years. Why not bring the concept of “lifestyle or virtually staged” properties to your middle-market clients so that they can get that high service that the high-end properties have been getting for years?

Proper Disclosure

Keep in mind that you should always check with your local MLS on what the disclosure requirements are for digitally staged photos prior to submitting. Also, a good habit to have is to simply put in the comments that some of the rooms were virtually staged. Additionally, never stage in something that could be viewed as attached property, like a swimming pool fences and other personal property that a buyer may believe is part of the agreement.

Think about staging on your next listing. If you service or live in the Hernando, Citrus or West Pasco county area we would love to assist you with your marketing efforts on your next listing. And remember you don’t have to be a Realtor to get these services. We work with For Sale By Owners and property investors as well.

Until next time, Continued Success!

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