top of page
  • Writer's pictureDebbie DeMarais

Virtual vs Traditional Home Staging?

From virtual happy hour to yoga Zoom meetings, everything is going virtual under the cloud of COVID-19 — including home staging. If you’ve never heard of virtual home staging, the concept is relatively simple. Instead of posting a real estate listing with photos of empty rooms, a graphic designer is hired to populate the photos with furniture, artwork, and decor. The cost is just a few hundred dollars and the “staging” can be done in an afternoon, by one person, who never has to set foot in the home.

But can a virtual home staging help sell a home the way a physically staged home can?

Probably not.

The fact is, we aren’t virtual creatures. We long for excitement, beauty, intimacy and comfort in the real world, and never more so than in the places we choose to call home.

Home staging is the art of celebrating a property’s potential in service of both the seller (who is looking to maximize their sale price) and the buyer (who wants to find a new home to meet their needs). Home staging continues to grow, and we now have a wealth of information showing just how much staging services impact home sales. According to a 2020 report by the International Association of Home Stagers Professionals®, about 20% of residential real estate transactions in the US use some form of staging service. And that same report showed that unstaged homes spend three to thirty times longer on the market than professionally staged homes.

Empty living room in Santa Fe prior to home staging services and professional real estate photography.

Does the type of staging matter?

It’s estimated that 90% of potential home buyers begin their search online. It makes sense that the properties with more attractive online photos are likely to generate more interest. I’ve been called in numerous times to stage a vacant property after it languished on the market for too long. I stage the home, we get a great photographer in, and suddenly there’s interest.

Based on all this, virtual staging would seem to make sense, especially since the technology for virtual environments has improved so much. Considering that virtual staging is cheaper than traditional staging, wouldn’t it do just as good a job of appealing to those 90% of home buyers starting their searches online?

Only if they never go inside the home.

The decision to purchase a home is simply too large to trust to a virtual rendering. Even in the current pandemic people still need to see homes in person (with appropriate precautions). After a potential buyer sees a property they like online, the next step is to go see it. If they walk into a vacant house, there is bound to be a disconnect.

The buyer is forced to recall how the home looked online. This creates a feeling of disappointment as they struggle to find connections with the empty rooms. They feel a void, they see areas of deferred maintenance that are now exposed, and instead of feeling the inviting quality created by the virtual staging in the photos, the house feels abandoned.

Bottom line: virtual staging might capture a buyer’s attention, but it could actually inhibit capturing a buyer’s heart.

Empty sunken living room in Santa Fe home feels cold and unwelcoming without professional home staging.

Traditional staging looks better in person — virtual staging does not

A traditionally staged home greets buyers with what they were already expecting and there's a comfort in that. The staging invites them into the home. Rooms are filled with warmth and details designed to gracefully guide them from one space to the next. Because the real property matches the images that drew them there, more energy can be put to exploring the property, building on that initial connection.

I think that anybody who has worked in real estate for any period of time will attest that it is the emotional connection that sells a home. For many people, buying a home is among the biggest decisions of their life, and while practicalities like price, location, desirability, etc. will come into play, at the end of the day folks want to have a positive, loving, relationship with their home. That is real life.

As a home stager, I am excited by connecting people to places. I thrive on helping properties reach their potential so that buyers can dream their dreams. I like that I can help sellers maximize their home’s value and that I can simplify life for hard-working realtors.

Like so many others, I’ve had to add many new protocols into my working life, implementing measures established by leaders in the home staging industry, the CDC, and WHO to ensure everyone’s safety on a home staging project. I’ve also expanded the online consultancy services I offer. But in the end, my work is rooted in real places serving the needs of real people, and that is something that just can’t be easily replicated virtually.


bottom of page