Let’s face it. There’s just something sad about an empty house. Even if your buyers don’t say it out loud, you can be sure they’re thinking it when you send them a listing with cold, empty rooms. After all, if they don’t see it virtually staged online, it’s just a house—and no one wants to buy a house. They want to buy a home.
This is why virtual staging is no longer optional when you have an empty listing to sell, or even when you have buyers who are dragging their feet and need some inspiration. So whether you’re a listing agent or a buyer’s agent, here are the best ways to turn those empty houses into homes for your customers in 2020.
Let’s start with our pick for the best virtual staging software on the market today.
The Best Virtual Staging Software for 2020: roOomy
While there are a ton of virtual staging services and software packages available today, there was one specific reason we chose it as the best virtual staging software for 2020. roOomy offers a killer feature that leaves the others in the dust. Instead of cheesy-looking models of knockoff Eames chairs, roOomy will stage your listing with photorealistic models of furniture your customers can actually buy. Even better, if you get to know your buyers well enough, you just might be able to stage an empty room with furniture they already own.
Of course, choosing the right virtual staging software is more of a personal choice, so here are five more options for 2020:
Best Virtual Staging Software 2020
|Virtual Staging Software|
|Virtually Staging Properties|
Should You Hire a Virtual Staging Service or Use a DIY App?
Unless you’re really strapped for cash and have the free time to learn new software, we strongly recommend hiring a virtual staging company rather than trying the DIY route. First, virtual staging companies have massive libraries of realistic furnishings to work with, and second, because even if you know the software inside and out, staging a room can still take many hours.
12 Virtual Staging Tips From Top Listing Agents
At the end of the day, which software or service you choose is far less important than learning the best practices of virtual staging for 2020. That’s why we reached out to our friends at Douglas Elliman to get their take on how to get the best bang for your buck from virtual staging in 2020. Here’s what they told us:
1. Always Include Unstaged Listing Pictures After Virtually Staged Pictures
Laura Copersino, Douglas Elliman, New York City
2. Keep the Furnishings Neutral
Nancy Strong, Douglas Elliman, Westchester
3. Always Stage for Your Buyer Profile & Property Lifestyle
Jared Bonasera, Douglas Elliman, Texas
4. Use Earth Tones to Make the Space More Inviting
Lauren Spiegel, Douglas Elliman, Hamptons
5. Make Sure the Images You Choose to Stage Have Great Lighting
Marci Williams, Douglas Elliman, New York City
6. Add a Pop of Color to Make the Room Feel Alive
Ron Saltarrelli, Douglas Elliman, New York City
7. Use Virtual Staging to Compensate for What the Home Is Missing
Rebecca Orbach, Douglas Elliman, New York City
8. Stage Using Current Design Trends, but Always Keep Your Audience in Mind
Cynthia Jacinta Keskinkaya, Douglas Elliman, New York City
9. Collaborate With Your Virtual Stager
Carol Staab, Douglas Elliman, New York City
10. If the Listing Is Already Furnished, Include Pictures With the Current Decor
Tina Newman, Douglas Elliman, New York City
11. Label Each Picture With the Name of the Room
Lorna Leibowitz, Douglas Elliman, New York City
12. Make Sure You Know the Company’s Revision Policy Before Hiring Them
Samantha Curry, Douglas Elliman, Florida
5 Cringe-worthy Virtual Staging Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you’ve learned a little more about virtual staging, let’s take a look at some common mistakes that even experienced agents make in their listing pictures. We’re not naming any names here, but chances are you’ve seen some of these mistakes in your MLS already. In order to get it done right the first time, here are five common virtual staging mistakes to avoid.
1. Don’t Make Virtual Furniture Smaller to Fit Your Space
If you’re dealing with a smaller space like a cramped living room, you might be tempted to shrink down the virtual furniture you use to stage the listing to make the space appear larger. This is a common mistake agents who are new to virtual staging make, but one you should avoid at all costs.
After all, why would you want to start off a relationship with a buyer’s agent or potential referral with a lie? Sure, you might get them through the door, but unless you have time to get to know them, you run a very real risk of them writing you off as yet another dishonest agent.
2. Don’t Stage Ambiguous Rooms Only Once
The thing many agents don’t realize about their buyers is that they often spend many, many hours just staring at listings online. If you’ve ever shopped for a home online, you know exactly what I’m talking about. How many times did you bookmark and just stare at the pictures of a listing you loved?
The only problem, of course, is that different buyers have different needs. A small family might want a nursery in that spare room, and a retired couple might want a man cave or sewing room. Once you’ve virtually staged the room one way, it’s very hard for them to visualize it how they might want it.
That’s why it can pay to stage the same room in different ways for different types of buyers. You could even go as far as staging the same room in different styles. Get one set of images with traditional furniture, and another with hip modern furniture. You could even try A/B testing the images on Facebook to see which one gets more clicks.
3. Don’t Hire the First Virtual Staging Company You Find
While virtual staging is a tiny fraction of the cost of live home staging, it’s still not exactly cheap. You can easily spend a few hundred dollars on virtual staging and not get the results you want.
Check out their before and after pictures, make sure their style fits your listing, and don’t forget to ask about revisions. Some virtual staging companies offer no revisions, while others offer unlimited revisions until you’re satisfied.
4. Don’t Settle for Low-quality Staging to Save Money
Look, we get it. This economy is rough for everybody, so trying to save a few bucks on your marketing expenses is a smart move, right? Wrong. You probably have more competition for listings and buyers now than ever before. That means you need to make sure your marketing is not only good enough, but better than theirs is.
So if you have a choice between a company that’s charging you $30 for OK-staged images and another charging $100 for great images, the choice should be obvious.
5. Don’t Fake Sunlight or Views Through Windows
When you have such amazing digital imaging tools at your disposal, the urge to give your listing pictures an artificial boost can be hard to resist. Your virtual stager said they can easily make the room brighter, or replace that view of a brick wall through the living room window with trees and a sunny sky. So why not let them make your pictures better? Well, for starters, this gets you awfully close to actual fraud. While you’re not going to go to prison for it, you’re starting off your relationship with buyers and their agents on a lie. Is that really the first impression you want to make?
Show, Don’t Tell: 7 Before & After Images of Amazing Virtual Staging Transformations
If you want to persuade your seller that virtual staging is no longer optional for selling empty listings, then you need to show them, not tell them. Here are six before and after images that show the dramatic difference virtual staging can make in how your listing is presented online.
1. 100 Barclay Street, 21B, New York, NY
Listing agent: Tara King Brown, Corcoran Group
Virtual staging isn’t just for empty rooms—it also works amazingly well to show off the potential of outdoor spaces. These dramatic before and after pictures of an outdoor private terrace at 100 Barclay Street in Manhattan help turn an otherwise empty concrete space into a luxurious outdoor urban oasis.
2. 340 Guard Hill Road, Bedford, NY
Listing agent: Nancy Strong, Douglas Elliman
Dealing with empty rooms with busy details like this bedroom in a listing in Bedford, New York, can be tricky. Avoiding bold patterns and sticking to warm, neutral tones can make a visually busy room a bit more welcoming.
3. 196 East 75th Street, 17B, New York, NY
Listing agent: Rachel Lustbader , Warburg Realty
Probably the most dramatic transformation we’ve seen, Andrea Wernick of Warburg Realty in Manhattan basically created a luxurious living room from whole cloth here, uber-trendy fiddle leaf fig tree included!
4. 235 East 87th Street, 11B, New York, NY
Listing agent: Rachel Lustbader, Warburg Realty
Another dramatic transformation that uses warm earth tones to help make what would otherwise be a cold white room into a welcoming bedroom. Love that lamp!
5. 242 East 19th street, 2FG, New York, NY
Listing agent: Rachel Lustbader, Warburg Realty
What good are built-in shelves when they have nothing on them? Virtual staging isn’t just for furniture. You can add books, knick-knacks, tchotchkes, plants, toys, or pretty much anything else that makes it look more like a home.
6. 400 East 56th Street, 26K, New York, NY
Listing agent: Warburg Realty
Sometimes you won’t have an empty room to deal with, but instead furniture that doesn’t quite fit the space or feels out of date. Why not swap out ugly carpet and add a divider screen to help separate an open space?
6. 233 West 21st Street 1A, New York, NY
Listing agent: Philip Scheinfeld, Compass
Over to You
Have great virtual staging software you swear by or a tip for our readers? Let us know in the comments.