In recent weeks I’ve come across an increasing number of online articles discussing what’s often referred to as a new kind of Staging: Virtual staging. Being that I created the concept of Home Staging, a few days ago I was asked about my views on the similarities and differences between virtual staging and Home Staging by ASP®, Accredited Home Staging Professionals.
Virtual Staging is most often described as a service where consultants receive photos from sellers in which they then manipulate to show various improvements. A picture of an empty living room may be enhanced by the addition of images of a sofa, coffee table, and other furniture and accessories. An empty bedroom may look as if there’s a bed in the room once a virtual staging rendition is completed.
Important to note: There is never an actual client meeting or physical consultation involved with virtual staging. Instead, knowledge about a property is only gained through images; no physical changes to a home are actually made.
So, are there similarities between virtual staging and Home Staging performed by Accredited Home Staging Professionals®? Absolutely.
Staging sets the scene throughout the house to create immediate buyer interest in your property. This will then lead to a home selling for the highest possible price in any market and for any type of home. Consider the phrase I coined a long time ago, "the way you live in your home, and the way you market and sell your house are two different things." Staging sets a scene in the current environment, enabling prospective home buyers to envision what it would be like to live in the home.
Those who provide virtual staging services recognize the same thing. However, there are some significant differences between virtual staging and Home Staging provided by ASP® Home Staging Professionals, and it’s absolutely essential to understand the impact those differences may have on everyone involved, including real estate professionals, ASP® Home Staging Professionals, and certainly consumers.
My main concern with virtual staging is the fact that if the manipulated images are shown to home buyers they’ll be sorely disappointed if and when they visit the home. While the enhanced images may entice them to visit, they’ll find a home they will not recognize from the images they saw, and they may just walk away. Such a scenario certainly doesn’t benefit the seller nor does it help the real estate agent working to sell the home.
Having been a real estate broker for over 30 years, providing accurate representation of a home has always been absolutely essential to me. It’s even part of the pledge I made to adhere to NAR’s Code of Ethics. I’ve always made a point to represent sellers in the best way and that very concept remains the beacon for the training all ASPs® receive in order to become Accredited Home Staging Professionals®. I’m concerned with virtual staging because of the potential misrepresentation such services may lead to.
Real estate professionals are not allowed to make a home up to be something it’s not. If a consumer views an image of a home in a way that it’s not, that may be considered misrepresentation of property. It was shared with me earlier this week that real estate agents may even be in violation of their Code of Ethics if they in fact use altered images, without the physical changes made in homes they represent, in their marketing materials. I certainly want to caution real estate professionals so that they do not find themselves in such a situation. (See Virtual Staging: Stay True by Disclosing)
A Safer Virtual Approach to Staging
So, what’s a real estate professional to do when a home is located in an area not immediately serviced by an Accredited Home Staging Professional®? While an in-person consultation including a visit to a home certainly is the preferred way of assisting real estate professionals and consumers, ASPs® have been trained to conduct long-distance consultations for many years. When ASPs® are asked to conduct long-distance Home Staging consultations there is a process in place. First, a seller sends pictures of each room from several angles so that the ASP® can get an accurate sense of what the home looks like. Based on those photos, the ASP® then provides a detailed report of suggested changes that the seller and their real estate agent then can implement. Once the changes to the home have been made the seller is required to send updated images for the ASP® to critique. Once the ASP® serving the client has signed off on all changes having been physically made, the home can be referred to as ASP® Staged. Real estate agents then use the updated images in their marketing materials and prospective home buyers will view the home in the way it was marketed.
Staging is the way to go when selling a home. While virtual staging may provide ideas for the consumer on how they can arrange their home to prepare for a sale, it’s not actually staging until they’ve made the changes and the home is being sold in that way. For a list of available ASPs® in your area, visit www.stagedhomes.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barb Schwarz, ASP, ASPM, AB, IAHSP, is the creator of Home Staging® and the CEO of www.Stagedhomes.com. She is the IAHSP founder and chairwoman of The Board of The International Association of Home Staging Professionals® and Foundation.