The Pros and Cons of Virtual Home Staging

For several years now, we’ve become accustomed to hearing news about the latest technologies in virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Meta is already promoting the Metaverse, a virtual world where you can attend a concert with friends who live in another country, or stroll through ancient Egypt alongside the pharaohs. We’re beginning to receive daily emails written with ChatGPT (for now, it’s obvious, but it will become increasingly difficult to tell if a piece of writing is human-made or bot-generated). And with the success of Midjourney, we can no longer be sure if the images we see online are real or not, unless we count the fingers on the hands!

It’s no surprise then that the virtual world has also entered the realm of home staging. But what is virtual home staging?

Virtual home staging combines real photographs of a property’s rooms with furniture and accessories created in 3D. This blend of real backgrounds with virtual décor is designed to achieve the same goal as traditional home staging – to help visualise the potential of the house for sale. So, what are the pros and cons of this technology?

The Pros of Virtual Home Staging

Let’s start with the positives. It’s cheaper than traditional home staging. There are specialised companies that offer virtual photos of your property starting at around £20 per photo. A three-bedroom flat, with a living-dining room, kitchen, and bathroom? For just £120 you have photos of each room that you can use on property portals to market the home.

It’s faster and more convenient. For in-situ home staging, the stager often prefers to visit the property in person for planning. Then, the scope of the project needs to be agreed upon and the budget finalised. The staging and photo session usually take at least a full day, sometimes involving several people. And even after all that, the photos need to be edited before being delivered to the client. A virtual home staging professional can create photos of an entire flat in just one day.

Weather doesn’t matter. Home stagers are emotional marketing professionals and know that a grey day can negatively affect the impression of a house for sale. Property photos look a thousand times better with a sunny backdrop, so projects are planned according to the weather. In Spain, we-re lucky to have good weather most of the time, but if there are a few rainy days in a row, don’t be surprised if the home staging project is unavoidably delayed.

The Cons of Virtual Home Staging

With so many pros in its favour, it might seem silly to continue hiring traditional home staging services, right? Not so fast, there are still cons to consider…

If you spend any time on social media (and who doesn’t?), you’ve probably seen some viral posts about property listings, but not for the right reasons. An apartment that looks spectacular at an incredible price, only to be falling apart, but the owner is a Photoshop wizard. Or a perfectly normal and attractive flat where someone has added furniture and plants with Photoshop without the slightest idea of how it works or how to do it properly. Most of the time we have a laugh and move on. But these listings can end up having a very negative effect on both the advertiser and the estate agent representing them.

75% of potential buyers say that what frustrates them the most is that the property doesn’t meet the expectations set by the listing. Even worse, they feel deceived and that they’ve wasted their time on a visit they wouldn’t have made otherwise. They no longer see the possibilities or the potential that the photos intended to show. The time they could have spent imagining their new life in the flat is spent focusing on the differences between reality and fiction.

One of the biggest problems with virtual home staging is that it can be easily abused. And now, with AI tools ever more available, this problem will only grow. Currently, virtual home staging is done by professionals using specialised software like AutoCAD or SketchUp. But with AI tools becoming increasingly accessible, we’re starting to see images of flats and houses generated by artificial intelligence that have nothing to do with reality. Poorly manipulated images, which used to be so out of the ordinary that they made the news, could now become so common that they become just another issue to consider when looking for a home.

All this doesn’t mean that virtual home staging has no place or use; in fact, it can be a very valuable tool in the industry’s arsenal. When used correctly, it’s an efficient way to show the possibilities of properties under construction, allowing marketing campaigns to begin as early as possible. It can also be useful when selling a property in poor condition that’s intended for renovation, where traditional home staging techniques wouldn’t suffice. Virtual staging could be used to show the potential of a well-executed renovation. However, it’s crucial to specify that the images are computer-generated to show the property’s potential, and it’s advisable also to include real images of the property in the listing.

Every transaction is based on trust. Without trust, there’s no sale. Estate agents spend many years and a huge amount of effort building a reputation for reliability, and the cost of losing this reputation would far outweigh any financial savings that virtual home staging could provide. We must always be open to new technologies and advancements that can help us achieve our goals. But we also need to be aware of their limitations and recognise that they are not a substitute for human creativity, but rather an additional tool that can add value and flexibility to the traditional methods.