Virtual Staging vs Real Staging: Things to Keep in Mind to Avoid Real Estate Lawsuits
In today's real estate market, virtual staging offers remarkable advantages. For starters, it usually costs less than the cost of an actual home staging. You don't require a stager to move furniture, nor do you need to hire or buy furniture or any accessories. Various virtual staging firms offer packages based on the number of photos you want so that you can modify your property based on your demands.
Virtual staging is perfect for vacant homes or those that are still under development. Possible buyers are able to see the opportunity in virtual models— what a house might look like or how a room would look if it were fully furnished. Indeed, the technology for virtual staging has advanced dramatically.
However, as much as virtually altered images look impressively real, this realism can be both an advantage and a danger. Read on to learn some tips to avoid getting into a lawsuit.
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5 Tips on How to Avoid Real Estate Lawsuits When Virtual Staging Your House
Virtual staging is a great selling tool that makes it easy to paint your walls with neutral colors, add furniture, and remove unsightly clutter. But virtual staging can also lead to misunderstandings, angry clients, and even lawsuits.
To avoid lawsuits when virtual staging, take note of the following:
1) Don't mislead buyers
2) Disclose important information
3) Always keep communicating with your customer
4) Avoid hard-to-deal clients
5) Be on the lookout for potential red flags when screening a client
1) Don't Mislead Buyers
Computers enable you to improve wall colors, insert furniture, or present reasonable kitchen upgrades. These innovations make photos inviting to possible buyers who are scrutinizing online. Many real estate agents have seen a significant uptick in showings after posting virtually staged images.
While virtual staging can make people excited, they might become frustrated once inside the actual property as they look at vacant rooms which look so different compared to the beautifully staged rooms that they viewed online.
Some virtual staging firms advise placing framed photos of each staged room in the house to assist possible buyers in envisioning the layout of the place that they liked online.
2) Disclose Important Information
Apart from distress during an actual viewing, virtual staging can lead to real estate legal problems if you are not cautious. Disclose all aspects that include virtual staging. Any digitally modified photos should be marked to note that they are just possible designs of the rooms.
One way to give possible buyers an accurate sense of the place and its possibilities is to show before and after photos side by side. Doing so can help avoid legal concerns, while at the same time helping interested individuals to see the potential of the empty house. In the actual viewing, utilize clear labels to give customers a realistic view of the home, while helping them imagine what it could look like with furniture or renovations.
Don't cover up problems. It may be alluring to digitally shift the water stain in the ceiling or other stains in the house, but this could point to claims of deception. Virtual staging can be a blessing when marketing a house—if you do it right. Otherwise, it can cause real estate problems.
3) Always Keep Communicating with Your Customer
Make sure your client is always in the loop and gets all relevant information as soon as possible, including bad news. It's hard to make that phone call when you just discovered info that might cost you the sale. But covering it up and hoping they don't notice could cost you a lawsuit and your license. You may lose a sale by being honest, but you'd be surprised how many times you win a client.
4) Avoid Hard-to-Deal Clients
Contrary to the old slogan, the customer is not always right. If you want to avoid legal trouble, steer clear of clients who cut ethical corners. And if you want to avoid lawsuits from disappointed clients, stay away from clients with unrealistic expectations. The money you make from a difficult client is not worth the headaches and the potential legal liability. It's okay to hold your clients to personal and professional standards and to cut ties if they refuse to respect those standards. Your time is valuable and so is your reputation.
5) Be on the Lookout for Potential Red Flags When Screening a Client
Virtual staging makes it easy to hide cracks, peeling paint, and even structural damage. It also makes it easy for a scammer to use somebody else's images to reel in victims. If your client appears to know little about the property or the neighborhood, or if a Google search reveals their photos came from a different MLS listing, you need to turn their business down and notify the authorities. If a realtor is asking you to virtually remove foundation cracks or roof damage, make sure they are providing before and after pictures and that they have a repair plan in place.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Staging vs Real Staging
You want to make sure your home is ready to lure in onlookers, but you’re not sure which approach will be best for selling your property. How do you decide on virtual staging vs real staging?
There are times when one staging method will be preferable to the other, but there are also times when both can be used as part of a complete marketing plan. We’ve provided some pointers on the pros and cons of each. Read on to learn more about both approaches.
Pros of Virtual Staging
Virtual staging using home staging software is cheaper than traditional staging. You can virtually stage an empty property for a small fraction of the price you would pay for traditional staging.
Small landlords on a tight budget can use virtual staging to attract online attention. The entry barrier for virtual staging is much lower, and virtual staging offers a better return on your investment.
Virtual staging offers more flexibility. Want to change the wall color on your virtual stage? No problem. You choose a new shade with a few mouse clicks, and without hiring a contractor or opening a paint can.
Cons of Virtual Staging
When deciding between virtual staging vs real staging, some things to consider are:
- Virtual staging can be misleading. Your clients may be disappointed when the empty property doesn’t look nearly as appealing as your virtual image.
- Bad virtual staging is worse than none at all. Computer graphics that are almost but not quite realistic can hit the “uncanny valley” and make clients uncomfortable.
- Virtual staging is less impressive than an in-person visit with a trained realtor to a well-staged property. This is especially true in higher-price listings, where most buyers want to see the unit in person before committing to a purchase.
Pros of Real Staging
Home staging creates a much more vivid picture. No matter how good your virtual staging is, nothing beats the selling power of verbally greeting the customer and offering a time-of-day greeting. And no image on a screen can compel a prospective buyer quite as well as a showing in a space set up by home staging pros.
Imagery is important when marketing on the Internet. A professionally staged space offers a concrete 3D example of what this property can be. And a face-to-face meeting lets you take advantage of these benefits and use your selling skills on high-end clients.
Cons of Real Staging
For small to mid-range landlords, real staging offers a low return on investment. Lower-income properties aren’t going to bring in enough money to make hiring an expensive staging service worthwhile.
Staging a property involves renting furniture and decorations, then returning them after the sale is closed. This adds extra complications with coordinating delivery and post-sale returns.
When you consider virtual staging vs real staging, it soon becomes easy to see how virtual staging helps smaller landlords compete with bigger companies. Virtual staging for a property costs a small fraction of what you pay for a professional staging service.
Virtual Staging vs Real Staging: Which Should You Choose?
Staging in real estate is definitely important, but which type of staging should you choose?
If you are a smaller landlord and your properties are aimed at the lower-income to middle-income markets, virtual staging is an inexpensive way to advertise your properties without breaking your budget. If you are selling higher-end properties, you will benefit from retaining a staging service to make your units more attractive to deep-pocket buyers.
Home Staging Tips: Best Practices
While virtual staging gets bigger every day, this technology is still in its infancy. Realtors and developers are just starting to learn more about its capabilities. And, even in a virtual world, many of the old rules of selling real estate still apply. Here are some home staging best practices.
When Staging, Keep Your Listing's Price Range in Mind
When staging a property, keep your product and your demographic in mind. That lovely mid-century modern home might not look good with Victorian living room furniture (real or virtual). You also need to take your neighborhood and your prospective buyer into consideration.
You want your prospective buyer to feel comfortable. A staging that suits the home and neighborhood will help you meet that goal. Simple, comfortable-looking designs in neutral colors that make buyers feel at home without drawing undue attention are key.
Consider Adding Staged and Unstaged Pictures to Your Listings
Because virtual stagings look so real, prospective buyers or renters may feel cheated when they see the empty apartment for the first time. You can explain repeatedly that it is a virtual staging, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Putting a picture of the unstaged rooms alongside staged rooms can help cushion the shock and give customers a more realistic idea of what to expect. Always make it clear that virtual stagings are an example of what the property could be, not a picture of the property as it is.
Always Keep Your Clients' Best Interest in Mind
Your role is to help your client sell their property, but you need to manage their expectations. No matter how nice a virtual staging you create, sooner or later your client will have to show the real property. Striking photos can catch a buyer’s attention but they are not enough to seal the deal.
If your client’s property has structural flaws, you cannot use virtual staging to cover them. Hiding foundation cracks with real or virtual paint may fool a potential buyer, but it won’t fool an inspector. Using virtual staging to make a property look better than it really is can get you in a lot of trouble.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does Home Staging Work?
Home staging means preparing the home for a potential buyer by redecorating, rearranging furniture, cleaning, and taking other steps to make the house as attractive as possible to possible buyers. By repainting and redecorating, home stagers make your property more appealing. While homeowners rarely break even on remodeling projects, home staging almost always leads to a higher final sale price. Hiring a professional home stager (or a virtual stager for occupied or vacant properties) can make your home stand out from other online listings, cut the time your home stays on the market, and bring you a higher final offer.
Is Home Staging Worth It?
A National Association of REALTORS© (NAR) study found that 77% percent of buyers find it easier to visualize a staged property as a future home. Many agents report that staged homes regularly fetch higher prices and spend less time on the market.
In situations where home staging is impractical or impossible, virtual staging can give you eye-catching property photos that attract the viewer’s attention. Greater visibility means faster sales and less money spent on carrying costs.
How to Stage a House for Sale?
- Clean and declutter your house. The more space and the less dirt you have, the more attractive your property will be.
- Put away family photos, keepsakes, and toys. Your house should be a blank slate so prospective buyers can imagine themselves living in it.
- Repaint in neutral colors, and open all curtains and blinds when showing your home. Make sure all lights are working and add lamps or fixtures wherever necessary.
- Mow your lawn, trim your hedges, and tidy all outdoor areas.
How Much Does Virtual Staging Cost?
The cost range would be around $30-40 for virtual renovation and virtual staging.
Some of the things virtual renovation can do include:
- Remove existing furniture and items
- Replace countertops, cabinets, floors, and fixtures
- Adjust or change wall colors
With virtual home staging, you can add furniture and decorations to make an empty unit a beautifully staged space.
One of the nice things about virtual staging vs. real staging is it can be finished more quickly. A virtual renovation lets buyers see your work before you finish.
Is It Better to Have a House Staged or Empty?
There is no one answer to the question of staged vs unstaged homes. Some buyers find empty homes unwelcoming, while other buyers prefer touring an empty home, as they find it easier to see themselves living there.
A staged home gives you control over what the buyers see and makes your home look more inviting. But staging is expensive and time-consuming.
Virtual staging can be a great aid in selling an empty property. It gives a prospective buyer an idea of what the property can look like, and an empty property provides reassurance that there will be no move-in delays.
What Does Virtually Staged Mean?
Virtual staging customizes empty spaces using computer software. Like sellers repainting walls and changing the decor to make their property more appealing, virtual staging creates an attractive interior in an empty room using computer models. Given images of your property, virtual staging companies can use them as the base for a digital picture. Virtual staging is a great way to show prospective buyers your vacant property's potential.
Is Professional Staging Really Worth It?
Professional staging brings out your home’s space, function, and features. Staging makes your home look brighter and cleaner, and uses palettes and colors designed to appeal to the broadest range of buyers. Professional staging may increase a home's sale price by as much as 20%, and decrease time on the market by 80% or more!
The biggest drawback to professional staging is the cost. Staging can be a big investment, but a professionally-made virtual staging may cost a lot less than you think! If you are trying to rent a vacant property, virtual staging can make your internet ads pop for a fraction of the price you'd pay for professional staging.
How to Virtually Stage a Home?
Here are the steps you need to take to virtually stage a home:
- Get good pictures of the rooms you want to stage. You may want to hire a professional photographer for this. The better your photo, the better the virtual stage.
- Provide those pictures to the virtual staging service you choose. Send the largest file sizes you can.
- The service will work with you to create virtual stages that attract buyers and make your property shine.
Creating eye-catching ads for your properties has never been easier or less expensive.
How to Do Virtual Staging?
While there are a few augmented reality apps that will let you place furniture and accessories in an image, if you are selling property, you really need to consult a virtual staging company. Virtual staging gives prospective buyers an idea of the property's potential, while virtual staging before and after photos also provide a true picture of the property as it is.