What is virtual staging? 11 things homeowners need to know

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Renata Balasco

Senior Content Strategist

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Renata joined The Zebra in 2020 as a Customer Experience Agent. Since 2021, she has worked as licensed insurance professional and content strategist.…

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Staging your home for online viewers

If you’ve ever played The Sims, you know how satisfying it can be to decorate an empty room with just a few clicks of a button. If only real-life cheat codes existed that allowed us instant access to luxury home decor.

Enter virtual home staging, which turns empty or poorly styled rooms into digitally crafted interiors. Now, computerized decorating isn’t just a video game — it’s a disruptor in both the real-life interior design and real estate industries. And yes, it too uses code to drag and drop luxury items into your home.

Virtual home staging allows designers to enhance a room using software, which may help the home sell faster through a more convenient and cost-efficient process than traditional home staging — sometimes saving the seller up to 90% on staging.[1]

Read on to see how virtual home staging is disrupting the home design and selling process, and what the pros and cons of staging online are for homeowners. You can also jump to our infographic to learn more.

What is home staging, and how is virtual reality evolving it?

Home staging is the process of expertly dressing up a room to appeal to buyers’ aesthetic tastes. Furniture, art and lighting are all popular styling techniques that can make a property sell faster and at a higher price. In fact, staged homes sell 86% faster and for more money than their competition.[2]

Traditionally, this has meant staging in a very real sense of the word: Interior designers would, in the past, lug in furnishings and decor to style a room.

Enter virtual reality. Now, home staging can be completed quickly on a computer rather than in person, requiring a lot less cost and labor. All a graphic designer needs is a high-resolution picture of an empty room to get started.

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Virtual home staging is when a graphic editor expertly designs a room using virtual decor, generating a highly realistic photograph for prospective buyers to view online. Of course, the interior design only exists in virtual reality. If and when a prospective buyer were to visit the property in person, they’d find it without the computerized decor.

Whether the buyer is doing an in-person showing of the empty home or an online tour, they can check out what the property could look like through these virtually staged photographs. The visualization is accessible from any smartphone, computer or other online-capable device. You can also print and display photographs of the virtual home staging for buyers to view at the home.

Pros and cons of virtual staging

If you’re a homeowner interested in affordable home staging, it can be hard to argue against the effectiveness of this latest technology. Yet, there are some disadvantages to going virtual during the staging process. We discuss both the pros and cons below. 

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Let’s start with the benefits. Virtual staging is disrupting the home staging process for a reason: because it is more efficient than traditional home staging. The no-contact nature of virtual home staging has made it especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it eliminates the need to have stagers in your home.

Here are some of the main benefits of virtual home staging:

1. Cost: Home staging has always touted strong statistics, like a 586% ROI (!!) even with traditional expenses factored in.[3] But for most of us deciding on home services, cost is a major factor, and home staging doesn’t necessarily come cheap. Virtual staging cuts traditional costs dramatically — as much as 90%. And depending on who you ask, these savings come without sacrificing much quality (if any).

Traditional staging costs, on average, around $2,000 to $2,400, compared to around $100 per photograph of a virtually staged home (and some services go even cheaper!).[4] Virtual staging also eliminates the need for consultation costs, and typically you only pay a one-time fee per photograph; traditional home staging can charge weekly or monthly, depending how long the decor stays on site.

2. Creative freedom: There are some things that graphic designers can do that in-person designers can’t pull off, like blanketing an exterior in snow during summertime.

With virtual home staging, a home and its exterior can be transformed to any style. It’s much easier to change paint colors virtually, and multipurpose rooms can be showcased in different ways depending on a prospective client’s needs, such as staging a home office as a guest bedroom.

3. Convenience: Traditional home staging usually only works if you’re selling a home you don’t currently live in, but virtual home staging offers a lot more flexibility for sellers. While a high-quality photograph of an empty room allows for the most design freedom, most virtual home stagers can also use pictures of fully furnished rooms to swap out certain furniture items.

This means that as the home seller, you could either empty out a room for a day or even
leave the furniture as-is, while still getting virtually staged photographs to show potential buyers.

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Every new technology invites criticism, and virtual home staging is no different. Some buyers, especially those unfamiliar with the format, may be distrustful of digitally enhanced images.

Here are the most common drawbacks:

1. Photographs can be misleading: It’s best to be transparent when using virtual home staging so prospective buyers know that the images they’re viewing are a virtual reality simulation.

Even still, buyers might be disappointed when they show up to see the property in person. The same design freedom that makes virtual home staging so versatile can also be a drawback for clients who feel like they were misled.

2. Expertise is critical: While you can find virtual home stagers willing to charge as low as $15 per room, remember that you get what you pay for. Photographs that look unrealistic or poorly executed can backfire and turn a buyer off from a property completely.

3. Staged in-person viewings aren’t possible: If a prospective buyer does ask for a tour of your home, you won’t be able to showcase it quite like the virtual reality design.

To combat this setback, make the virtually staged photos a part of the showing by printing the photographs on brochures, posters or easel displays.

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How to prepare your home to be virtually staged

If you’ve decided to virtually stage your home, there are some items to check off the list before you hand your home photographs over to a graphic designer.

1. Clean your home

Whether you’re virtually staging an empty room or doing furniture replacement, it’s important to clean any area of your home that will end up in virtually staged photographs. The more empty and sparkling a room is, the easier it will be to transform.

2. Remove personal items

Declutter your space so your designer doesn’t have to. This will cut down on design time and cost, plus it will remove any security concerns around photographing personal information or important documents. You can also cover up valuables, such as jewelry boxes or safes, by removing the items from the area to be photographed altogether.

3. Complete small home improvements

Tackle small home improvements, like retouching chipped paint or polishing hardwood floors, to remove photographic evidence of wear and tear. This will represent your space more accurately in photos and prevent surprises during prospective buyers’ in-person visits to your home.

4. Don’t forget the exterior and yard

Like home staging, curb appeal can increase your home’s value – in this case, by around 20%. Clean up the yard while you get your home ready to improve your curb appeal too. After all, you never know how quickly a buyer may see the virtually staged photos online and request an in-person tour.

5. Take high-quality photos

While we recommend hiring a professional to take the photos your graphic designer will ultimately stage, if you have photography experience you may be able to tackle this task yourself. A bad photograph can ruin the whole process, though, so quality is key here.

Technology is transforming the buying process, and if you’re looking to list your home you can use digitally enhanced design to your advantage. Virtual home staging has been especially helpful during COVID-19, reducing the need for in-person visits and taking home tours online for safe, socially distanced showings.

Check out this infographic to learn more about virtual home staging, and how it’s disrupting the selling process.



Taking the virtual home staging process online can reduce risk when it comes to your home insurance policy. After all, what if you were to spend money to stage your home in real life, only to experience a home break-in and lose your borrowed luxury home decor?

While a home insurance policy would likely cover the cost of stolen items, you’ll still be responsible for a deductible, whereas virtual home staging saves you the headache and the cash.

 staging infographic
  1. INTERVIEW: Aleksandr Lanin explains the value and costs of virtual staging. City Realty

  2. National Statistics Report. RESA Home Staging

  3. The Latest Home Staging Statistics that Show the Return on Investment. Linkedin

  4. How Much Does It Cost to Stage a House—And How Much Will You Gain? Realtor