Prop Tech

Virtual Staging: The latest trend in marketing new and empty properties you should know about

Tom Durrant
Written by Tom Durrant

We’ve all had it. That empty feeling when photographing a new or empty property. The floor is half-finished and the only furniture in the room is the builder’s toolbox, sitting slap bang in the middle of your shot. You’re almost tempted to leave it there to give the room a sense of scale and perspective… but that would be silly.

Traditionally the agent had two choices. 1) Take the photo and hope your potential customers have a great imagination or 2) Hire-in staging furniture; often at great cost, time delays and inconvenience – especially for the builder who has to move his toolbox and sweep the floor!

Well now, the latest trend in the UK seeks to smash those barriers. It’s called Virtual Staging and it’s been around in the USA mainstream Real Estate Market for several years. Just check out Zillow or Trulia and you’ll find most empty homes have been Virtually Staged to some degree… Now, the great thing is it’s available in the UK!

So, what is it?

Simply put, Virtual Staging is a photo enhancement service that helps agents turn an empty property into a home by filling the empty space with 99.9% realistic 3D rendered furniture. Generally, it’s used using sophisticated programmes such as 3D Max. Using the service will transform an agent’s photo from an empty, dull and faceless space into an inspiring, fully furnished room. It provides a sense of lifestyle and perspective, helping the property shine online and in print.

Why bother?

From a consumer’s perspective, expectations have changed! With such a relentless advancement in every-day life, ‘Uber’s children’ have developed consumer expectations of services and products to such a level that only the innovative and the brave will survive. Consumers are so used to buying their pizza with one tap of an app or speaking to their friends on the other side of the world for free, that they just won’t settle for less.

And that’s also true for property. Ask yourself, how uninspiring does an empty property look to today’s uncompromising consumer? What signals can this send about you & about your vendor? They’re time-poor experience junkies, and they need emotional and visual cues to help them imagine living somewhere.

Various studies have shown the benefits that staging a property can have on its click-through rates, increased perceived value and help with the sale. The USA Realtors Association released a report in July 2017 that looked at exactly that and showed that 62% of sellers agents said that staging a property decreased the amount of time on the market. 29 percent reported an increase of one to five percent in dollar value offered by buyers, 21 percent reporting an increase of 8 to 10 percent, and 5 percent reported an increase of 11 to 15 percent. No sellers’ agents reported a negative impact.

Is it allowed!?

There are two key points to bear in mind when considering Consumer Protection Regulation and using Virtual Furnishing – stick to these and you’ll be fine! 1) Declare the property as unfurnished in any supporting documents and write-ups that include Virtually Furnished photos. 2) Stick to making alterations to soft-furnishings. Whilst you can paint the walls another colour or lay a carpet you absolutely must make this very clear that it is a representation and not reality, otherwise you really are breaking the law.

Ok, I’m interested, how do I do it?

As with most things in life you get what you pay for. You can go down the DIY route with an app or photoshop or you can hire a professional…

Option 1) The DIY-route

Is there an app for that? Of course! There’s an app for everything these days and the same can be said for DIY augmented reality furniture apps. Namely, istaging, Virtual Furniture Preview, and Virtual Home Décor Design Tool. Generally, they’re free and simple to use. The one caveat is quality and realism – i.e. one could tell the furniture is fake.

If you have good photoshop skills you could also try signing up to services like Pixelsquid that integrate into the software and allow you to drop in 3D renders – be warned it’s tedious and the results aren’t always that great!

Option 2) Hiring a professional

Google ‘Virtual Staging’ and you’ll find most agencies are based over in the USA where the market is maturing. Most will charge circa 3 photos for $150. Over here in the UK there’s less choice but my agency, Doctor Photo can help. We charge circa £36 per image and turn them around in circa 24 hours. Simply supply the photos to us, give some instructions and we’ll take it from there!

So, there we have it! Hopefully this has inspired you to look at the empty properties on your books in a different light. Virtual Furnishing is another tool in the armoury of the modern estate agent and the best thing is it’s super easy to make you and your clients’ properties look super!

About the author

Tom Durrant

Tom Durrant

Tom Durrant is Director of Doctor Photo, an award-winning photo enhancing agency for estate agents. Tom and his company are on a mission to transform property photography, re-touching many thousands of photos every month with everything from blue skies to virtual furniture. Doctor Photo also trains estate agents across the UK in the art of using a camera.

Tom Durrant has a real passion for pushing the boundaries in creative thinking, all things marketing and, of course, the property industry!

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