Six months ago I wrote a post called Virtual Staging or Just Misleading Pictures? in which I said that I considered using software to manipulate listing photos was a waste of money because as soon as perspective home buyers visit the house they’ll be disappointed (which of course doesn’t lead to an offer to purchase). That’s the best case scenario in my opinion.
At worst, they might even be horrified with what they find as happened to Texas real estate agent Greg Nino, who had a pretty angry client after he took him to see a house that looked nothing like the listing photos. His experience, and some of the surrounding issues, are highlighted in an article this week in the Seattle Times called, Virtual Staging is raising concerns: Virtual Staging can make nightmare look like a dream house.
In it, columnist Kenneth R. Harney describes the slippery slope you’re on when you start manipulating room shots. After all, where do you stop in a virtual staging? Do you only put in “virtual” furniture? Or while you’re at it, do you also change laminate counters to granite, virtually paint over ugly wallpaper, add in crown molding where none exists, etc.?
Many people rationalize that as long as all photos disclose that the property doesn’t really look like that, it’s OK. Or they say,”if there’s no budget to stage for real, using digitally altered listing photos is the next best thing.”
I still think having a big disconnect between what a prospective buyer expects after seeing the listing photos, and what they actual experience when they walk into the home, is a problem.
Imagine going to an online dating site, falling in love with someone’s photo and then you meet them in person and they’re 25 years older and 40 pounds heavier than their photo. Do you stick around long enough to get past that? Maybe if you’ve committed to a dinner and you’re too embarrassed to walk out immediately. But if it was only a coffee, my guess is you drink it up, say you’ve got a meeting and bye bye now!
Now before you accuse me of being overly shallow, consider this. If someone lacks that much integrity when they’re representing themselves in their photo, wouldn’t it make you wonder what else you shouldn’t trust about them?
A real estate showing is rather like that “coffee date”. There’s no obligation to stick around for any length of time. You just turn to the agent and say, “Forget it, this isn’t what I was expecting. Let’s move on to the next house on our list.” Or in agent Nino’s case, you have to deal with an outraged client who is blaming you for wasting their time taking them to a disgusting property that looks nothing like the listing photos.
What do you think of virtual staging? Please share your comments.
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Inc. Home Staging
Debra Gould knows how to make money as a home stager and she developed the Staging Diva Training Program to teach others how to earn a living doing something they love.