Virtual Staging – Selling a House is not the Time to Air Brush for Perfection by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President In the world of fashion, models, Hollywood, and the media – much of what we see is not real. Lighting, clever stylists, and make-up can drastically alter the appearance of the model or subject. Then add in the common practice used in print media of air-brushing out flaws, and the person that is featured in the photo spread often does not resemble that at all in real life. In recent years, we have all read or seen actresses criticizing magazines for doing everything from altering their size, elongating their legs, deleting scars or cellulite, and adding things like abs and muscles. All this is done with the magic of the computer, software and clever person with the mouse. We know when we look at a person in a magazine that 99% of the time they don’t really look like that in person. We love to see the tabloids actually catch these models or actors in real life with their messy hair, real bodies and flaws. It reminds us that there are many clever things that can be done with a computer and software specifically designed to alter photographic images. Although we accept this action in the world of fashion and Hollywood, we should not accept this as an acceptable trend for Real Estate and Home Staging. Virtual Staging. This is where vacant rooms are “Staged” using images of furnishings and décor that are not real. The rooms are not truly Staged – as they are done by a person at a computer, not by a trained expert in the house. For some they may feel this is an alternative to having to invest in real Home Staging. However, the savings they get may actually end up costing them far more in legal fees or reputation than if they Staged it properly in the first place. Photos do help sell a house, but how do we know that the images and dimensions in a “virtually Staged room” are accurate? How can we be sure that certain flaws have not been removed? Since Buyers are not imaginative, can we trust that they can translate what is in a little photo to a large empty room? Most importantly, editing out flaws or altering the appearance of rooms in houses for the sole purpose of selling the house is bordering on deception. In the opinion of professional Accredited Staging Professional® (ASP®) Home Stagers everywhere, the photos of the house should be of the real house – not a virtual representation of the house. Another problem is that Buyers will eventually go and see the house in person, and imagine their disappointment when the photo they saw online is not the representation of what they see in person. Their energy will drop, and they will not be able to translate the excitement of nice furnishings found in a virtual photo to a droll, empty room that echoes. Buyers need to experience a real Staged house with real furnishings and décor to not only know if their own furnishings will fit, but they need it in order to have a real emotional connection. That connection is what sells the house and makes it a home. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR®) Magazine came out with an article (July 30, 2009) admonishing agents and Sellers to not give credence to the idea of virtual Staging. It is a risky proposition that could find itself being worked out in a court of law with disgruntled Buyers who felt deceived by a clever computer tech with some slick software. The link below contains the full article and there is an excerpt below. http://www.realtor.org/RMODaily.nsf/pages/News2009073002?OpenDocument “However, there are some potential pitfalls to virtual staging, including liability issues. There is the chance, for example, that a buyer will challenge whether the digitally altered photos provided an accurate rendering of the space. After moving in, the new owner could make a case for misrepresentation of the property against the real estate practitioner. Another problem is the lack of control that sellers and practitioners experience in terms of color schemes and accessories. Virtually staged properties tend toward neutral tones and commonplace art and window treatments that could turn off some prospective buyers.” (Virtual Staging: Brilliant but Maybe Dangerous? Daily Real Estate News -July 30, 2009) The moral of the story is virtually clear. With Home Staging, ensure an honest and accurate representation by entrusting your house or listing to a trained professional ASP® Home Stager, and not the clever skills of a computer jockey equipped with a mouse. That mousetrap could prove fatal to the purchase, the Seller, and even a Realtor’s career.