Virtual staging can help sell homes for less

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. Instead of dolling up a home with new furniture and accessories, a computer does it digitally. It's is a cost effective tool for both real estate brokers and those selling their home.

"I was surprisingly pleased with what the end product was. I didn't expect it to be as good," said realtor Morena Cohen, who recently used virtual staging for the first time.

Cohen provided the staging company with a few photos, then less than $500 and a couple of days later, she had a fully furnished home to sell online.

"It's easy, it's fast, you take a picture of a vacant room and the furniture is slotted in. And you can improve or disprove it or try again if you need to," she said.

Real staging has been a staple of the industry for a while now, adding tables and sofas or changing drapes to enhance the home's overall look. /*Virtual staging*/ eliminates the costs involved in moving furniture in and out of a property.

One California company claims virtually staged homes sell for up to 17 percent more than vacant homes. But there's one catch... it must be identified as virtual staging. According to California Association of Realtors President Steve Goddard, not doing so violates the buyer's trust.

If Cohen's experience is any indication, virtual staging will be increasingly in demand.

"The cost advantage is huge. I think I would promote this to anyone on a budget who wants to try to promote a property to its highest and best use," said Cohen.

For an average sized home, traditional staging can cost $2,000 to $3,000 for the initial set up, and then monthly fees of $500 to $1,000 until the house sells. Compare that to the cost of $200 to $300 to digitally stage a room.

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