When the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy last year, many of us expected the housing market to follow. We certainly did not expect it to hold its own, but that’s exactly what happened.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) immediately took control, designing a safety plan to protect home sellers, buyers, and agents. Rather than traditional in-person showings, Realtors ramped up online showings. Others, including mortgage lenders, home inspectors, and title companies, conducted business via the internet as though it had always been done that way.

And real estate agents, who have long recommended staging to make homes look their very best, began to lean more on virtual staging.

What is virtual staging?

For years, agents have emptied crowded (or dated) rooms and replaced the homeowner’s furnishings with choice pieces of furniture and art. Today, that staging can be done digitally for a fraction of the price.

After emptying rooms and taking photographs, a real estate agent, interior designer, or photographer uses special virtual staging software to create images so realistic that it’s almost impossible for online shoppers to tell that a home has been virtually staged. When buyers view the photos, it appears as though everything — from furniture to artwork — is actually in the space.

Virtual staging allows the designer to fill rooms with furnishings that fit the house’s style without overwhelming the rooms. By manipulating the software, designers can make rooms appear bright and spacious.

Here are five reasons this inexpensive marketing trend can help you sell your home fast.

1. Cost effective

In a competitive housing market, virtual staging makes a difference. According to a 2017 survey by the NAR, staging can increase the sale price of a property from 1% to 15%. On a $300,000 home, that’s an increase of $3,000 to $45,000. And virtual staging is considerably less expensive. While traditional staging costs approximately $600 per room, virtual staging is available for as little as $16 per image.

2. Highlights what’s important

With the perfect number of furnishings in a room, buyers are able to pick up on details they might not normally make note of. This means they can see how much space is available to them and notice things like arched windows and recessed lighting.

3. Makes it easier for buyers to imagine the home as their own

It can be difficult for some buyers to picture their belongings in a space. Virtual staging provides furnishings that are attractive without being distracting. This makes it easier for a potential buyer to focus on how their own belongings will fit in the home.

4. Sets your home apart

The average buyer may look at dozens of houses before they get to yours. They’re going to see everything along the way, including homes that look like they haven’t been cleaned in weeks. Because virtual rooms are “installed” over photos of empty, freshly swept spaces, your property will appear thoroughly cleaned and thoughtfully staged.

5. Cuts time on the market

There are plenty of things a buyer has to check off on a home buyer’s checklist. But gone are the days when they had to drive from home to home, taking the time to tour each one. Now, most home buyers do their “pre-shopping” online, visiting only the properties that appeal to them. Virtual staging shows a house as it could be, leading to excited buyers, increased online views, and reduced time to sell the property.

When it comes to the real estate market, it’s a brave new world. Virtual staging is part of that new world, designed to make your home look like something out of a magazine. It may represent a relatively new technology, but it’s still part of good old-fashioned selling.

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