St Augustine, St Johns County Real Estate & Home Staging


Virtual Home Staging VS Traditional Home Staging. The debate continues

The subject of Virtual home staging VS Traditional home staging has been a debate in the staging world for several years now. Sometimes it has come to violent comments between individuals. Some people who are huge advocates in the staging world, have sung the praises of virtual staging. Others believe that it is a waste of seller's money and can even leave buyer feeling duped when they actually visit the property. 


The debate continues over virtual staging. 

Steven Aaron, star of HGTV's Selling LA, is one of the aforementioned staging advocates. Steven even attended the 2014 RESA Convention and spoke on the merits of the profession and offered insight on working with Real Estate Investors. When he spoke recently about the use of a virtual stager however, it ignited a debate. 

On Thursday May 8th at 5pm PST/8pm EST, that debate will continue, live on Facebook. 

virtual staging facebook debate

I had a chance to ask Steven some questions about his decision to use a virtual stager and why he thinks his public testimony on virtual staging is such a big deal to the staging industry. Here's what he had to say. 

"These are great questions for the chat! I think that I would answer these then......What I will say is that I am a huge advocate to staging. I was surprised by the challenging feedback I got from a FB post from several people who saw me speak at the RESA conference last January. As a result I wanted to create a forum that would allow us the chance to openly discuss the topic. So please join me on Thursday and let's talk about it!!"
So.There you go. It looks like we'll all be waiting for the discussion on Thursday to hear more! 

Virtual staging used to denounce professional staging

Of course this controversy may be particularly sensitive after the Wall Street Journal ran an article only a few months ago citing that staging doesn't influence selling price. This prompted my own personal retort, New Study Shows Staging Doesn't Actually Work, where I denounced the study as they used virtual staging, rather than traditional staging, as their proof of ineffective results. 

My conclusion in this blog was:

"This study proves absolutely nothing. You cannot judge real estate by showing a bunch of people virtual properties and asking them questions about them. Buying a home is a personal experience. It is done on emotion, not logic, at least a majority of the time. Home buyers buy based on the house that feels “right” to them. Investors purchase homes based solely on whether something is a good deal. People who live in the home care about their lives inside the home. Will it fit them? Will their stuff fit there? Can they imagine preparing dinners in the kitchen, watching TV in the living room, waking up and falling to sleep every night in that bedroom, tucking their kids in at night, or leaving and returning to/from work every day."

I hope that Steven will create a blog, or provide some other way of sharing the chat feed with the industry. I look foward to the discussion on this topic and the many questions that will be raised. If you have a question that you would like answered, I encourage you to post it in the comments section of this blog, or better yet, attend Steven's chat and ask it yourself. 


 Author Bio: Melissa Marro, Home Staging Industry leader, Realtor, and entrepreneur offers a unique perspective on New Home Construction, Resale Residential Real Estate, and Home Staging

For more information on buying or selling in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, or Jacksonville, area, visit or call Melissa Marro (marro.melissa at, Keller Williams First Coast Realty, for more information (904-466-2093).


Comment balloon 25 commentsMelissa Marro • May 06 2014 11:19AM


Questions (which may be asked by others)

  1. While virtually staging a home can assist on the budget & "virtual/MLS photos on the internet" side how does it differ from walking into a vacant home once a buyer is on site?  Do you place large scale photo renderings of the virtually staged rooms on site?
  2. Some argue that VS can alter the true presentation of the home and there was one very vocal argument and blog from a Houston Realtor Greg Nino on the subject because the home was falsely respresented by the virtual renderings once on site. What is to stop others who utilize this type of service from doing the same thing? While I know there are reputable companies out there, not all are doing the same responsible work.
  3. On the MLS does it state that the home has been "virtually staged"?
Posted by Karen Otto, Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, (Home Star Staging) over 6 years ago

Here's one of many articles written after Greg's blog was published (back in 2010) Just so you have a benchmark of the discussion then and the issues:

Posted by Karen Otto, Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, (Home Star Staging) over 6 years ago

I saw this posted on facebook and read some of the comments from people regarding it.  I can see why it would stir such emotion.  I consider my home staging consults and the full home staging of vacant properties that many of my fellow stagers do as another animal entirely.  VS is not in the same category.  I  see it's value as a tool to help homeowners visualize what a difference could be made if they followed through on a stager's suggestions.  I don't see it as a tool in selling a Karen stated the home remains vacant for showings.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 6 years ago

Virtual Staging might provide inspiration to a buyer, might entice the buyer to go look in person at the property, but to compare virtual staging to onsite furnishings and decor is like comparing a real photo of the steak dinner to the real dinner where one enjoys the  aroma of freshly grilled food at the the dinner table.   A photo of the steak dinner does not have anywhere the same flavor as the fresh food served on a plate in the restaurant. 

A staged home with real decor and furnishings allows you to feel the emotion of the home.  There is no imagining the experience of the home.  One enjoys the experience of the home.

These are some of the reasons I fully stage every listing with real decor and furnishings and six of my last listings have sold in four days are less on the market! 

Posted by Beverly Carlson, Abilene's Staging Realtor (Carlson Properties 325-721-2429) over 6 years ago

Karen - Thanks for the questions and the link. I had not read that article. 

Sharon - I agree that VS is a great tool to showcase the value of traditional home staging. Michelle Molinari was really the first person I knew that provided that service who made it seem viable and reasonable. I'll be curious to hear what Steven has to say about this subject. 

Beverly - I also provide full staging for my customers and it makes a tremendous difference. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

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Posted by marti garaughty, a highly caffeinated creative type... ( over 6 years ago

Thanks for the cookie @marty! 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

Melissa- I agree with Sharon in that virtual staging and " real" staging are two different animals.  There is a place for virtual stagings but it must be made clear that the home has been virtually staged.

The problem is that for the same reason that the majority of the general public cannot visualize a vacant space with furniture, that same group may have difficulty seeing the space even though they saw a computer generated photo in the MLS or one sitting on the counter top.

If virtual staging was all a seller needed, then why is it that large home builders spend a great deal of money staging their models?  

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 6 years ago

Kathy - I'm in the same place as you and Sharon. I'm also against Vignette staging, but I know that Karen Otto has a great deal of success with that. I'm curious to see the discussion and hear the other side. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

All very thought provoking...

Posted by Jill Nelson, Interior Design (Jill Nelson Design Services) over 6 years ago

I cannot imagine virtual staging being of an advantage to a professional unless it carries a lot of disclosures that literally say "What you see is not what you will see'

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 6 years ago

As others have mentioned, I can see it's usefulness and can still be combined with actual physical staging. Physical for when someone first looks at property. Virtual for when they are more serious.

Posted by Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Broker/Owner, email: / cell: 334-494-7846 (Travis Realty) over 6 years ago

Wonderful, thought provoking comments thus far -- i look forward to hearing Steven Aaron's comments in the debate.

Here are my thoughts: Why pay for VS? Just go ahead and pay for the traditional staging - you'll get the MLS pictures, AND the REAL DEAL when the buyer comes to look at the home. This is a win/win to me. I do not support VS not because I'm an ASP Home Stager and this might compete with what I do, but I think it's not the best way to spend money.

I think it's a waste of the Homeowner's money to pay for virtual staging. Spend that on other needed things that the stager recommends in order for the house to sell quickly! For example, professional landscaping is a need for some properties in order to draw the buyers in to see the inside of the house. "If you can't see it, you can't sell it!"

Spend money on actual staging and other needs is my motto!

Thank you for this great post, Melissa.

Virginia Youngblood, ASP, IAHSP ~ DO-STAGE!, LLC ~ Charlotte, NC and surrounding areas

704-575-1007 ~ ~ ~

Posted by Virginia Youngblood, DO-STAGE! LLC - Home Stager - ASPM® (DO-STAGE! LLC - an ASPM® Home Staging Company) over 6 years ago

I've always been a strong proponent of staging and had it completely reinforced this week. I showed two condos in the same building, one staged and one completely empty. The empty one is about 150 sq. feet bigger. My buyer, a single guy, loved the staged place. it had multiple offers yesterday, while the empty one is now offering closing costs and HOA paid for 6 months. Seems like it would be cheaper to just stage the place.

Posted by Joan Robinson, Joan (Coldwell Banker Danforth) over 6 years ago

I think if I were to use Virtual Staging I would also want to make available pictures of what is actually looks like for the buyers.  I would not want to be thought of us deceptive.  I think what would be cool is if we had a tool where buyers could take blank pictures and stage it themselves to see how it might look for them.  

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 6 years ago

One of the reasons staging works is by creating an emotional connection. Buyers are able to not only see themselves living in the home but also feel what it would be like to live in the home by experiencing the color, texture and ambiance staging the home creates for them.

Virtual staging lacks that emotional connection. If you're an out of town or out of country buyer and can't get to see the home in person, maybe virtual is an alternative to help visualize the space.

But judging from the number of pillows I've had to refluff and position, many buyers actually sit down on the chairs and sofas I've staged a home with. I can only assume it gives them the opportunity to feel what it would be like to live there. Can't do that with virtual staging. And can't create a feeling with computer graphics!

Posted by Tessa Skeens, Staging For Realtors, Builders & Investors (Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign ) over 6 years ago

I feel that using virtual staging for the MLS photos would be so misleading. What does the agent say when the seller is shocked by and empty space?

I can see using it as a tool to get your points across with a client who wants to sell their house and lives in an area without a stager. They would send photos of the rooms and the stager would 'stage' (consult) from a distance.

Posted by Janice Ankrett, Staging Professional (Janice Ankrett Home Staging) over 6 years ago

I like Gene's idea of showing the property two ways, virtually staged and the way the property looks with no staging.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 6 years ago

I don't think virtual staging could take the place of actual staging. It's like trying to get the same feeling by looking at a picture of the Bahamas instead of actually being there. 

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 6 years ago

Jill - I agree. I had an investors meeting when the chat was happening last night but I'm hoping I can catch a transcript! 

Ed - It's a lot like agents using photos of what the home looked like when the seller lived there, only now they don't. 

Travis - I'm not sure how virtual staging is for when the buyer is more serious. Perhaps you can explain what you mean. 

Virginia - I don't really understand it except from the model that Michelle Molinari uses where it helps show what the home might look like if it were staged (to sell the staging). I think of it like Vignette staging, where I don't believe that provides any value either. 

Joan - A great success story! For years we have turned those types of stats into flyers and given them to agents to showcase why staging is so important! 

Gene - That's an interesting idea. 

Tessa - I agree. Staging is about generating emotion while we overcome the buyer objections. It's also one of the reasons why staging has moved from simply making a home neutral and attractive to all buyers to understanding the buyer demographic and making it appealing to them. 

Janice - That's what Michelle Molinari does in LA. That makes a lot of sense to me. 

Sharon - I agree that if VS is used that this would be the best method. 

Suzanne - what, you aren't feeling the beach and wind in your hair right now? 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

I don't  get the concept of "Virtual Staging."  The home is either staged by the seller, or a Professional home stager, or it shows vacant. Is there a 'virtual' pony in the back yard for the kids to play with?  Of course it should be far enough away from the 'virtual' pool for safety reasons.

Posted by Dan Derito (Success! Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Melissa - Lots of great input on this subject. I would have to agree with most, that virtual staging may have it's place, but it will never replace actual home staging.

Posted by Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807, Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor (Good Company Real Estate over 6 years ago

I always felt that buyer will experience sort of disappointment hoping to see a beautiful home and entering  vacant house instead....It may help if the same video form MLS will be on the TV in the house during the showing. I wonder how much it cost VS real staging.

Posted by Anna Dovger, Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX (Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607) over 6 years ago

I am just starting to research Virtual Staging. I am surprised by some of the controversy thinking it is a bait and switch concept since the virtual furniture doesn't convey since if it was real staged (or the owners) furniture, it is considered personal property, not real property, and wouldn't convey anyway.

Posted by Jim Paulson, Owner,Broker (Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) over 5 years ago

Thanks for mentioning virtual staging as a great marketing tool to sell a vacant home! Keep in mind that virtual staging is not a way to replace traditional home staging services but a more economical marketing tool for agents and sellers to be able to show buyers the potential of a home, digitally.  Virtual staging should not entail altering the photos of the home as far as changing wall colors, moving walls and adding fixtures. As an agent, professional home stager and Pioneer of virtual staging, my company believes in virtual staging that abides by the Realtor code of ethics of a true representation of the property. This service is merely used to give buyers a better understanding of how to layout a room and make vacant photos of a home online more attractive and recognizable. And yes making sure each photo displays that the home has been virtually staged so buyers are aware is very important and my company has a strict policy on that! I am just glad to see that our #virtual #staging service has made a name for itself in the real estate world and is here to stay! Before you take a stab or buy a CAD decorating software program contact as we are professional home stagers and pioneers of our patent-pending virtual staging service that sells vacant homes faster anywhere in the world! KRISZTINA BELL, Professional Home Stager, Pioneer of Virtual Staging & Real Estate Marketing Consultant

Posted by Krisztina Bell, Virtually Staging Properties (Virtually Staging Properties) over 5 years ago

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