Home sellers weigh traditional, virtual staging as housing market cools

Arizona's housing market is rapidly changing, and sellers are taking advantage of technology to sell quickly and easily.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 12:21 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Home staging businesses, both traditional and virtual, are getting busier as the red-hot Arizona real estate market shows signs of cooling.

“We are seeing an uptick in requests for quotes and staging right now, probably three times the calls that we’re used to receiving,” said Tom Carr, co-owner of Staged to Sell Design in Scottsdale. “Months ago, you could put the hook in the water, no bait, and people were biting all day long. [Home buyers] can be more choosy now.” To help potential buyers envision themselves in a new home, stagers often choose comfortable furniture and neutral-colored décor to upgrade the feel of the property and define its spaces.

“I would describe staging as going on a first date. When you meet that person for the first time, you don’t want to see their ex emblazoned all over their clothing, right?” Carr said. “What if you’re buying the house and all you see is the prior owner?”

Valley real estate agent Trevor Halpern often utilizes staging when his listings hit the market. He says the goal is to get potential buyers to look and linger in the home. “In my experience, a well-staged home will help you sell faster and will help you get more money for it when it’s staged,” Halpern said. “You want them sitting on the couch. You want them really walking through the home and picturing themselves there, and when you have well-placed, nice furniture in the home, they can do that.”

But what if there’s no couch to sit on? Increasingly, home buyers scrolling through real estate listings are encountering virtually staged homes. “I’d say that the pandemic certainly accelerated the adoption of virtual staging and I think it’s here to stay,” said Matt Langan, the CEO and founder of Stuccco. The virtual staging company has thousands of 3D models that can be used to highlight a property’s potential.

“We can work on literally any space, inside or outside,” Langan added. “We’ve staged boats on lakes. We’ve even staged buildings on properties to help people understand what it might look like if there was a shed built in the backyard.”

While some real estate agents are quickly adopting virtually staged photos, others believe they could hurt a sale. “If you have virtual staged photos, people are expecting a certain look and feel and when they walk into the home they’re instantly let down,” Halpern said. “Immediately they’re not seeing what they expected to see.”

“We’ve actually heard the opposite,” Langan countered. “They’re able to see the virtually staged photos as the property would look if it’s properly furnished, but then when the buyers go into the property because it’s vacant at that time, they’re actually able to see all the surfaces in the property.”

Virtual staging is more affordable than traditional staging. Stuccco charges $29 per photo to virtually stage an empty room and $39 if items must first be virtually removed. Traditional staging typically costs less than 1% of the price of the home.