Virtual Staging- is this cheating?

Have you heard of virtual staging?  I hadn’t until a few days ago when I read and article about it and it got me thinking. 

The basic idea is this.  I go and list a home that is vacant, the sellers have already moved and they have taken their furniture with them (as most do).  Instead of paying a few thousand dollars to rent furniture and have the home staged, the sellers can pay substantially less and have the photos of the property staged.  I’m guessing they use Photoshop or something similar to add furniture to the pictures.  Then those photos are used on the MLS, brochures, where ever.

I have to admit I’m torn.  On one hand I love the idea of saving my clients money and I KNOW the photos are a major force behind getting prospective buyers to even schedule a showing.  And I am a big proponent of staging in general.  I’ve posted before about the little things you can do as well as some of the larger projects to get your home ready to sell.  I even have a staging company I use when I think a house needs that extra boost to highlight it. 

I did a little research today at one virtual staging website and they do say that they won’t alter the structure to be misleading.  So they aren’t going to turn that parking lot in your backyard into a garden oasis.  I just keep thinking that when the buyers actually do show up they are going to be disappointed when it doesn’t look like the photos.  But I suppose this happens anyway when photos are taken before the sellers move and then the “occupied” photos are used even after the property becomes vacant.   As you can tell, I’m torn.  Even while writing this I keep going back and forth about it.  Maybe it’s the next big thing and in a few years or even months everyone will be doing it.

What do you think?  Would you use this service or would you like to see the house with furniture in the photos if you were a buyer?

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