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Tips to recognize bad - deceptive virtual staging

Bad virtual staging is everywhere. The internet is overflowing with digitally staged houses that do not look right. The facts are that 95% of virtual stagers aren’t real stagers, and having beautiful images doesn’t guarantee that it will work.

architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

If you are a real estate agent or a home sellers who is thinking of hiring a virtual stager but unsure if it’s legal, this article will shed light onto a bad example for virtual staging (how not to do it) and the legality of the service.

Do not sell “As is” homes with bad virtual staging, and it’s a doomed to fail exercise which always ends up costly just like the example below.

as is property for sale
"as is" for sale with bad virtual staging

If you search on any property portals in most developed countries, you will find a deceptive virtual staging.

However, we can’t avoid the fact that digital staging is to help visualize and bring people to the doorstep.

So I’ve written a guide on hiring a virtual staging company here if you’re researching for the right marketing tools to add to your real estate adventure.

Example of bad virtual staging

Below is an ad on a very large listing portal I found after 2 mins of search. The property has been discounted after 135 days on the market by $20,000.

Here is what I find wrong with the staging and the ad in general and why.

bad virtual staging

Deceptive staging & property for sale "as is"

This is a bad combo to have.

Selling “as is” is a tricky task. Simply because your house will be targeted mostly by people looking to buy a  “below market value” at your expense.

Home is for sale “As Is”, meaning that there might be many outdated features, potential problems and nothing will be renovated or fixed. Typically these homes are bought by seasoned buyers or investors.

The agent has stated that the property is for sale “as is,” which it’s tricky on its own. When we add the bad virtual staging they have produced, everything leads to a downward spiral. Given the price of $715,000 (£527,780) and its size of 3,149 sqft (292 sqm), it is less likely a first-timer to give it a go.

Being on the market for 135 days proves their marketing strategy is wrong.

“As is” screams discounts to investors. Add poorly staged photos of the property, things get even worse, just like in this case – $20,000

as is property for sale
"as is" for sale with bad virtual staging

In my experience, often sellers are convinced by their agents that the property can sell for better prices even if the reality shows different.

Everyone wants a bigger piece of the cake; I get it.

But most seasoned investors are well versed and will see beyond the empty photos, and here deceptive virtual staging won’t help; actually, it will do the opposite.

Poor marketing screams even more discounts, and for an experienced person investing in property will be obvious reason to ask for better price.

bad virtual staging for sale (1)
bad virtual staging for sale (7)

Bad = Deceptive virtual staging

From the standpoint of the average buyer, the above example won’t help much. Given that nowhere in the description is mentioned, photos are being digitally altered, which in most countries is considered deceiving. 

Even if it’s obvious some of the listing photos are virtually staged, the property description must contain information if any of the images are digitally amended, and that is by law.

deceptive virtual staging

Is virtual staging deceptive?

Virtual staging has become extremely popular among real estate agents who want to add value to their services. Think of it as an efficient method available to draw new customers.

That’s because virtual home staging is associated with the process of making the homes look colourful and rich by adding items that are not available as of now.

However, some people think of it as a deceiving technique or is it an effective promotional tool?

Any staging can be considered a deceptive technique because via this service agents are trying to manipulate the interests of people. The “Deceptive” part of the question does not come from the service itself but from how it’s used.

According to a recent study conducted by the National Association of Estate Agents, it has been identified that most of the salespeople out there in the world used traditional staging methods in order to promote the listings.

Virtual home staging is pretty much similar to traditional staging. The only difference is that people use the benefits available from technology to enhance the look and feel of the homes. Hence, there is no difference at all in the outcome offered by traditional staging and virtual staging.


Around 38% of agents suggest that their clients stage the homes before listing.

With the help of virtual staging, potential buyers who do not wish to invest a few thousand dollars in staging will be able to visualize how they can maximize available space within the house by using the virtual counterpart.

According to property misrepresentation law in US and UK laws – virtual staging is legal when criteria set by the law are met. To avoid legal troubles, always check the misrepresentation property law in your country or the country where the property is for sale. Even if it is not required or can’t find what is needed, make sure to mention any digital alterations in the description to help avoid any troubles.

Virtual Home Staging average costs (bad vs. good)

Bad virtual staging means cheap. I know it does not sound good, but that is the reality. I’ve researched 67 staging providers, and 59 of them had prices below $25 / £ 18.40 with staging photos similar to the above example.

The average cost associated with good virtual staging is between £200 / $240 to £400 / $485 for 2 to 6 photos. 

I’ve explained how our pricing structure works here and the differences with the traditional staging here.

This is definitely cheaper when compared to the cost associated with traditional staging methods which tend to start from £2500 / $3000 per small room per month without insurance.

However, all agents need to proceed with virtual staging with caution.

In other words, you will have to be judicious when you are venturing into virtual staging. That’s because you should never break the code of ethics that you must adhere to.

In other words, you will have to be careful to showcase the property through virtual staging in an honest manner. You should always keep the primary objective of virtual staging in mind, which is to help buyers better understand the layout of a room.

Hence, it would be best not to let them get deceived by other factors.

Virtual staging code of ethics

Virtual staging is an acceptable procedure if the rules are followed.

When the buyers see that a specific space inside the home is filled with furniture, they will be able to understand how the house can match their requirements.

If you stick to the ethics, virtual home staging can be considered an acceptable procedure. That’s because you will be helping the buyers to get a clear understanding of the house instead of deceiving them. On the other hand, there is no difference between traditional home staging methods and virtual home staging. You are just cutting down the expenses associated with conventional staging methods.

Hence, there is no need to worry about anything when moving forward with virtual staging.

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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