In this crazy housing market, it doesn’t take much for properties to sell. But as competition cools down, or with particularly difficult listings, some houses need a little fluffing up. Amid all the buyer competition, even little improvements to a home’s online appeal can mean more money for sellers when the offers start pouring in.

That’s why digital staging is gaining popularity. Here’s why you might want to consider talking to your agent about this cost-effective alternative to traditional staging as a way to attract more buyers.

What is digital staging?

Digital staging is when professional photo editors adjust furniture or other décor in a listing photo. That can mean adding furniture or art, or removing items that look a little past their prime.

“People have a hard time with their imagination in the rooms,” said Angelica Olmsted, an agent at RE/MAX Professionals Cherry Creek in Denver. “You can show the same room as a nursery, as an office, as a gym.” 

An empty room with light wood floors and white walls
Courtesy of BoxBrownie

Empty room staged as a nursery
Courtesy of BoxBrownie

Empty room staged as a gym
Courtesy of BoxBrownie
Peter Schravemade, global director of sales, marketing, revenue and products at, an online provider of photo retouching services for the real estate industry, said the point of this kind of photo editing is to help buyers understand how space in a prospective home can be used.

“You don’t stage a room to make it pretty or to deceive a purchaser,” he said. “You stage a room to tell somebody what that room does.”

A digitally-staged bedroom with light pink bedspread
Courtesy of BoxBrownie

How much does digital staging cost?

Digital staging is much less expensive than traditional physical staging. Schravemade said BoxBrownie charges just $24 an image in the U.S. for its services, compared to thousands of dollars a month that most companies charge to actually place furniture and décor in properties for sale.

A digitally-staged living room with gray and brown accents
Courtesy of BoxBrownie
“Virtual staging is an alternative to physical staging, because 96 percent of vendors cannot afford physical staging,” he said, referring to home sellers.

What are the benefits to digital staging?

“Use it as a tool to educate the tenant or purchaser what’s going on with the property,” Schravemade said.

A digitally-staged outdoor living space with gas fire
Courtesy of BoxBrownie

Outdoor space before it was digitally-staged
Courtesy of BoxBrownie
Olmsted agreed that the best use of digital staging is to help prospective residents understand what they may be able to do with the property once they move in.

“I have one listing in downtown Denver, which is a great bachelor pad, and that’s exactly what it looks like,” she said. That listing was edited a few ways. For some images, the rooms were made to look vacant, and in others they were spruced up with more neutral modern furniture, “which shows what the potential is,” according to Olmsted.

Denver bachelor pad with sports memorabilia all over the wall
Courtesy Angelica Olmsted/RE/MAX Professionals
Denver bachelor pad digitally-staged as empty
Courtesy Angelica Olmsted/RE/MAX Professionals
Denver bachelor pad digitally-staged with updated furniture
Courtesy Angelica Olmsted/RE/MAX Professionals

Are there any drawbacks to digital staging?

The most important thing, Olmsted and Schravemade agreed, is that digitally staged listing photos should present a realistic preview of how a room can be used. Schravemade said that some companies play things a little more fast and loose, for example by resizing furniture that would obviously not fit, or by making more drastic physical alterations to a property through the magic of Photoshop.


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“If you don’t get scale right, you have invariably misrepresented the room,” he said. “Virtual staging should not materially include anything that changes the property. It just should be furniture and décor.” 

Listings with more substantially altered photos can mislead buyers and lead to frustration and disappointment. 

Olmsted said it’s crucial for agents to be upfront about digitally staged properties.

“I always disclose it. It could definitely be a drawback if you do not disclose that it is virtually staged or amplified or modified in any way,” she said. “I think people could see it as a bait and switch if you’re not upfront about it.” 

Bottom line

Digital staging can be a great way to make a listing pop and help buyers understand the future possibilities for a property. If you’re considering using such a service for your own listing, it’s important to make sure the photo editing is done in a way that accurately reflects how a room could be used. 

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