Just Don’t Call it ‘Doctoring’

What’s holding up virtual staging?

Virtual staging is the practice of digitally altering photos to show an empty room as it would look fully furnished and accessorized.

Much faster and cheaper than the real thing, you’d certainly guess that by now the technology isn’t rocket science.

And yet virtual staging is just now debuting in housing markets like Manhattan — and non-existent, at least as far as I’m aware — in the Twin Cities.

Three guesses as to what’s going on (or not, as the case may be):

1. Ethical concerns and lack of guidelines.

What do MLS rules say about virtual staging?

Nothing, beyond proscribing false or misleading advertising.

But is virtual staging false or misleading if the Listing Agent explicitly discloses it?

In fact, that’s precisely how Manhattan brokers are handling the issue (see, “Furnished with Pixels“).

All such photos are labelled “virtually staged,” and juxtaposed with unaltered photos of the raw space.

Works for me — and I suspect, most Buyers.

2. No Vendors

I suppose it’s possible that I may have missed the flyers and emails from virtual stagers amongst the deluge of other email I already receive.

But I doubt it.

Nor have the professional photographers I regularly work with started offering it.

If no Realtors are demanding virtual staging, and no vendors are pushing it . . . nothing’s going to happen (clients don’t know enough to ask).

3. Realtor Inertia.

Realtors can be creatures of habit, just like other people.

So, they market listings the way they always have.

They also can be under a great deal of time pressure to get a listing on the market.

Neither of those factors is conducive to trying something new.

It all adds up to a bit of a Catch-22: vendors aren’t pitching virtual staging because they aren’t sure if there’s a market for it.

Meanwhile, Realtors aren’t clamoring for it because they don’t want to be guinea pigs, possibly incurring MLS’ wrath (and fines).

May the (Task) Force Be With You
The solution?

Let the big brokers (Edina Realty, Coldwell Banker Burnet, ReMax) take it up with MLS and the Board of Realtors, and work out some initial guidance (and safe harbors for Realtors operating in good faith).

Consider this post my application for the relevant task force.
And if you’re a virtual stager reading this blog, feel free to contact me — I’ve got a listing coming up in two weeks that’s a perfect candidate.
About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.
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