Home staging can help a property sell faster and for a higher price because it makes it easier for buyers to see themselves in the space, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS. The same can be said for renters on the hunt for apartments, which can translate to landlords filling vacancies more quickly and possibly for higher rents.
While the real estate investors behind large apartment communities might be able to afford to reserve a staged model unit just for the sake of showing it to would-be renters, there is an option that could pay off for landlords of smaller properties: virtual staging.
Virtual staging allows you to enhance photos of your space with arrangements of digital furniture and decor. Whether you download a DIY app -- some offer free trials -- or hire a professional real estate photographer to do the work for you, you've got options at various price points. Here's why you should consider it as an alternative to traditional staging or uploading photos of a vacant unit to your online listing.
1. You can save time and money
It can cost anywhere between $657 and $2,542 to hire a professional home stager, according to HomeAdvisor. The actual price will depend on the size of your rental property as well as the amount of furniture and decor used. Even if you do it yourself, it takes time to arrange the space -- and don't forget you'll have to remove all the furniture when it's time for someone new to move in.
Virtual staging takes all the grunt work out of the process. Take a photo of your empty space, then use a staging app -- there are many to choose from, depending on your platform of choice -- to drag and drop digital furniture and decor into place. Whether you DIY the photos and the staging or hire a professional real estate photographer to do it all for you, the process can be done quickly and easily. Prices vary widely, depending on whether you want to stage a single room or the entire space, so shop around to see what type of virtual staging service is right for you.
2. You can attract a larger pool of renters
When staging a property using physical furniture and decor, you have to commit to a certain layout and aesthetic. That might not seem like too much of an issue, but it could mean that you are appealing to only one type of renter or only a portion of the demographic that's looking to rent your apartment.
For example, you might stage a modern, minimalistic space perfect for working professionals, but what about someone with young children? While traditional staging would take time to rearrange the space, you can easily reset and redo a photo with virtual staging. In fact, you could upload various photos of the same room to a real estate listing to show the potential of the space to attract a larger demographic.
3. You can show a tidy space -- even if it's currently occupied
Scheduling a showing at the convenience of the current tenant is one of the biggest issues for landlords when it comes to listing a currently occupied unit. When you do get in to show it, you're likely showing the would-be renter a space that is in some stage of disarray, as the occupant is in the midst of packing to move.
The problem is solved when you've got digitally staged photos of the space. Now, you've got the virtual version of a model apartment that can be used as a listing photo again in the future, provided no big changes are made to the layout or structure of the space.
What not to do with virtual staging
It's good practice to note in the listing that photos have been digitally staged. Virtual staging is considered ethical by the MLS (multiple listing service) for property listings, but you should not digitally transform a unit in a way that's misleading for would-be renters.
For example, you shouldn't swap out wall-to-wall carpet for hardwood flooring in a digitally staged photo. Similarly, don't place a bold accent wall when you don't permit renters to paint the space or place a city skyline in a window that has an obstructed view. Whether it's traditional or virtual, staging is merely an opportunity to show what a space can look like -- not what it can't look like.