The Definitive Guide to Virtual Staging

Virtually Everything You Need to Know

What is staging & why do we need it?

Staging in real estate refers to the process of placing furniture and decor in an empty unit in order to incite a feeling of livability among renters. It is traditionally used by property marketers as a way to personalize the home search experience and better cater to their target audience.

Leveraged in real estate, multifamily, and senior living, there are two types of staging: traditional (or real) and virtual.

Real staging is a well-established marketing tactic, excellent for in-person tours. Virtual staging, however, has become a more efficient alternative to staging as digital renting continues to rise in popularity.

What is virtual staging?

Virtual staging is a digital marketing tool that is leveraged as a convenient alternative for staging a home.

This process requires a high-quality photograph of any room that needs to be staged, and with the help of a 3D artist, rendered furniture and decor are inserted into the photo using computer technology.

By the end of this process, new virtual staging should look almost 100% photorealistic, so it resembles the real thing.


Photo Listing Guide - CTALet's get you to where you're going, shall we?
Click on a shortcut below to find the section you're looking for.

The Benefits of Virtual Staging
Virtual Staging vs. Traditional Staging
Virtual Staging Costs and Comparisons
Designing Your Virtual Staging
The Best Rooms for Virtual Staging
How to Prepare for Virtual Staging
Commonly Asked Questions

Virtual Staging Bedroom

What are the benefits of virtual staging?

From customization to new ways of renting sight-unseen, the benefits of virtual staging are plentiful.

Although widely talked about, the industry has been slow to adopt and recognize the value of tenant experience applications.

In a 2018 HSR survey of over 4,200 homes, 85% of the staged homes sold for 6-25% more than unstaged homes.

It’s proven that traditional staging reaps numerous benefits - but virtually staging works to make the staging process more efficient, while still receiving the same perks.

1. It's completely customizable

Whether the seasons are changing, you want to target a different audience, or it just feels about time for an update, virtual staging can truly be whatever you want, whenever you want it - with no hassle. In addition, you can have different decor for the same room to cater to a variety of target demographics.

The best part? You can have the fanciest or most expensive looking decor in your virtually staged community for absolutely none of the cost.

2. There’s no need to consult with an interior designer

The trouble with traditional staging is that not many people know how to stage an apartment without the help of an interior designer.

In the realm of virtual staging, 3D artists are trained professionals in putting a room together, so even though there isn’t the option of consulting an interior designer, you won’t have to rely on your capacity to build a virtual home that sells.

However, there is the option for clients to piece together a general aesthetic of a room by creating a mood board, or opting for a virtual staging library if your provider offers one.

3. All communities can benefit from it

Whether your property is class A or class C, virtual staging is one of the most budget-friendly sales tools on the market.

Not only is it affordable, but it’s perfect for the busy worker, a chaotic leasing calendar, senior living communities, you name it.

4. Renters are increasingly opting to sign a lease sight-unseen

As of this year, 85% of consumers experience with a company includes zero human interaction.

Thanks to busy schedules, renting out of state, and society's dependence on technology, renting sight unseen is only projected to increase - so digital content is pretty important in the decision making process.

5. It makes your online presence multidimensional

Every real estate business has photographs, so how does one differentiate their community from the rest?

Having various types of online content stands out to both consumers, as well as Google’s ranking algorithm. Additionally, since virtual staging is entirely digital, images can be marketed on apartment listings, portfolios, social media, and advertisements.

Rayhanna"The first impression of your new property is the most valuable. It’s the difference between having a flock of sight-unseen leases come in or empty units when you open your doors."
Rayhanna Guillen, 3D Project Manager

Read more from our 3D Project Manager, Rayhanna in her article, 3D Renderings Are Essentials for Powerful Real Estate Experiences

Real vs. Staged

Virtual Staging vs.
Traditional Staging

Which staging method fits your needs and budget?

Fact: 81% of consumers find it easier to view a home as their own when it’s staged - additionally, studies show staging a unit has direct benefits on listing performance.

So, that begs the question: home staging or virtual staging?

Recognizing the fact that they both provide high-impact results, let’s break down a few key differences.

1. Virtual staging has outstanding ROI

According to recent virtual staging statistics, ROI for traditional staging amounts to 586% - which actually increases when opting for virtual staging due to significant price cuts like furniture, consultation fees, and any other cost required for upkeep.

In addition, over half of seller’s agents believe that staging increased the value of a home 1-20%. Much added value with half of the effort.

2. Showcasing occupied units is never an issue

Property management comes across an obstacle every so often when potential prospects want to see a unit that transitioning tenants are still occupying.

Because of this, it’s impossible to schedule a full-property photo shoot that doesn’t have a handful of rooms that can’t be shot.

With virtual staging, all that’s required is one photo - taken at any time - that can be staged and marketed as a livable unit for lease whenever need be.

3. There are no limits to design elements

Traditional staging often allows only a set budget for furnishings and decor - which can hinder the ability to effectively market to a wide demographic.

Virtual staging, however, doesn’t require an extensive budget, nor does it limit the amount of touch-ups and updates desired for the community.

Communities with, let’s say, five different models can have each virtually staged multiple ways for some added personalization.

|Related: 16 Stunning Apartment Virtual Staging Before and After Photos

Virtual Staging Kitchen

How much does
virtual staging cost?

Good question ⁠— we have the answers to clear that up.

Yes, traditional property staging has a great ROI - however, that doesn’t go without putting down substantial amounts of money for furniture alone.

The cost of home staging can cost upwards of anywhere between $7,000-30,000 per unit. And that doesn’t include the consultation fee, upkeep fees, or emergency costs.

Virtual staging, on the other hand, typically goes from $75-300 based on quality, with no extra fees other than a potential payment for any possible tweaks or updates.

High-End vs. Low-End

It has been proven that low-quality photography online can actually do more harm than good, which is why it’s very important to know the difference between high and low-end virtual staging for this kind of digital model apartment staging.

high-end (1)

The combination of a real image and digital rendering does pose an issue in creating a photorealistic room, so doing research or spending a little extra on a commissioned project will definitely be worth it.

High-end virtual staging examples:

Nick of fifth_poi_007_D1_cam1 (1)

vs_Nic on Fith_Cam_1

Multifamily Bedroom - After

Dillon Silverlake-poi-004+changes-1

Check out more stunning virtual staging examples.

Virtual Staging Office

How do you decide what your staging will look like?

With virtual staging, the creative power is in your hands. But we're here to help you get started.

As we mentioned above, one of the greatest benefits of virtual staging is that it’s customizable. And since psychographics as well as personalization are trending big time in property marketing right now, research is a good place to start.

It’ll be extremely beneficial to narrow down what your target audience looks like, and tapping into potential lifestyles, beliefs, likes and dislikes, etc. Looking at the community, surrounding neighborhoods and businesses, and even local competition can give a better idea of what type of residents your community will attract.

New call-to-action

Once a targeting strategy is established, there are tools on the market that can assist in piecing together your vision of each room. 

As we mentioned, some virtual staging companies offer a virtual staging library that provides modern trends for furniture and decor. This is a good route to go if there isn’t a lot of confidence in you or your colleagues ability to put together a room that will yield results.

Another useful tool that everyone with internet has access to is Pinterest. Typically known for their mood boards, property marketers can utilize this platforms visual content to create a board for each room. A 3D artist can then utilize this vision when making an image come to life.

Virtual Staging in Multifamily

Apartment model staging has become common practice in property marketing. One of the main reasons for this is due to the difficulty renters often face to truly visualize a temporary living space as an actual home.

Multifamily communities typically opt for one of two different ways to stage: the first is apartment model staging, or staging an actual unit that can be rented out. The other is implementing a model unit in a leasing office or secondary location, so that leasing schedules don’t mess with potential renters ability to tour in-person.

For either strategy, there poses a handful of difficulties when leveraging a staged unit. For the first tactic, as we mentioned above, there’s no controlling which units are vacant and available to tour. As for the second tactic, not every community has the resources to provide a separate model unit (and let’s not forget there are usually more than one model per community).

That’s why virtually staging units as they become vacant, and then reusing those images, is the most efficient way to provide potential prospects with the visuals and information they need to sign a lease when touring a desired unit isn’t an option.

Free Offer Unlocked: The Multifamily Marketer's Guide to Generating More Apartment Leads

Virtual Staging in Real Estate

Traditionally staging homes is also fairly common, but typically very labor-intensive, as well as time consuming.

Between furniture rental for staging, and conducting mandatory upkeep so it remains presentable, the traditional route may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

While a great option for higher end real estate businesses that still see a lot of in-person tours -and can afford a house full of furniture- virtual staging is the perfect alternative for those communities that don’t have the time or budget to invest in the traditional route.

What we’re seeing a lot of these days is property marketers utilizing virtual staging services, and using a before and after photo so that whether or not a home is toured, potential prospects have a visual to reference when making a decision.

Virtual Staging in Commercial Real Estate

Virtual staging in commercial real estate is actually drastically increasing in popularity. With a term dubbed "resimercial design," commercial spaces are starting to look a lot more like residential spaces, thanks to current events.

Since the onset of the pandemic, offices and commercial spaces have been, for the most part, not seeing a lot of in-person traffic. Because of this, people are looking for familiarity when in public spaces, especially offices.

Because of this, commercial virtual staging has come in handy to not only implement resimercial design elements, but to showcase what a space can look like with new safety restrictions in place.

Another version of this, virtual spec suites, have made a huge impact on commercial office that needed remodeling to showcase what a "covid safe" space would look like for future tenants.

Not to mention, they're extremely cost effective and promote generous ROI.

Virtual Staging Living Room

Rooms that benefit from virtual staging

Not every space may need virtual staging. Find the rooms to stage that will get you the highest return.

When staging a residential property, it’s important to know which rooms consumers want to see most so that the proper photography can be provided to virtually stage.

A big determining factor in which rooms are considered worthy of staging is the notion of where families, friends, and residents in general typically congregate, or spend quality time in. 

So, according to a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors, these four rooms were rated as the most important for consumers to see staged. 


Heading (2)  Heading (3)




Heading (4) Heading (5)


Desired Design Elements

As we all know by now, staging pushes results. But it can become less effective if the way a home is staged is out of style, loud, messy, or too bland.

Luckily, there are a few tried and true tactics property marketers can follow in order to appeal to the greater population.

1. Less is more

Regardless of whether or not the room being staged is big or small, being empty or having too much furniture can make it appear smaller than in actually is. And having a full or cluttered room may register with some prospects as being messy. So even though virtual staging allows 100% creative freedom and no conceivable budget, it’s important to remember to not get carried away with the decor.

2. Keep it neutral

Avant Garde inspired art and neon lighting may be trending, but that’s not really going to prove more effective in the grand scheme of things.

The best aesthetic choice that typically appeals to most renters or home buyers, is a neutral and minimalist theme for all rooms with small pops of color and textures. A good tip is to keep paint or wallpaper, furniture, utilities, flooring, and any other large focal point neutral, while popping in some statement decor to liven up the room.

The point of virtual staging isn’t necessarily to garner envy of an aesthetically pleasing home, but to provide a reference for consumers to gauge whether or not it feels like the right fit. 

Basically, you’ll want to leave room for imagination.

3. Strategize decor

It can be a bit tricky to decide how much decor is too much - so a general rule to follow is that decor shouldn’t make a room, it should complement it. The last thing property marketers want is to distract a prospect from the important features of a home with scene-stealing decorations.

Some tried and true decor that has personality (but not too much):

  • Greenery, such as plants and flowers
  • Framed pictures (no stock photo families)
  • Mirrors
  • Throw pillows for couches and beds
  • Small neutral-toned rugs under tables and in bedrooms
  • Functional lighting, like area lamps or a chandelier

The end result should be a room that appears livable, but not as if it’s currently being occupied.

4. Make sure all home features can still be seen

For rooms such as the kitchen and bedrooms, it’s important that utilities, storage spaces, and anything “extra” that comes with a home can be visible.

If there’s one thing modern-day renters and home buyers desire, it’s amenities - so ensuring prospects can see them could change the entire outcome of their decision to move forward with your community.


How to prepare your space for virtual staging

Virtual staging takes some key preparation. These steps will ensure you get the most from your virtual staging.

It may sound like the only responsibility of property marketers during the virtual staging process is to schedule a photo shoot and prepare design elements, but there’s actually a little more to it if you want a successful outcome.

1. Clean up!

Sounds obvious, but if and when a high-quality photograph is taken of various rooms, little things like dust, rogue cords, and scrapes can be entirely visible.

Just ensure that everything within view -regardless of how small- is taken care of, so your photo shoot is a one-and-done deal.

2. Repaint

Technically speaking, a unit should be painted every time a new tenant moves in, so it’ll be expected regardless.

It may seem tedious, but a fresh coat of paint is definitely noticeable, and the last thing you want is potential prospects being turned off by something as simple as chipped or stained paint.

3. Find the best angles

Whether you’re taking the photos, or you hire a professional photographer, knowing the exact angle that showcases the entire room in a good light can save everyone time.

It’ll also be worth your money to make sure the shot is capable of not only being virtually staged, but it captures the entirety of each room. It can look a bit off when only half of the kitchen is present.

Virtual Staging Bedroom

Commonly asked questions about

virtual staging

1. How long does virtual staging take?

Depending on the amount of rooms in need of virtual staging, it could take anywhere between 24 hours to 3 weeks. This typically includes 2 rounds of edits as well as any last tweaks. The timing ultimately depends on what you're looking for. Completely customized virtual staging can take weeks, while companies that offer libraries with pre-built furniture can turnaround an image in a day.

The great news is that quality between these two options isn't a major setback. Both options can result in high-quality, photorealistic virtual staging that you're looking for.

Rayhanna"Remember that staging isn’t so much about decorating a space. It’s about marketing the space so that future tenants can see themselves in it."
Rayhanna Guillen, 3D Project Manager

Read more from our 3D Project Manager, Rayhanna in her article, How to Save Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars with Virtual Staging

2. How long is it good for?

Since virtual staging has the capacity to be updated with different furnishings, the only time the actual photograph should be updated is if/when repairs or renovations are conducted.

As far as the actual furnishings, it depends on whether or not current layouts are producing desired results. Since the entire purpose of virtually staging a community is to convert leads, it’ll be best practice to regularly check analytics.

Aside from effectiveness, changing up staging every few years will ensure it relates to current renters - it’ll also help your business rank higher in Google search results.

3. What photos can I use for virtual staging?

It’s highly recommended that high-quality photos are used so that furniture and decor looks natural. Photos taken during the day are also highly recommended, as decent lighting will make the photo clearer and easier for 3D artists to render.

For non-professional photos, cameras such as DSLRs will have the best results, especially if it’s paired with a tripod to keep it stationary.

Check Out These Best Practices for Using Your New Virtual Staging Images

4. Can you virtually stage outdoor photos?

Yes! In fact, in the 2017 report by NARs, outdoor staging was fifth on the list with 63% of home buyers considering it to be almost as important as the interior.

It is a bit more difficult to stage due to the inability to control outside elements, as well as having a more complicated backdrop for staging - but it’s entirely possible, and desired during the home search.

Every image you see in this guide is virtually staged by our professional 3D team. We commit to providing only the highest of quality images and digital content to property marketers in multifamily, CRE, senior living and more. Our virtual staging is designed to look realistic, just like the real thing, to give property owners and managers an affordable, yet effective, staging alternative.