Fall Real Estate 2009

Publication Date: Friday, October 9, 2009

How to catch the eyes of home buyers
Cyberstaging boosts the real estate market

Few people are willing to buy a home sight unseen. But if they're far away, photos on the Internet can clearly show what the home looks like.

Cyberstaging takes marketing on the Web a step further, by showing potential buyers what a home could look like.

Less expensive than traditional staging -- where you need to truck in real furniture, artwork and accessories -- virtual staging can still show how a home could be furnished.

A real estate agent e-mails photos of a vacant or an occupied home to a stager who adds chairs, tables, beds, carpets and art items through a design program. It appears in the photos as if the furniture is really in the home.

The Realtors use the photos for their websites, listing services, flyers and other advertising. Some even hang the photos during Open Houses, if they haven't done real-time staging.

"Cyberstaging gives a better idea of the capacity of the home," said Cindy Lin, owner of Staged4More Staging & Redesigns in South San Francisco. "The buyers really see how to make the most effective use of the space and it is a way to give them some decorating ideas."

Lin, a traditional stager, uses virtual staging only as a small part of her work.

"We often use virtual staging for people selling their homes outside the San Francisco Bay Area," she said. "They receive a detailed report to execute our ideas."

Her company charges $250 to $500 for a report depending on the size of the home.

Recently, she charged $250 for a three-bedroom house in San Jose to give her professional opinion on how to make the rooms look bigger.

If she had done a full staging on the home, she would have charged $1,500 to $2,500 including the consultation and two month's minimum furnishing rental.

Jay Bell, manager of Virtually Staging Properties in Atlanta, uses virtual staging only for vacant houses. His company charges $225 to enhance three photos and $280 to digitally stage a four-bedroom home.

"It takes about three to five days to add items on photos depending on the number of rooms that have to be staged," he said.

When a home is virtually staged, the reality is very different from the photo. What clients see on the Internet is not what they will see during a visit.

"We will provide 8- x 10-inch photos for $49 each," he said. "Sellers hang them up on the wall of the room to help the buyers to remember what they saw on the Web or on another advertisement."

Patrick Kapowich, the co-owner of Kapowich Real Estate in Cupertino, has been using cyberstaging only for occupied homes for about a year.
"My clients were unable to pay a stager so I started to work with Kate Giaccone," he said. Giaccone, owner of Interiors by Kate in Sonora, Calif., analyzes photographs for making a home more attractive by adding, subtracting and rearranging items.

Most of the staging is done through e-mails and phone conferences between Giaccone and Kapowich's clients. Kapowich pays around $350 when his clients and Giaccone have only phone calls.

Sometimes, she visits the client's home and in that case, the price goes up to $500. If she does a traditional staging, she charges $2,000 to $3,000 for the first 30 days when she rents the furniture.

"I take around 100 photos from the exterior and the interior of a house for my stager," Kapowich said. "Each of them is numbered and I create a website."

Then Giaccone creates a list to help the sellers stage each room of their home.

"I have three phone conferences to give them advice about their furniture, the paint and to improve the style of their home," she said. "I usually tell them to repaint the exterior, to change the front door or the mailbox to impress the buyers."

Kapowich said virtual staging advice has really been helpful for his business.

"Before using cyberstaging, I sold a home in less than 20 days," he said. "Now in less than 10 days the houses are not on the market anymore."

He is sure that virtual staging has a positive influence and a great future for the real estate market.

"When companies in the real estate world will use cyberstaging, it will explode and almost all the staging will be only virtual staging," he said.

That's a point of view that Lin does not share.

"Cyberstaging will not replace traditional staging and redesigning," she said. "When you pass the front door, you are able to feel the particular atmosphere of the home, which is not the case with virtual staging. You have absolutely no feeling and the result is not as good as it is with traditional staging."