What Not To Do: Examples of Bad Virtual Staging

Virtual staging has emerged as a transformative tool in the real estate industry, leveraging digital technology to furnish and decorate properties in photographs. This innovative approach has grown in popularity due to its ability to showcase the potential of a space, making it more appealing to potential buyers browsing online listings. As the first impression is increasingly becoming digital, the quality of these virtual representations has never been more critical.

However, the concept of bad virtual staging introduces a significant caveat to this digital advancement. Bad virtual staging can refer to poorly executed, unrealistic, or misleading digital furnishings that fail to represent the physical space accurately. Such misrepresentations can lead to a disconnect between the buyer’s expectations and reality, potentially deterring interest and negatively impacting property sales.

The Importance of Virtual Staging in Today’s Market

A professionally staged home spends 73% less time on the market than those without staging. Virtual staging has revolutionized real estate marketing by offering a cost-effective and highly flexible alternative to traditional staging. This digital process allows sellers and agents to create visually appealing listings without the physical effort like brochures and the expense of decorating a property with real furniture and decor. The benefits of well-executed virtual staging are manifold:


Traditional staging can be expensive, involving rental fees for furniture and accessories, not to mention the logistics of moving items in and out of the property. Virtual staging eliminates these costs, offering a more affordable option that can be just as effective, if not more so, in enhancing the appeal of a property.

Increased Buyer Interest

A well-staged home typically generates more interest from potential buyers. Virtual staging allows for the optimal presentation of a property, highlighting its best features and demonstrating its potential. By creating an inviting and appealing space, virtual staging can capture the imagination of buyers, encouraging them to explore the property further.

Faster Sales

Staged properties, virtually stage or otherwise, sell faster than non-staged homes. A visually appealing listing can generate more interest, leading to more inquiries, viewings, and a quicker sale. Virtual staging helps create an emotional connection with potential buyers, enabling them to envision themselves living in the space, which is a powerful motivator in decision-making.

Examples of Bad Virtual Staging Practices

Unrealistic Enhancements – Adding furniture or features that misrepresent the actual size and scale of a room, using overly bright or unnatural lighting, and incorporating decor that doesn’t fit the space or architectural style.

Poor Quality Images – Low-resolution images, awkward angles that distort space perception, or images that clearly look edited or artificial.

Misleading Representations – Showcasing features the property does not possess, like fireplaces and pools, or altering significant aspects of the property, such as window views or structural elements.

Overcrowding Rooms – Digitally inserting too much furniture, making the space seem larger or more functional than it actually is.

Changing Key Features – Digitally altering wall colors, flooring, or key architectural elements can create a false impression of the property’s condition or style.

Inconsistent Styles – Using a hodgepodge of styles and furnishings that clash with each other or the home’s architecture leads to a confusing presentation.

The Impact of Bad Virtual Staging

Negative First Impressions – When potential buyers visit a property and find that it significantly differs from its online portrayal, it can lead to disappointment and mistrust. An unrealistic or poorly executed virtual staging can make it difficult for buyers to trust their own perceptions or what the seller is presenting.

Misrepresentation Issues – There are legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind. Misleading potential buyers, even unintentionally, can lead to legal challenges or at least damage a real estate agent’s or seller’s reputation. Maintaining honesty and transparency in how a property is presented is crucial.

Impact on Sale Time and Price – Properties that don’t meet buyers’ expectations will likely stay on the market longer. This can lead to price reductions and potentially lower final sale prices. Buyers may also feel the need to negotiate more aggressively if they feel misled by the staging.

How to Identify Bad Virtual Staging

Virtual staging has become a fundamental tool in real estate marketing, allowing potential buyers to visualize properties in their best light. However, not all virtual staging is created equal. Here are some key indicators of poor virtual staging that can detract from a property’s appeal:

Disproportionate Furniture

One of the most obvious signs of bad virtual staging is furniture that doesn’t fit the room’s scale. Pieces may appear too large or small, making the space feel awkward and uninviting. Good virtual staging should respect the room’s proportions, ensuring furniture fits comfortably and enhances the space.

Unnatural Lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood of a space. Poor virtual staging often features inconsistent or unnatural lighting, making the interiors look flat or unrealistic. Look for signs of lighting that don’t match the source or direction of light in the rest of the photo, such as shadows that fall in the wrong direction or rooms that are unnaturally bright or dark.

Inconsistent Styles

A lack of cohesive style throughout the staged photos can indicate poor virtual staging. Furniture and decor that clash with the property’s architectural style or vary wildly from room to room can distract from the property’s features and make the space feel disjointed.

Lack of Depth and Texture

Virtual staging that fails to add depth and texture to a room can result in a flat, lifeless appearance. Good staging should include elements like rugs or towels for kitchen staging and dining room staging and pillows for bedrooms that add warmth and depth, making the space more inviting.

Obvious Edits

Look for signs of poor editing, such as blurry edges around furniture, mismatched perspectives, or furniture that seems to “float” without casting appropriate shadows. These are clear indicators of a rushed or inexperienced virtual staging effort.

The Importance of Professional Standards in Virtual Staging

Professional and ethical standards in virtual staging are paramount to maintaining trust in the real estate market. Here’s why adhering to these standards is crucial:

Accurate Representation

Ethical virtual staging should accurately represent the property, enhancing its appearance without misleading potential buyers about its condition, size, or features. Overstating or making significant alterations can lead to disappointment and mistrust.

Professional Quality

High-quality virtual staging requires a skilled professional who understands interior design, architecture, and photography. Investing in professional virtual staging services ensures the images are realistic, appealing, and beneficial in showcasing the property’s potential.


Transparency about the use of virtual staging is essential. Clearly disclosing which images have been virtually staged helps maintain honesty in your listings and ensures that potential buyers are fully informed.

Respecting the Property’s Integrity

While virtual staging can help highlight a property’s strengths, it’s important to respect the property’s inherent character and potential. Professional virtual staging should enhance, not completely overhaul, a property’s appearance to attract the right buyers.

Tips for Avoiding Bad Virtual Staging

Choosing the Right Virtual Staging Company

Experience and Portfolio – Look for companies with extensive experience and a diverse portfolio showcasing various styles and property types. This indicates their ability to handle various staging scenarios effectively.

Technology and Realism – The provider should use the latest technology to ensure the virtual staging looks as realistic as possible. Realism in textures, lighting, and furniture scale is crucial to avoid misleading potential buyers.

Customer Reviews and Testimonials – Check for customer feedback and testimonials. A reputable company should have positive reviews highlighting reliability, quality, and customer service.

Pricing and Flexibility – Consider the pricing structures and ensure they offer flexibility to accommodate your needs, whether staging a few rooms or an entire property.

Maintaining a Balance

Complement, Don’t Overpower – Virtual staging should enhance the real attributes of the property, not overshadow them. Use furniture and decor that complement the space’s dimensions and natural lighting.

Honest Representation – Ensure the staging does not mislead potential buyers about the property’s condition or features. Avoid adding or removing structural elements digitally.

Quality Control

Review with a Critical Eye – Before listing, critically review the staged images for any inconsistencies or unrealistic elements. It’s helpful to get a second opinion from colleagues or friends.

Consistency Across Platforms – Ensure the staged images look consistent across different online platforms and devices. Color calibration and image resolution can vary, affecting the presentation quality.

DIY Virtual Staging: Pros, Cons, and How-To

Software and Tools:

Software Options – Introduce readers to popular virtual staging software such as RoOomy, Virtual Stager, and BoxBrownie. Discuss how these tools offer varying degrees of usability, from user-friendly interfaces to more complex features that require a learning curve.


Cost – effective compared to hiring professionals; allows for personal creativity and customization; flexibility to experiment with different designs.


Time-consuming; requires a learning curve to produce professional-quality images; may not achieve the same level of realism as professional services.

Step-by-Step Guide

Choose the Right Software – Based on your skill level and the property’s specific needs, select a virtual home staging software that suits you.

Prepare the Space – Start with high-quality, virtually staged photos of the empty house Ensure good lighting and clear images to simplify the staging process.

Select Furniture and Decor – Choose items that fit the property’s style and enhance its features. Consider the scale and placement carefully to create a realistic and appealing scene.

Edit and Refine – Use the software’s tools to adjust lighting, shadows, and textures to make the scene as realistic as possible. Pay attention to details.

Feedback and Revision – Share the staged images with others for feedback. Revise based on input to improve the staging quality.

How to Work with a Virtual Staging Company

Virtual staging allows potential buyers to visualize a property’s potential without needing physical staging.

However, not all virtual staging cost are created equal, and poor execution can lead to what many refer to as “bad virtual staging,” which can mislead potential buyers or detract from a property’s appeal. Here’s how to effectively select and work with a virtual staging company to ensure high-quality results that enhance your listings.

Selection Criteria

1. Portfolio Examination – Review the company’s portfolio to assess the quality and realism of its virtual staging. Look for various styles and settings that align with your properties and market expectations. A diverse and high-quality portfolio is a good indicator of a company’s capabilities.

2. Technology and Tools – Inquire about the company’s technology and software. The best virtual staging companies utilize advanced software to render realistic images, textures, and lighting effects.

3. Experience and Expertise – Consider the company’s experience in the real estate sector and its understanding of current market trends. Companies with a solid track record in virtual staging will likely produce better outcomes.

4. Reviews and References – Look for customer reviews and ask for references. Feedback from past clients can provide insights into the company’s reliability, customer service quality, and the effectiveness of their virtual staging.

5. Turnaround Time and Pricing – Clarify the expected turnaround time for staged photos and ensure it meets your listing schedule. Additionally, discuss pricing upfront to avoid any hidden costs. Competitive pricing that aligns with market rates and service quality is key.

6. Customization and Flexibility – Ensure the company offers customization options and is willing to adjust to your needs. Flexibility in accommodating revisions and tailoring staging to reflect the property’s unique features is crucial.

Collaboration Tips

1. Clear Communication – Establish clear communication channels from the start. Specify your expectations, target audience, and any particular styles or themes you envision for the property. Effective communication prevents misunderstandings and ensures the final product meets your requirements.

2. Provide Detailed Information – The more information you can provide about the property, the better. Share listing photos, floor plans, and any specific details or features you want to be highlighted in the staging. This helps the virtual stagers to create more accurate and appealing images.

3. Set Realistic Expectations – While virtual staging can significantly enhance a property’s appeal, keeping expectations realistic is important. Discuss with the staging company what is feasible within your budget and timeline to avoid disappointments.

4. Review and Feedback – Review them carefully once preliminary images are provided. Provide constructive feedback and request revisions if necessary. Be specific about the changes needed to ensure the final images meet your satisfaction.

5. Ethical Considerations – Ensure the virtual staging does not misrepresent the property. Maintaining integrity by making the staged images as realistic as possible, avoiding adding elements that could mislead potential buyers.

6. Leverage Expertise – Finally, trust the expertise of the virtual staging company. While your input is crucial, allowing the professionals to guide the process based on their experience and knowledge of market trends can lead to the best outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is virtual staging?

Virtual staging uses digital tools and software to furnish and decorate a property’s interior or exterior in photos. It’s a cost-effective way to make a property more appealing to potential buyers by showcasing its potential without needing physical furniture or decor.

How can virtual staging negatively impact a real estate listing?

Bad virtual staging can negatively impact a listing by creating unrealistic expectations. If the digital enhancements are too far removed from the property’s actual condition, it can lead to disappointment and distrust among potential buyers when they visit the property in person.

What are some common signs of bad virtual staging?

Common signs include unrealistic proportions of furniture and decor, poor lighting that doesn’t match the natural light of the room, and styles that don’t fit the property’s architecture. Additionally, overuse of virtual staging to hide flaws or alter the property’s true condition can be misleading.

How can I avoid bad virtual staging?

To avoid bad virtual staging, work with reputable and experienced professionals who understand real estate marketing and have a portfolio of realistic virtual staging examples. Ensure the virtual staging reflects the property’s actual potential and uses appropriate, realistic furniture and decor.

Does virtual staging affect the sale price or time on market?

Quality virtual staging can positively affect both the sale price and the time on market by attracting more interest and helping potential buyers visualize themselves in the home. However, poor virtual staging can have the opposite effect, leading to longer time on market and potentially lower offers if buyers feel misled.

Is virtual staging ethical?

Virtual staging is ethical as long as it is used responsibly to enhance the presentation of a property without misleading potential buyers. It should not be used to hide significant flaws or alter the property’s condition but rather to showcase its best potential.

How do buyers feel about virtually staged properties?

Most buyers understand and appreciate the value of virtually staged properties for visualizing the space’s potential. However, transparency about the staging and realistic representations are key to maintaining trust and a positive perception.


Avoiding bad virtual staging is crucial in real estate marketing to maintain integrity, attract genuine interest, and ultimately facilitate a successful sale. Quality virtual staging should enhance a property’s appearance while staying true to its actual condition and potential.

When used correctly, it’s a powerful tool, offering an imaginative glimpse into a property’s possibilities without misleading potential buyers that can cost you liabilities even after selling the property. By adhering to best practices and working with reputable professionals, real estate agents can leverage virtual staging effectively, ensuring that it serves as an asset rather than a detriment to their listings.

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