By now, everyone has heard how some with a flair for decorating can bring in nice furniture, some objet d’art, and make an empty home or apartment look sweet and stylish when the Realtor or leasing agent comes calling with renters or buyers. There has been an enormous boom in this type of home staging business in New York City and others, as more empty homes, apartments and lofts have competed for fewer buyers. And those fewer buyers sometime have a difficult time visualizing how they would put furniture into that empty home/apartment/loft, so interior decorators who may be underemployed due to the housing bust fill the void, for a fee.
But when the vast majority of buyers and renters start their home search not pounding the pavements, but at sites such as New York Craig’s List or Trulia’s New York City listings – and Hollywood’s virtual effects are easily replicated on most anyone’s desktop, why do we need to physically lug furniture around from warehouse, to apartment and back, just to make an unfurnished home look furnished? It’s time for Home Staging 2.0 – Virtual Staging.
“What is virtual home staging – will it make my plain apartment look like a set from the new Tron movie?” In a word, no. Actually, virtual staging images look pretty much like regular photographs of staged homes, or at least they should.
An unfurnished Manhattan (or any other location) property can be virtually staged in one of two ways. The most common method right now is the recreation of the layout of an unfurnished room in a warehouse type setting, with furniture and other décor added to the scene. Then, a photo is shot at the same angle and eye level as the one that was supplied to the property owner or realtor. The new furniture-filled photo is then photoshopped into the unfurnished photo and voilà – an inviting image of residential coziness and style is been rendered, which can then hopefully grab the attention away from it’s unfurnished New York City Craig’s List competitors, and get the place rented or better yet – sold.
The other way virtual staging can happen, is with 3D virtual models of the unfurnished room. Software can be used to determine the exact dimensions and perspective from the room’s photo (think vanishing points and horizon line, for you former Art 101 students.) Then, the 3D modeler inserts more models of furniture, carpet, paintings, etc. into the room model. After a satisfactory arrangement has been developed – a digital “shot” is taken with new “photos” photoshopped into the unfurnished scenes. In skilled hands, the end product is almost indistinguishable from the furniture photo process. In fact, it may be much better, as some examples of the first process have funky, twisted furniture, looking a bit like a Salvador Dali painting because the photos didn’t quite match, and the furniture photo has been shoe-horned into the original unfurnished home scene. Virtual Stagers have access to furniture models of all styles, so creating an appropriate New York style interior – whether it be Sleek SoHo Loft or Cozy Pre-War Apartment in the Upper East Side, is not a problem.
Of course, the big difference between virtual staging and real staging, is that when the buyers or renters arrive – there is no furniture in the apartment. This minor conundrum can be anticipated, and addressed with a nice color hand out – showing the virtually staged, beautiful and photo-realistic renderings of residential bliss – along side the original unfurnished photos. That way, the Realtor or owner has been completely honest about both the potential AND the actual state of the home, and everyone can be satisfied that this sweet and stylish pad is virtually perfect.