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Tips on virtual staging

virtual staging

Find out how estate agents can use virtual home staging to it’s full effect. This trend has taken off in the USA and is growing fast in South Africa.

Covid-19 has had a major effect on the traditional real estate market, and agents have had to rethink their marketing strategies. Show houses, face-to-face appointments, and driving around neighborhoods with potential buyers have fallen by the wayside. In their place are virtual tours, Zoom meetings, and an increased focus on online marketing.

Home staging is another emerging market trend that estate agents’ are adding to their arsenals. Although it’s not yet as popular as in the USA, it’s fast catching on in the upper ends of the market. With the pandemic still a major concern, this trend may well come to the fore, only now, it’ll be in virtual form.

Virtual staging explained

According to Pam Golding, the purpose of home staging is to showcase a property, so it’s appealing to the greatest number of buyers. It’s the art of styling a residence in a way that highlights its positive attributes and downplays its flaws. Its purpose is to sell the house as quickly as possible at the best price.

Virtual staging takes this idea one step further.

This type of staging is the process of enhancing photographs of a property using software to arrange furniture and décor inside spaces digitally. In the same way that you can add objects when you’re staging a property traditionally, doing so virtually allows you to add whatever you feel enhances the space.

Avoid accusations of misrepresentation

Virtual staging, of course, also presents the opportunity to present a place to be far more appealing than it is in real life. Just imagine your buyers seeing the property for the first time only to discover that their dream home more resembles a fixer-upper than a brand-new house. To avoid accusations of misrepresentation, always indicate that the image is a virtually staged presentation after you have successfully digitally altered a photograph. Also ensure that the digital enhancer doesn’t cover up any of the cracks, stains or other issues within the property.

For estate agents who want to take advantage of the resilience of the SA housing market and use virtual staging to its full potential, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Turn the lights on

One of the first things you’ll need to do is turn all the lights on in every room in the house, even in broad daylight. This will give your pictures a more natural, warmer look, and will be of great help to virtual staging editors. They’ll be able to deal with shading and shadows more easily this way, making every room feel organic and realistic when adding virtual furniture.

Turn the lights on to give your pictures a more natural, warmer look.

Turn the lights on to give your pictures a more natural, warmer look.

Work the angles

Get as much of the room as possible into each photo. Try taking the pictures slightly off of the room’s corners, making sure to include the space’s most prominent features, like built-in shelving, a fireplace, and any windows. Place yourself so that your back is towards the room’s dead space and fit in as much of the area as you possibly can.

Shoot in landscape mode

When you orient your shot, ensure that you’re taking pictures in landscape mode, not portrait. This means that the image will be wider than it is tall, showing more area, and allowing graphic designers to use this extra space by adding virtual furniture.

Focus on the floor, not the ceiling

There should be double the amount of floor and wall areas of the room in your shot as there is ceiling. It’s on the floor and walls that most of the virtual décor and furniture will be placed.

Property specialists Private Property suggests using the same orientation for every image and ensure it provides a good floor to ceiling ratio. Take some time to double-check that your pictures allow for the maximum amount of space for furniture and decor.

Keep rooms as empty as possible

The main purpose of virtual staging is to bring décor and furniture into an empty house. Keeping the rooms as empty as possible is your primary objective.

Remove distractions like extra decorations, furniture, toys, and any unnecessary clutter. You want to create a blank canvas for the virtual staging artist to work their magic.

Shoot during the golden hour

The Golden Hour got its name by being the ideal time to shoot photographs, and it typically occurs twice a day. It’s the first hour after sunrise and the last hour of light before the sun sets, and it changes from summer to winter.

Keep this in mind for your photo shoot, but be wary of windows facing directly into the sun. Sunlight pouring in through these during this time can create harsh shadows or overexpose the image.

Take high-quality photos

Designers stage furniture by carefully designing it to resemble the real thing.  Because of this, you’ll need to take the best possible high-resolution photos to make sure the final results don’t end up looking fake.

Taking photographs on your phone or a plain point-and-shoot camera is not a good idea. Experts recommend you use a digital single-lens reflex camera and shoot in a RAW file format. This will give virtual staging editors the best chance of creating realistic-looking spaces.

Use an HDR camera

The best camera option is a DSLR with a feature for auto exposure bracketing. This will let you use high dynamic range imaging, getting your pictures ready for their virtual staging.

HDR images are a series of photographs of a single subject, but each picture is taken at a different exposure level and shutter speed. Each of these Bracketed Photos will show varying degrees of luminosity, and they’ll be blended together using photo-editing software. The result is a single image that has every area displayed in perfect exposure, emphasizing all the details flawlessly.

Use proper lenses

You’re going to need a camera lens that’s at least 18 mm and at most 200 mm to start with. But stay away from fisheye lenses and ultra-wide-angle lenses. These lenses cause distortion, which makes your built-in features, floors, and walls look higher or longer than they truly are.

Select the best images

 As with most photographic projects, you’ll want to shoot plenty of pictures using different angles and camera settings. The more photos you have to choose from, the better.

Once you have your images loaded on the editing software, narrow your collection down to the ones that suit digital enhancement the best.

According to ooba CEO Rhys Dryer, the interest rate cuts throughout 2020 have contributed to the revival of the property market. South Africans who were previously unable to afford property are now benefitting from the low rates and reduced transfer fees. For estate agents wanting to stay competitive in this burgeoning marketplace, the use of technologically advanced tools and techniques like virtual staging will be key. By utilizing tech to boost marketing efforts and buyer engagement, agencies can set themselves apart from the rest.

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