Beginners Guide

A Brief Guide To The Ethics Of Virtual Staging

A Brief Guide To The Ethics Of Virtual Staging

Virtual staging has become a great tool for both real estate photographers and agents. It offers the ability to showcase properties in their best light without the physical and financial constraints of traditional staging.

However, virtual staging can start to cross the line of potentially misrepresenting a property pretty quickly. In this article I’ll share a brief guide to the ethics of virtual staging.

Table of Contents

Why Ethics In Virtual Staging Is Important

By deciding that ethics is important when it comes to the use of virtual staging, you ensure that the real estate industry remains reputable and trusted by the public.

If you’re not yet offering virtual staging, give our article How Much to Charge for Virtual Staging a read to see how much it can help you and your business.

In today’s world of A.I. and advanced editing techniques, it’s not always easy for the general public to tell what is real and what is fake. This is something nobody should have to worry about when it comes to purchasing a home.

Misrepresenting a property, even if unintentional, can damage the reputation of the real estate professionals involved and the industry as a whole.

Ethical virtual staging respects the buyer’s right to make an informed decision based on accurate information. This respect for the buyer’s decision-making process is fundamental to ethical business practices.

As is the case with most questions of ethics, the line where virtual staging becomes unethical is not always clear cut. However, there are clear examples of what to not do when it comes to virtual staging.

Always be Transparent

One of the easiest and most important practices when it comes to virtual staging is the inclusion of a disclaimer stating that images have been virtually staged. Chances are you’ve seen these disclaimers on real estate images already.

This transparency is crucial as it informs potential buyers or renters that the furnishings and decor they see in the photographs are digital enhancements and not physically present in the property.

The disclaimer should be clearly visible so all viewers are fully aware of the virtual modifications made to the property’s images. Usually you’ll see these disclaimers in plain text at the bottom of the photo.

This simple practice allows everyone to continue trusting real estate photography they see online, and allows potential buyers to make informed decisions based on accurate representations of the property.

Virtually Stage, Not Alter, The Property

While virtual staging offers the ability to enhance the interior design and decoration of a property, it’s very important to refrain from making changes to the structure of the home. This means that virtual staging should focus solely on furnishings and decor.

Altering the structural elements of a property, such as removing walls, changing window sizes, or modifying architectural features, can mislead viewers about the property’s actual characteristics and layout. It can also potentially be  a violation of local MLS rules and regulations.

It may be tempting to fix cosmetic or structural issues in the photo since you’re spending so much time making the space look more appealing. However, doing so starts to cross the line and can misrepresent a home.

Maintaining the integrity of the property’s structure in virtual staging ensures that the digital presentation aligns with the property’s physical reality, keeping the trust between sellers, buyers, and real estate professionals.

Spatial Representation And Scale

Another critical ethical consideration is the accurate representation of the scale and size of the home and its spaces. Virtual staging should never be used to make a property appear larger or more spacious than it is.

Manipulating images to expand rooms, alter ceiling heights, or widen doorways can create false impressions of the property’s dimensions, leading to disappointment and mistrust when potential buyers visit the property in person.

This can be done subtly by adding in furniture that’s slightly smaller than it would be in real life, such as making it appear that the room can fit a full size sofa when it might not be feasible.

Some might argue that making a room appear larger in photography happens all the time due to wide-angle lenses. However, there is a clear difference between photographing the room as it is, and virtually altering the contents of a room to create a false impression.

Instead, virtual staging should enhance the aesthetic appeal of the property within its actual spatial constraints, highlighting the potential of the space without resorting to deceptive practices.

If the living room can’t fit a full sized sofa, that doesn’t mean you can’t tastefully create a living room with a love seat instead.

Additional Resources

If you’re just getting started in real estate photography, check out our Beginners Guide. It’s full of helpful articles and tips that will guide you in the right direction as you begin your real estate photography journey.

You can check out our Gear section as well to see reviews and recommendations on the latest real estate photography gear.

If you’re more interested in other resources that can help your real estate photography business, check out our Business Resources page.

The statements, opinions, and thoughts provided above reflect an individual’s account. This account reflects one individual’s experience and advice which is unique and outcomes and experiences may vary per individual. Neither ShowingTime+ or Zillow shall be liable for any and all damages attributed to the use of this information. Matthew Digati is an independent contributor to ShowingTime+.

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About author
Matthew Digati is a professional Real Estate and Architectural Photographer. Matthew has worked as a Real Estate and Architectural Photographer since 2015 and has photographed properties and projects all over the United States.
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