Is virtual staging ethical?
Much has been said about the benefits of “staging” your home when you want to sell in order to make it appear lighter, more spacious and more appealing to prospective buyers.

“And there is obviously nothing wrong with dressing up a property to look its best on show day,” says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group. “Similarly, there is nothing wrong with photographing the best features of a property to use with an online listing.

“But with the rapidly increasing use of technology in real estate advertising and househunting, a new phenomenon has entered the market. This is ‘virtual staging’ in which photos of the property are altered or enhanced according to what agents or sellers think will draw the best response from potential buyers.”

Some examples, he says, are to electronically excise power lines or cellphone towers from photos showing an otherwise lovely view, or to alter photos so that a dingy kitchen with dark-painted walls looks sunny and bright, or so that a dirty swimming pool looks blue and inviting.

“We are seeing these effects and others enabled by photo-editing software more and more, and I am really not sure such practices are ethical. It is regarded as misleading marketing to “doctor” photos of a property for sale when they are placed in print advertising, so why should it be allowed on property websites?”

At the very least, says Everitt, the fact that photos with a listing have been altered and are only representative should be disclosed – as is the case with the architects’ impressions often used to market off-plan developments.

“However, is the absence of any specific regulations regarding virtual staging at present, it becomes even more important for homebuyers to view and assess properties themselves before deciding to purchase.

“In addition, the growing awareness of the practice is likely to make prospective buyers more choosy about which real estate companies they do business with. Thus we believe that those who are currently using virtual staging will only gain a short-term advantage.”

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