Best of 2020: Quality is Key For Luxury Virtual Staging

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Barion Design has virtually staged over 50,000 luxury properties — including this LA manse.

 [Editor’s Note: This year has been a decade, right? So many things happened, lots of things were postponed, and houses continued to sell despite it all. While the team takes a hot minute this holiday season to recharge the ol’ Energizers, we’re serving up our very favorite stories from 2020. Enjoy!]

Elaine: The art director in me has always been fascinated by the incredible advances made in virtual staging. Thanks to discerning eye of Compass Realtor Brad Ritz, I was introduced (not to mention, blown away) by the uber-talented Ilaria Barion. A pioneer in the field, her eponymous company Barion Designs, was among the first to transform empty spaces into totally cool (and believable!) furnished homes. I chose this story for my Designer’s Corner “Best Of” because even though COVID has brought more attention to virtual staging, it’s an alternative that’s definitely here to stay.

A recent AD PRO article posed the question: Will virtual staging become the new norm? Just ask Compass Realtor Brad Ritz. He and wife/partner Kelli agree it’s extremely valuable in helping to sell expensive homes that are vacant, sparsely furnished, or in need of a refresh.  

“Our strategy for some of our listings involves true, designer-level curated staging,” says Brad. “The idea is to create an exciting product in the marketplace that becomes a must-see by anyone shopping in those price bands.”

The Plano property living room before staging. (The Ritz Group)
He’ll also tell you that not all virtual stagers are created equal. Who you work with matters.

Searching out the best of the best comes naturally for Brad and Kelli. The pair operated successful multi-line retail showrooms in Dallas and Los Angeles before switching to real estate in 2016. An unwavering, non-negotiable commitment to quality is the common denominator.

The Plano game room before virtual staging.

“There’s tremendous parity with the type of marketing and sales experience we’ve enjoyed for over 30 years. We look at each listing or client as if it were a start-up and think in terms of the investment needed to achieve the expected results,” says Brad.

Case in point: a half-acre, transitional, ’90s-style Plano estate located on a golf course. It had been with another major broker for more than 550 days when the Ritz Group received the listing.

The Plano office gets a virtual makeover.

The perfect blank canvas, Brad enlisted the talents of an acclaimed bespoke virtual design company to help fulfill his vision. It proved a worthwhile expenditure.

In less than 60 days, there were two competing offers.

For Ilaria Barion, owner of Barion Design, virtual staging allows home buyers to recognize a property’s potential. Since opening her design-centric business 10 years ago, the industry veteran has seen the cost of physical staging skyrocket.

A six-story New York City townhouse. (Virtual Staging by Barion Design)

“Virtual is much less,” she says. “You pay once and that’s it. It doesn’t matter whether the house is on the market six weeks or six months.”

Ilaria also points out that Barion Design isn’t a tech company. “Our focus is home styling. Every design is from scratch. It’s all done in-house.”

Austin, TX (Virtual Staging by Barion Design)

Aesthetics are crucial. It’s impossible to get upscale results hiring someone who’s never worked in the industry.

“It needs to look real to entice home buyers,” says Ilaria.

Virtual staging is not about rendering a sofa into a picture, she adds. It requires several different software programs, highly trained graphic designers, and, most importantly, home staging experts.

Compass Chief Evangelist Leonard Steinberg is another proponent, according to AD PRO. He calls virtual staging “an incredibly effective marketing tool in showcasing what could be.”

This past April, Compass rolled out new tools — including a 3D staging feature, videos of listings, and virtual neighborhood tours — to help its agents show properties online.

San Francisco, CA (Virtual Staging by Barion Design)

“The options are unlimited,” says Illaria. “We can do anything.” (Think painting the walls, refinishing the floors, replacing light fixtures, even changing the color of kitchen cabinets.)

And while the coronavirus may have brought more attention to virtual staging, it just highlighted something that was already there.

“More and homes are being sold sight, unseen — often without setting foot in the property,” says Ilaria. “Remember travel agents?”


Elaine Raffel

Having left the corporate world to launch her own freelance creative business, Elaine Raffel is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the mega-talented Dallas homebuilding community. She credits her work with top fashion and design brands for teaching her one inarguably valuable lesson: that truly great work is always a collaboration.

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