Using virtual furniture can be a bit like online dating.
After months of flicking through pages and pages of prospective singles (homes), you stumble across the person of your dreams (three bedroom apartment in the CBD). Now is the time to make contact – the first date (the viewing). But instead, you find yourself at a candlelight dinner sitting opposite a dud.
“I am sure there have been people who have turned up to a viewing of a home that have thought that doesn’t look quite right,” says Jacque Parker, director of House Search Australia, an independent buyer’s agent.
STANDING OUT FROM THE REST
For years, agents have been finding new and innovative ways to ‘spruce up’ properties so as to catch the eye of potential buyers, and virtual furniture is a technology solution that is increasingly grabbing attention.
There is, however, a line to be drawn between selling a property using techniques to highlight its best qualities and potentially misleading a client, says Ms Parker.
“When virtual furniture is done well, I really think it can add to the experience of the home and is a great tool,” she says. “But it is very important that the agent adds a disclaimer, something along the lines of, ‘please note virtual furniture’, in order to flag to the potential buyer that this isn’t reality.
“Honesty and transparency is always best, and it is paramount to be up front with the people you deal with. It is no different from agents’ Photoshopping ugly power poles out of listing photos.
“As long as buyers are aware that the furniture is used as a presentation tool, then virtual furniture is a great innovation,” she says.
Christian Sharpe, principal at Ray White Victoria Park, just outside Perth, agrees that honesty is of the utmost importance when it comes to digitally enhancing a home in any way at all.
While Mr Sharpe is yet to use virtual furniture in his listings, he says that when he does, he’ll be sure to include a disclaimer with the image.
“When using virtual furniture, putting a plain disclaimer down the bottom is a must,” he says. “The fact is, the furniture is not real and if there wasn’t a disclaimer it could be classed as misleading. It is imperative that principals do not leave themselves open to any problems.”
Since launching virtual furniture on their website last year, V-Mark Design owner Dave Berry has seen interest in the new technology increasing almost by the day.
V-Mark Design provides creative services, like photography, video, virtual tours and graphic design for real estate agents and architects.
“We get enquiries about virtual furniture on a daily basis,” he says. “People are hearing about the technology and are interested in what it can add to their listing images.”
DRIVING BUYER INTEREST
According to Mr Berry, customised virtual furniture can bring unfurnished properties to life, creating depth, colour and character and making the empty room infinitely more eye catching and inviting.
“Our expert team of graphic designers uses their knowledge of interiors and imaging to add furniture from our extensive library to your vacant property,” he explains. “We create a realistic image of how a room would look if it had been professionally styled by an interior designer – at a fraction of the cost.”
The benefits of using virtual furniture are undeniable, claims Ms Parker.
“The digital images are a great guide on size and space, especially for those people who can’t imagine how the furniture is placed.
“First impressions do count, and these days people have a very small time span [available] –they flick easily between one and another image, and a picture of an empty room isn’t appealing,” she continues.
“Another positive a principal might not consider is that using these tools really gives the appearance that the vendor cares about the way their property is presented.
“If you get a vendor who has the world’s cheapest real estate agent and who hasn’t thought about marketing their home, a potential buyer will see that,” she says.
Also, according to Mr Berry, virtual furniture is a cheap alternative to hiring furniture from a stylist.
“Gone are the days of employing someone to come in and completely design the interior of the home,” he claims. “Instead of spending $5,000 to $10,000 for the same result, [virtual furniture] will only cost you a few hundred,” he says.
“It can be hard to sell an empty room, but put in a couch, coffee table and curtains and it is much more appealing to a buyer.”
As a buyer’s agent, Ms Parker knows what potential investors are looking for when viewing a property.
“We always get a very positive response when a property is dressed well,” she says. “It really does not help if a home is vacant.
“It appears to be a cold and sterile environment. When it comes to the option of virtual furniture or hiring furniture I would suggest buyers are looking for the real thing. But if cost is a consideration, then I don’t think virtual furniture is a bad idea at all. It definitely does the job, for a much cheaper price.”
Mr Sharpe considers the new technology to be another “string to the bow”.
“There is so much digital and traditional marketing available now, so it is very important for a principal to consider what it is that the property really needs,” he says.
“I can definitely see the merits of using virtual furniture.”