Ilaria Barion’s Virtual Staging Brings Imagination to Life in the Real Estate Market

Ilaria Barion’s Virtual Staging brings imagination to life in real estate.
A home after virtual staging.

If you’ve bought or sold a home in the past decade or two, you might be familiar with the concept of staging—preparing a residence for sale in the real estate market, which might include placement of furniture or other changes to interior and exterior décor. “Physical home staging started in California more than 25 years ago,” says Stillwater businesswoman Ilaria Barion, owner and principal of Virtual Staging. Several years ago, as part of her physical staging business for new luxury market condominiums in Manhattan, Barion kept warehouse space for nearly 900 pieces of furniture and accessories she personally owned, ready for placement in a property for sale.

Then came the housing market crash of 2008. “People who were selling homes after the crash were often selling at a loss and didn’t have the $15,000 to $60,000 (in New York, for example) to spend on physical staging.” A new marketing concept appeared on the horizon: virtual staging, a process by which a home is enhanced via computer with furniture, paint and other decorating effects. There are three main advantages of virtual staging over physical, says Barion: cost, time and a wider variety of staging options. As an example of all three, a virtual staging might include a grand piano or a billiards table. The cost to procure and place, time and effort to actually move, and practical availability of either asset clearly favors virtual staging, she points out.

Barion started her own virtual staging business, Virtual Staging LLC, out of Chicago in 2010. “You can do much more in virtual staging than physical staging,” she says, including making changes to furniture, wall or kitchen cabinet color, flooring, window treatments, even landscaping. A typical question about the practice is whether or not it is misleading to the potential buyer. “It’s all about disclosure,” she says, adding that’s up to the agent. Many people have trouble imagining a space; virtual staging simply helps them see what is possible.

As an example of the value of virtual staging to a home seller, Barion shares the oft-repeated advice that a kitchen remodel often helps a house sell. But while such a remodel can cost sellers $40,000 or more, a virtual staging of painted kitchen cabinets can give potential buyers a vision of an updated kitchen.

Physically staging a home has traditionally been the seller’s expense. One aspect of virtual staging beneficial to both buyer and seller is that virtual staging is generally an expense born by the real estate agent or the realty agency. Realtor David Abele has worked with Ilaria Barion’s Virtual Staging on several Twin Cities-area home sales. “Every real estate agent is looking for a marketing boost,” he says. With virtual staging, he says, a property can be presented in a wide variety of styles (modern, contemporary or classic).

Barion, who was born in northern Italy, moved to Minnesota three years ago. From here she conducts Virtual Staging’s business around the country, and is still trying to increase local interest. She describes her office space in Stillwater as “a cool loft in an old building,” and when she’s there, she’s likely accompanied by her dog. Her business supports a small cadre of “graphic design wizards interested in real estate,” she says.

Staging a home can put your wildest design dreams into vision. Set your imagination free at the Virtual Staging LLC website.