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What to make of virtually staged listings

Out of sheer nosiness, I’ll occasionally look at listings in our building. One floored me: I had no idea our neighbors were so chic! Then I clicked the next photo and saw reality: a vacant unit with rusty radiators and peeling paint. It was virtually staged — digitally repaired and repainted, with new lighting, furniture and art added to the photos.

Welcome to the brave new world of virtual staging: no matter how terrible a place looks in person, it can be magically transformed for the Internet — with the help of a little computer-generated imaging.

It’s often hard to tell actual from imaginary space. Architects have always produced renderings, and agents stage with rented furnishings, but now it’s commonplace to do it all on the computer.

Scott Harris of Brown Harris Stevens likes it.

“Virtual staging is really helpful to give buyers a glimpse of the future,” he said. “New floors, new kitchens appear magically — all without a seller having to commit to doing that work before selling. Buyers often can’t see themselves in an unrenovated space. They need help with the vision part.”

Unlike some agents, Harris shows the unvarnished floors, too.

“We always show the actual condition,” he explained. “It’s important not to create a feeling of disappointment when buyers arrive. Our relationships with agents and buyers are built on trust and I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone. There are many opportunities for agents to grow buyers’ trust, and many ways to erode it. I wish all agents took the longer view, which requires truth in advertising.”

Here are four listings — three staged virtually, and one decidedly not

A one-bedroom at 167 Perry St. as it actually exists, above.

A one-bedroom at 167 Perry St. as it actually exists, above.

The same Perry St. apartment “virtually staged” with furnishings added via computer imaging.

The same Perry St. apartment “virtually staged” with furnishings added via computer imaging.

A one-bedroom, one-bath in a doorman co-op at 167 Perry St., with river views, a wood-burning fireplace and a small balcony is on the market for $1,399,000.

https://www.bhsusa.com/manhattan/downtown/167-perry-street-3n/coop/19267685

Virtual furnishings lend a hip feeling to this Hudson St. pad.

Virtual furnishings lend a hip feeling to this Hudson St. pad.

In far west Soho, a one-bedroom, one-bath with high ceilings and huge windows at 255 Hudson St. is for sale for $1,175,000.
https://www.bhsusa.com/manhattan/downtown/255-hudson-street-5f/condo/19401875

Festival virtual furnishings enliven this Upper East Side offering.

Festival virtual furnishings enliven this Upper East Side offering.

In Carnegie Hill, a two-bedroom, one-bath in a doorman building has a serene bedroom sporting the kind of complicated bed linens you rarely see in real life. $999,999.
https://streeteasy.com/building/60-east-96-street-new_york/6c

The real McCoy: The photo of this E. 50s flat features the actual furnishings.

The real McCoy: The photo of this E. 50s flat features the actual furnishings.

Nothing virtual about 434 E. 52nd St., a two-bedroom, two-bath with yards of built-in bookshelves, 13-foot ceilings, and a wood-burning fireplace, going for $1,695,000.
https://streeteasy.com/building/434-east-52-street-new_york/4e

BY MARTHA WILKIE