Quiz: Can You Guess If These Homes for Sale Have Real or Virtual Furniture?

Telling the physical from the digital is harder than you think.

We’ve all been there. You’re settling in with a warm blanket, a mug of tea, and your fully charged laptop for a night full of your favorite pastime: looking through Zillow listings. It’s not just the homes you like, but the design. Look at this stunning mid-century modern living room with its brown leather sectional! And the cowskin rug and macrame wall hangings? Inspired. And don’t forget the books on the built-in bookshelves. But wait a minute. Are those books real? Suddenly you’re realizing there’s no titles on the book spines. The fruit in the decorative bowl on the table looks a little too perfect. And why is the reflection of the window in the TV screen so distinct? Is this good photography … or a trick of the mind?

Getting fooled by virtual staging when looking at listings happens to the best of us—literally. Just ask Lauren Perry, a senior associate at the residential real estate firm, Senné.

“My eye gets tricked when looking at properties every day,” she says.

While some virtual staging is fairly obvious, too many people have been fooled looking at a listing only to see it in person and realize the home is empty. While Senné doesn’t use virtual staging, Perry says the appeal of doing so is real. Empty rooms leave “too much to the imagination” and it can be quicker to turn around than an actual staging and for a lower cost. But the downside is the tech now is so good, you face potentially downtrodden buyers who might walk in and be disappointed when the perfectly decorated house they saw online is just empty rooms.

“That’s never the emotion you want selling a home,” Perry says.

Still, as technology improves and our reliance on it increases in a COVID-world, digital staging is becoming more prevalent and less obvious. Can you guess which of these properties are virtually staged?