Real estate shoppers have been sold on the concept of pre-qualifying their properties of interest via a real estate video for a long time now. But realtors have been slow to jump into the parade.
Many realtors avoid online video marketing either due to costs, time restraints or the belief that they lose out by not having that initial face-to-face with a prospective client.
It's a tough market right now for real estate - you can't avoid the news across the country about dropping values. Many realtors might be tightening their advertising budgets and real estate videos might be the first thing they think of as fluff or luxury expenses. On the contrary, now is a good time to get videos working - because a new wave of viewers are looking for something new and those archaic methods of olde just don't work anymore.
Why Real Estate Video?
Because there's a need for it, whether all realtors realize this or not! Starting a home business based on online video marketing is an ideal approach during the current economic climate. A real estate market exists, boom or bust. While there's a downturn in sales this doesn't mean people have stopped real estate marketing efforts or that people aren't buying homes. It means the climate is perfect for a videographer seeking to establish a niche in online video marketing with video promotion and video advertising of real estate videos.
Assess the Market
Your first step is to comb the local area realty companies and representatives and get interviews. Don't simply ask them if they already have someone handling their video production, use online video marketing, or do real estate videos themselves. Ask them what's working for them or not, then be prepared to tell them how you can make it better. It's not always a price-based strategy.
Gaining audience with realtors or realty companies is your opportunity to further discus the good, bad and ugly of their current experience with real estate videos. Without going into a pitch first, take the opportunity to ask why video or not, see if the focus is on price, quality or turnaround times. Get a perspective of what the realtor wants, wishes and consider the reality of these wants and wishes. Find out if they've had a bad experience with previous video services providers and what turned them off.
By focusing on their needs, expectations or demands with answers based on what you can actually do and for how much, both of you can find a mutually beneficial arrangement. Or sometimes not, but never promise or attempt to deliver more than you know you're personally capable of. Disappointment will follow and that's bad business.
Who's the Boss?
Once you get a gig, your new realtor client will suggest what to shoot and what to share. Rarely will it be your responsibility to decide what elements of a property to feature in your real estate video production. It will, however, be up to you to determine the best angles, lighting needs or stability application you'd need - tripod, stabilizer, monopod or slider. The client is the boss, but you're the expert. Your job here is to not only make a well-produced video, but to convince the realtor that a morning shoot for that particular side of the street might be better than the late afternoon the agent slotted for the video production.
What Gear Do You Need?
Your equipment needs are relatively simple. You need a capable video camcorder, of course, tripod, some auxiliary lighting equipment, a microphone for recording decent narrative and a computer capable of handling your audio/video editing needs, plus the software to handle these elements.
Camera(s) and Lenses: Any camcorder or DSLR that shoots video should work, although you need to keep in mind that you might need to attach lights, mics and a tripod, so it shouldn't be one from the bottom of the food chain that doesn't have these capabilities. You might also need a wide-angle lens, so before you buy, make sure your fixed-lens camera can accommodate a lens adapter. If you've got a removable lens then it is time to narrow your options by which lenses will work with your mount and eliminate the need for an adapter. Video cameras are notorious for not allowing good wide-angle shots and you usually need to get an entire room in the shot at least once.
Support: A tripod is a must for wide shots and exteriors, and if you're going to do any camera movement, (pans, tilts, zooms, etc.) you need a tripod with a fluid head. Jerky tripod shots scream amateur more than shaky handheld shots. A monopod might be good for small rooms that can't accommodate a tripod, but most real estate video producers are using some form of handheld stabilizer nowadays. These come in all forms and prices from the pro gyro systems to a handheld rig from Camtrol or a simple 3-in-1 ModoSteady from Manfrotto, which also transforms into a tabletop tripod and shoulder mount.
Stabilizing systems for camcorders, lights and tripods vary greatly in price but are essential to getting the steady, professional looking shots required for real estate videos. For an example of quality online video marketing with real estate videos check out at AgentCasts. We enjoyed the smooth pans, tilts, and narrative featured as well as their pricing structure.
Lights: You should have at least one small LED light in your gear kit for fill; it will be portable, represent less weight and won't get hot like other lights. A few CTO or CTB gels for balancing indoor and outdoor light might be necessary for larger rooms, but keep your market and focus in mind. Large stately homes might require more finessing to showcase well and should pay more, small rehabs might require a quick sweep.
Microphone: You might need narration on your video and you can probably get by with a simple lavaliere mic attached to you camera or an audio recorder. If you, your agent or professional speaker will be recording voice-over on location and not in a controlled studio, try to use the quietest carpeted room in the house and speak into the corner of the room to diminish echoes. You can record in a walk-in closet or car, too. In most cases, the only audio on your video should be the narration/voice over and a music bed. Natural sound of the environment in a home in the woods might be a nice selling point, the neighbor's lawn mower or the barking dog down the street in a city isn't.
Editing Program: Editing software solutions vary from free to very expensive and depend on the computer system you prefer. The fanciest most expensive editing software isn't always the best in the case of real estate videos, where you have to turn them around very quickly. You might not want, need or have time to make fancy graphics or over-the-top effects. Having a template of graphics for facts you know you'll want to present is a good method of showing a little production value. Having a command of how to create titles will come in handy no doubt.
What to Shoot and Share?
Many homeowners often don't see how the presentation of their home can help or hurt a sale. Every house has good and bad points to it, your job is to find the angles and features that best reflect the beauty of its structure, and to diminish its blemishes. This is what those in the real estate market call curb appeal.
Your job isn't to deceive potential buyers about a house's defects, but to showcase that home's attributes. Does it have some unique features? Arched doorways, perhaps, or cathedral ceilings? These are definitely worth sharing. Are the ceilings exceptionally low and cramped? Don't show them... let the potential buyers decide that when they take a walk through. Are there garbage cans showing behind the lovely custom ornamental wrought iron gate? Move them or find a better angle. Are there kiddie toys scattered all over the yard, a garden in need of weeding, or pet excrement in view? Details, details, details! In trying to see the whole picture, your client might not notice these things, but you should.
Contrary to what some clients might think, you don't have to show every room or all the areas of the yard. Less is often more. Just show the best, leave the rest. If there's an exceptional chef's kitchen, several shots of that room will sell the home better than one shot followed by three shots of kids' bedrooms. Speaking of a child's room... unless it's clean, well-proportioned and tastefully decorated, sometimes it's best to just close the door - 'nuff said!
Finally, lose the personal touches, if possible. Real estate staging is becoming very trendy now, and for good reason. Stagers know how to showcase a property, whereas homeowners get too personal. If you can help it, try not to show family photos, kid's art, evidence of a meal in any room or work in progress in an office or crafts area unless it is neatly arranged. Try also to lose to clutter, if possible, especially in a garage. In fact, unless it's a well-arranged garage, or has some exceptional features, it's best to avoid it altogether.
What to Charge?
Fees and prices for real estate marketing videos and services are all over the board. (See the What's Fair About Pricing and Pricing Example sidebars.) It will be up to you to determine what, realistically, you can do and for how much. Do you charge per room, per hour or per project? Do you charge more for a vacant property? Provided you can come up with a formula that enables you to offer the services your new real estate marketing client needs, in the time-frame necessary and cutting your time invested to a minimum while maximizing productivity, just about any rate can work.
The discerning online video marketing-aware realtor will realize price begets quality (well, not always, but assuming) and will be willing to pay more to get more. When it comes to video production, many realtors, however, are not so willing to pay more to get more, yet they still want fast turnaround and high quality imaging, as well as narrative options.
When starting a home business in real estate videos you must factor all your related expenses and divide this by the number of working hours a year - 40 per week, times 50 weeks, in most cases. That figure should be the basis for establishing an hourly rate you can live with, bend with, or work around. A lot depends on your overhead, such as rent, supplies and materials costs. And, of course, those meals you have to have to/from business-related events.
Go Ahead, Kick the Curb!
The beauty of a "reality realty" video production instead of some virtual tour is that you can immerse the viewer into the home so much better and make them imagine themselves living there.
Realtors are notorious for wanting to do it all: making flyers, shooting stills and creating virtual tours. They can often be their own worse enemy when it comes to marketing a property. What you charge for a real estate video and how you deliver can make or break a real estate video deal. Your initial job is to get you foot in the door of the realty office - and to assure the agents that your services can help, not hinder, the sale of their properties. With solid shooting and quality images, reasonable pricing and great turnaround times, you can carve a niche for yourself in the real estate video market. You just need to gain audience with those who need your services and convince them you can help them sell more real estate, faster, by adding or enhancing real estate videos to their real estate marketing.
Sidebar: Make a Demo Reel
If you haven't added real estate videos to your marketing site yet, your initial line of approach is to make a demo reel. Check among your family and friends to find a volunteer home - perhaps your own, and take your shots. Identify the key points of interest you think the property represents to a prospective buyer and using a tripod, stabilizer or even still photos, create a demo reel that represents a real realty tour as well as a simple slideshow-style tour, with narrative and without. You'll need this to represent the possibilities to video-resistant realtors.
Sidebar: Pricing Example
One of our Videomaker forums members, "Phil on Tilt", posted a list of how he prices his real estate video. It might give you an idea of where to start:
- Video walk - through:
- Standard $250 - Filming five rooms, front and back yard, editing, a graphic opening and close, custom music and titles.
- Extras $25 - Rooms, garages, etc.
- Mileage $.35 per mile for anything further than 20 miles.
- Personal Biography $200 - Show clients a bit about the Realtor to set the agent apart. Film at agent's office, home, or location of choice.
- Additional locations $100 plus mileage (as listed).
- Videos run approximately four minutes.
- All videos will be done within three days of filming.
The Videomaker forums has had some lively discussions on this topic. Go to videomaker.com/community/forums, to find more.
Sidebar: What's Fair About Pricing?
Real estate video marketing needs and prices vary greatly. While many real estate videos are produced by the realtors, they can be convinced to give you a go. Personality has a lot to do with it. On the other hand, so does pricing.
Steve Baty, sales agent with ERA Cape Real Estate in South Yarmouth on Cape Cod, does his own video work, but also offers real estate videos for other brokers.
"I charge about $150," Steve says. "I do use video tours in my real estate business. It helps me in a couple of different ways. First, people like to watch Internet video. That's an indisputable fact. My personal response to video is undeniable. I presently have more than 400 videos posted on YouTube and recently passed 100,000 [total] views."
Baty says that by presenting himself as someone who uses video in his sales efforts it sets him apart from most brokers.
Mark Passerby, says "HDhat edits real estate video that agents and professionals shoot. They shoot rough clips, add [them] to Dropbox and share with us and we do the editing for $29.95"[which includes] editing, smoothing, narration, hosting and syndication."
HDhat also sells equipment for this purpose to videographers and realty agents from a sister site.
While unable to make a connection with a representative at AgentCasts, the company plainly states its pricing/services program, offering high production quality and professional narration at prices based on square footage. Pricing starts at $399 for as much as two minutes of video for properties up to 2,000 square feet and as much as $899 (length not stated) for as much as 8,000 square feet. This package includes 10 DVDs and "custom video player branded with realty company or representative logo." $599 gets a video of up to five minutes for property as much as 4,000 square feet, with five DVDs included.
The company also provides SEO (search engine optimization) and other Web related benefits in conjunction with its pricing.
Earl Chessher is a veteran career journalist, independent video producer and author of video marketing and production books. Jennifer O'Rourke is Videomaker's Managing Editor.