NEW YORK — Video can boost Web site traffic and generate business for real estate agents and brokers, whether they hire a professional production company to shoot elaborate videos showcasing agents, listings and neighborhoods or create impromptu shorts with their own handheld camera.
That’s according to some agents and brokers who are putting video to good use and who agreed to share some of their secrets today at the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference in New York City.
Ian Watt, a Vancouver, Canada, Realtor specializing in condos, cranks out informal videos for his blog — often while piloting his car through slow-moving traffic. The improvised videos showcase Watt’s knowledge of local market conditions and have helped him connect with a loyal, tech-savvy clientele, he said.
"I’m not trying to promote properties — it’s just my opinion I’m throwing out there," Watt said.
The videos caught the attention of the Vancouver Sun newspaper, which said the shorts have transformed his blog "into a live show" featuring Watt touring the city "dispensing advice, hitting real estate hot buttons, winning over fans and enraging critics."
Despite his success with the unscripted videos, Watt believes videos of property listings should be shot with professional production standards that incorporate skillful lighting, camera angles and editing techniques.
While some real estate brokers and agents are developing those skills themselves, there are a growing number of video production companies shooting custom-made shorts for the industry.
Tara Jones, co-owner of Atlanta, Ga.-based Reel Dwellings TV, left a career in television news to produce videos for the real estate industry, after realizing that agents and brokers wanted to commission videos with higher production standards.
Jones said the company tends to produce more agent profiles and neighborhood videos showcasing a community’s strong points, because those pieces have a longer shelf life — up to two years — than home tours produced for individual listings.
Reel Dwellings charges $200 to $2,000 to produce a video, Jones said. A Reel Dwellings short screened for an audience at a Connect session, "Four Killer Uses for Real Estate Video," cost about $1,000 to produce.
Even through production costs for Web videos are only a fraction of traditional TV spots, cost can still be an issue, and not all listings justify their own professionally produced video.
"I don’t think video sells houses — I think you sell the house," Jones said. "The video gets (clients) to pick up the phone and call you, and then the ball is in your court."
The price of a property may determine whether a listing justifies the expense of a professionally produced video, said Matthew Leone, marketing manager for Terra Marketing. New York-based Terra Marketing produces videos for sister company Halstead Property (both companies share the same parent, Terra Holdings LLC), which specializes in high-end apartments and condos.
Terra Marketing has been able to bring production costs down by commissioning several shorts at a time.
"If you work a lot with one vendor … you can get a great rate, and bring it down to an affordable level," Leone said.
Doug Heddings, a senior vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York, said he’s sold two "very expensive" properties where the buyers saw video but never stepped into the home. One buyer, a woman from Italy, shared the link for the video of the property she was interested in with family members before outbidding six other would-be buyers, Heddings said.
"I feature the building history, neighborhood information and specifics of the property," Heddings said. "Once they’ve seen the video, they feel like they’ve actually seen the home."
Heddings — who also authors the blog True Gotham — said he pays an average of $500 per listing for property tour videos. But with the average apartment in his market selling for $1.5 million, he can justify the expense.
Halstead Property, which produces a popular video report on New York City market conditions called "Behind the Numbers," recommends video profiles for all of its agents, Leone said. The company is also branching out into videos for listings, having found "a lack of engagement" on the company’s Web site.
While the site already offers a wealth of other multimedia content, including photos, floor plans and virtual tours, "You feel in the end that there is still (a larger) story to be told about the property" through video, Leone said.
Brokers should subsidize the cost of producing videos, absorbing 30 to 50 percent of an agent’s cost, Leone said, because videos create more content for their site. "It promotes the company as much as the agent, so the company should be able to see the value in it, and be willing to pony up for the agent," Leone said.
Jones said Reel Dwellings had one broker commission a community profile video showcasing a neighborhood’s selling points, which it in turn sold to agents.
Video attracts Web site traffic because of its viral nature and because it’s increasingly likely to show up in search-engine results. Many Web video host companies — including Heddings’ and Leone’s favorite, Wellcomemat.com — generate HTML code for users that makes it easy for their videos to be embedded in any Web site. Adobe makes a tool that helps search engines key in to identify words spoken in a video.
"We did a piece on an Atlanta neighborhood, and they said the name (of the neighborhood) 10 times in the video — they noticed immediate (search engine) results," Jones said.
Jones recommended keeping videos under two minutes, noting that most television news pieces are closer to one minute and manage to cram in a lot of information. A longer video "might be interesting to you or the seller, but the average Joe — they are going to walk away," Jones said.
Leone said longer videos can hold viewers’ interest if they are fast-paced with lots of cutting.
Heddings said a video for a townhouse he’s listing runs more than eight minutes, and if prospective buyers are serious, they will watch the whole thing. "If they are not interested in buying a home, I don’t care if they watch my video."
Watt said that while the Vancouver market has cooled in the last 12 months — it’s now "back to normal" — his Web site traffic and time on site have roughly doubled from a year ago. The videos have helped raised Watt’s visibility to the point that he’s even been recognized in public by at least one stranger he’d never met.
He also uses Google Analytics to track results — an important part of a video campaign.
Leone said Halstead Property has created a searchable, dedicated video "mini site," HalsteadProperTV, and sees two to three times as much traffic on listings with videos, with referrals from "places we’ve never seen — blogs of companies and individuals (whose links) we haven’t paid a dime for."
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