Real estate brokerage and Web portal RealEstate.com has put virtual tours of all of its agents’ listings on a dedicated YouTube "channel," and will do the same for any broker or agent with featured listings on the company’s site.
The YouTube channel shows RealEstate.com‘s commitment to helping its 1,100 agents and other partners bring information to platforms consumers are using, said Greg Hanson, senior vice president and general manager of RealEstate.com.
Rather than "driving (consumers) to one or another interface, we’ll use what’s effective," Hanson said. "Consumers are already there, because they like the YouTube experience so much. Ultimately, the traffic will come back to us."
In addition to being a full-service real estate brokerage active in 20 markets, RealEstate.com operates a Web portal offering home search and valuation tools with access to 2.5 million MLS-based property listings, and earns broker-to-broker referral fees from partners in a broker network.
For a limited time, Hanson said, the company is offering agents free featured listings on RealEstate.com.
RealEstate.com featured listings will also be included in RealEstate.com’s YouTube channel, which allows users to search for virtual tours of homes for sale by MLS number, address, city or ZIP code.
Users who follow up with a call to a toll-free number featured in the videos are connected to a local real estate agent who can guide the potential buyer through MLS listings and set up appointments to view homes for sale. Text associated with the videos at the YouTube site also includes a clickable link to the listing information at RealEstate.com.
"We’ll be happy to put up anyone else’s listings (on the YouTube channel) if they want," Hanson said. "We’re different that way — as a portal and a broker, we’ll feature other brokers’ listings."
The company’s YouTube channel currently features about 1,200 listings from RealEstate.com agents, with virtual tours created from still photos by CirclePix.
"We are keeping our listing info in synch (with the multiple listing service)," Hanson said. "The idea is not to create an alternative listing service. We believe the MLS is a valuable tool for Realtors.
While some virtual tour providers have YouTube channels with more listings, RealEstate.com appears to be one of the few, if not the only, brokerage pushing all of its listings to YouTube. …CONTINUED
Morris Plains, N.J.-based Weichert Realtors has a YouTube channel that spotlights listings for 18,000 agents, but only about 400 virtual tours are currently live.
A YouTube channel created by virtual tour provider VHTStudios in September 2007 had nearly 25,000 virtual tours online this week.
While Century 21 has had a YouTube channel since March 2006, it’s dedicated to promoting the company rather than agents’ listings.
Real estate brokers and agents have been among the early adopters of Web video, hiring low-cost production companies or shooting short pieces themselves that showcase listings, entire neighborhoods or businesses (see Inman News special report).
Videos shot to promote a neighborhood or company can be used for months or years, while videos shot for individual listings are of little use once a property has sold. For that reason, many Realtors restrict professionally produced videos of listings to high-end properties.
Virtual tours — which use camera "panning" effects to add motion to still photos — are seen by some brokers and agents as an inexpensive alternative to video.
Both virtual tours and videos must be "hosted," either on a server owned by the broker or agent or by one of dozens of companies providing such services.
YouTube grew to be one of the most popular sites on the Web by hosting embeddable videos for consumers at no charge. The company also allows businesses to upload original videos and create "channels" on the site to promote themselves.
Hanson said RealEstate.com doesn’t have to pay YouTube for its channel, but said there are some other costs related to processing the feed, which he called "not onerous."
"I think it’s pretty unique," he said. "I wouldn’t say no one could do it — it’s not an impossible thing to do — but we came at it with pretty good scale."
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