By JENNIFER BALDWIN
Steve Keefe leans forward from his desk chair, pushes the "record" button on his Flip cam, and sits back to welcome his viewers.
"Hi, this is Steve Keefe, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty in Lake Arrowhead, California. I’m honored this afternoon to have one of my top agents, Bob Bailey, spend a few minutes with me talking about sellers positioning their properties in the current marketplace. So here’s Bob."
Continuing on "record," Keefe turns the camera and points it at Bailey. The office swirls a bit on the video, then steadies as Keefe launches into his interview.
Bailey’s first key bit of advice: "Maintain your property. What you do now will pay off in the long run." In a red sweater vest, Bailey speaks so gently it’s almost like sitting in Mr. Rogers’ living room and learning about his neighborhood’s real estate market.
This personable approach is one of the many reasons that Coldwell Banker created its own video channel at YouTube, unveiled today at http://www.youtube.com/coldwellbanker. The channel includes a mix of agent profiles, walkthroughs of listings, community snapshots, and advice videos such as those filmed by Keefe and Bailey.
Online video is the next step into the future of real estate sales, says Coldwell Banker CEO Jim Gillespie. As more people turn to the Internet to search for property listings and learn about communities, they are looking for more than just a couple of photos and a little text. And cheap and easy technology now makes it possible for agents to shoot their own videos, rather than hire expensive production companies.
"This will dramatically change the way the consumer interacts with real estate companies over the Internet," said Gillespie, who even shoots his own videos while traveling around the country.
The custom-built site also harnesses the power of geographical searching by plotting videos on a map. Users can enter a city or state in the search box and pull up videos associated with that area.
"Putting those videos on a map allows a search very similar to what people are used to when searching for individual listings," said Sam Sebastian, director of classifieds and local advertising for Google. YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, which is looking to expand partnerships with industries such as real estate to try to organize the millions of videos on the site.
To jump-start its video channel, Coldwell Banker partnered with CNN, the Associated Press, "This Old House," and two video production companies, Turn Here (founded by Inman News publisher Bradley Inman) and Reel Productions TV, to include some professional videos — mostly community snapshots and advice pieces.
There is also a collection of profiles, shot at a recent conference, where agents sat down in front of a camera and introduced themselves and their communities for 30- to 60-second spots.
A handful of video-minded agents, such as Keefe, were also contacted to be a part of the launch. Keefe was surprised when he got the call.
"I said, ‘Have you watched my videos?’ " Keefe said. "They’re not slick. They’re brass tacks." …CONTINUED
But that’s exactly what Coldwell was looking for: viewer-friendly, timely, informative videos that have a personal touch.
Coldwell Banker, a part of global real estate brokerage and franchise giant Realogy Corp., isn’t the only real estate company that is looking to boost its online presence. Century 21, a sister Realogy brand, announced in January that it would drop its national TV ads in favor of beefing up its online ad presence.
Keefe had been making these videos on his own and posting them online to serve his local customers. Now, by uploading them through the Coldwell site, his videos will reach a larger audience.
Keefe said that the learning curve to produce his own videos was not as steep as he thought it would be. He spent about $200 on a Flip video camera and uploads the video directly to the Web without editing. Because the videos are unedited, he did have to learn how to stay focused and to the point.
But making a video is simple: He hits "record" and talks to the camera on a specific topic for up to three minutes. It’s high-impact information at a "low-fi" level.
"It really is a conversation. This is who I am and what I’m seeing. I’m using my knowledge base and having a conversation with the camera," Keefe said.
For Deanna McIlwain of Coldwell Banker Triad Realtors in North Carolina, making the videos is as much about sharing information with her customers as it is to market herself as an agent.
"Video gives us the chance to inject our personality," she said. "It’s like an online video resume for agents."
McIlwain has two videos online, an agent profile and an "explainer" piece about a new homebuyer protection product she’s offering. She has three video listings in the works and plans to post videos of all of her 20-plus listings. Even though it takes more time out of her day, she says video is a standard her clients should expect.
"Whereas pictures are (two-dimensional), a video offers perspective. We are really hitting on that sensory level. Real estate is a sensory experience — that’s why we bake chocolate chip cookies," she said.
Agents such as Keefe and McIlwain are seizing each opportunity to reach their customer base online, through blogging, social networking and now with online video.
"People are going on YouTube and searching for not just homes but also for community information," said David Siroty, a Coldwell Banker spokesman. "Video listings are the wave of the future."
Jennifer Baldwin is a freelance writer, editor and multimedia producer based in California.
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