Fred Light maintains a "Video Hall of Shame" section on his website. It’s filled with real estate videos whose most memorable qualities are their grainy picture quality, bouncy camera technique and teeth-grindingly bad audio.
Of course, he’s biased: He’s a professional videographer who has little patience with real estate agents and homeowners who insist on producing video home tours themselves.
Yet some in the industry say they’re seeing some improvement in quality.
"Camera equipment is getting better and better in low-light situations, so that’s becoming less of a problem," said Christian Sterner, co-founder of WellcomeMat.com, a video platform that publishes and distributes real estate video.
Nonetheless, he said, he sees certain mistakes repeatedly, most of which are avoidable. It would seem to go without saying that dark rooms are a problem, as well as glaring light streaming in through windows — but both Sterner and Light said proper lighting seems to get scant attention in real estate video.
"And get a tripod," said Light, who owns Nashua Video Tours, which produces real estate videos in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. "You can’t hold any video camera, for the most part. The little cameras are the worst because they’re so lightweight."
Beyond those basics, five things to know about improving real estate videos:
1. Dub in the audio later, Light suggested. Not only does it give you time to write an effective script, but the likelihood of improved sound quality will hold the audience.
"People are much more forgiving of a bad picture than they are of bad audio," Light said. "Eighty percent of good video is good audio.
"The best way to do it is not to do any audio (while shooting) and then record it in a studio, so you can control the noise and the echo," he said, explaining that the high ceilings and hard surfaces that fill houses, such as granite countertops and glass, can have a terrible effect on the sound quality.
Light concedes that most people don’t have access to a studio — but you can simulate one, to a point.
"I have one real estate agent who does her own video," he said. "I finally talked her into going into a closet with her laptop (to record her scripts). The clothes dampen the sound, and she puts a blanket over her head and records."
2. Rethink your approach to the script.
"People will focus on the features of a property," said Sterner. "They will point to the kitchen and say, ‘Here’s the kitchen.’ "
Not only is that obvious, it’s sometimes annoying, he said. One option in such a room is to talk about how it has been remodeled and what was done to it, or to talk about its potential, he said.
Real estate videos should sell the benefits of a home, not its features, Light said.
"If you’re going to talk about the heating system and the 100-amp electrical, that’s the audio equivalent of reading someone a spreadsheet," he said. "Sell the warm-and-fuzzies — they can get the stats off the (multiple listing service) sheet if they’re interested."
Light recalled one homeowner who narrated her own audio, and he said she nailed it perfectly. "She explained, ‘We had 15 people in the dining room for Christmas last year, and 100 people in the backyard for my daughter’s graduation.’
"That’s the stuff that sells houses," he said.
3. You’re not just selling a home, you’re selling a neighborhood.
"One of many values of a video is that you’re able to elaborate on the location and everything in and around the property," Sterner said.
"Some people actually create local highlights — the proximity of the schools, which you might show on a Google map, or they show that two blocks down there’s a shopping center where there’s a coffee shop and a grocery store," he said.
4. The video shouldn’t repeat what home-shopping consumers have already learned about a given house, said Light, who theorized that home shoppers who look at real estate videos view them after they’ve seen everything else provided online about a given house — after reading about the pricing, room sizes and tax data, and after looking at all the still photography.
"By the time people look at the video, they’re seriously interested in the house," said Light, who estimates he’s produced more than 1,000 real estate videos. "The video is the final qualifier, and they do watch it intently, from beginning to end.
"If people are taking time to download it, they want to see something more," he said. If you repeat information, "the buyers (will) say, ‘I already saw this’ — just because you repackage it doesn’t make it different."
5. How long should a video be? Even Light concedes there’s no proper length.
"Some people say a minute or two minutes, but I don’t think that’s true," he said. "It shouldn’t be more than seven or eight minutes, tops."
It really boils down to how interesting you can make it — how much you can make a would-be buyer picture him- or herself in the place, he said.
"If I showed you a wedding video and you didn’t know anybody at the wedding, you’d be gone after 30 seconds," he said. "But if your kid is in the wedding, you will watch it from end to end."
Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.