Business & Career Building Forum
Real Estate Video Tours
Real Estate Video Tours
by TriggerMan on Jan 2, 2007 at 10:16:36 pm

Hello all,
I am looking for insight on a video project that I am considering adding to my arsenal of tricks. Shooting video tours of high-end residential and commercial real estate.

I came across this thread from Feb 2005 ( ) which explains much of my original idea...only they thought of it two years ago. LUUCKY!

Does anyone have any comments or suggestions for this. Pricing recommendations? Experiences?


Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by Michael Munkittrick on Jan 3, 2007 at 2:13:16 am

I am willing to bet that you will be more accurate in your answer than any of us. The best rule of thumb is to know your service, its value and it relative cost to you. Only after you've considered those points will accurate pricing be calculated. Also, the variable many forget is to consider the fact that your market, talent and status will play a huge factor.

Good luck!

Michael Munkittrick
Gainesville, Florida USA

Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by Tim Wilson on Jan 3, 2007 at 9:49:54 am

I used to do a ton of real estate video -- even had a weekly show featuring residential real estate. I did a tiny bit of commercial real estate video, but it was about the same.

My approach for non-air was pretty simple: straight-up hourly. I didn't even hesitate to go $150 for high-end properties, $100 for lesser properties, with discounts for return customers. Your mileage will vary. For the TV show, I got each realtor pay for each property they wanted to list, and worked on a per-piece price depending on whether they wanted a 30 or 60 second feature.

The key here is volume. Can't fill a show unless it's full, right? Don't worry as much about individual properties, because you can also get paid for the production of the show itself. This usually comes from the broker, who gets a sizeable slice of every commission (typically half), so they have the incentive to make it work. In fact, in many cases, the broker is the client, not the realtor.

Don't hesitate to do a project price, though. Realtors like fixed costs, so they know how much they can spend from their commission. You'll have a good idea of the package price to bid as you learn how to take the following into account.

Spend some time at the property in pre-production, which can't happen on the day of the shoot. Figure out the key rooms, and make sure you're there to shoot when the light is most flattering, which may or may not be when the sun is directly shining in. I rescheduled many a shoot because of overcast skies. White skies can be every bit as bad as dark skies.

Always, always manage aperture and focus manually. Automatic settings are a sure giveaway of an amateur. Clients and their customers might not be able to put their finger on WHY the video feels cheap, but this often the problem.

You NEED lights on stands, several kinds of them. I found that soft boxes were great for filling in dark corners, evening out the light in a room. But you'll often need something stronger if the light is stronger. The lighting is never 100% even, so you need to manage aperture manually.

You definitely want a tripod, lots of slow pans. If you don't have one, spend what it takes for a really good tripod with a liquid head and spreaders. Don't skimp here -- makes all the difference in the world for smooth pans. (I spent $800 on mine, and often wished I spent more.

You raise the degree of difficulty of pans with the lights of course, so be prepared to do several set-ups in a room. You can occassionally make good guesses about where you'll shoot from, but you need to be flexible, moving lights for different angles.

Another thing that might sound obvious but isn't are finish details, especially for residential. Think about the things that add value to the house. Marble tubs (soft lights make texture pop), plumbing fixtures (shooting the toilet is a negative unless it's outrageous -- and some are), walk-in closets, elegant wallpaper (need close-ups) built-in bookcases, floor finishes (again, lights make wood floors in particular pop), might even be drawer pulls in the kitchen. It may be the ceiling too, especially if the lighting is nice.

Be careful around skylights - often some discoloration, leaves on top, etc. Most of these will work best without pans of course. Sometimes digital photos will work better, especially if they're elegantly animated. In any case, your realtor is an invaluable resource for telling you what the "money" details are.

Dining room tables look better with place settings. Even if the furniture isn't being sold with it, it looks homier. Kitchens look better with everything put away. Do everything you can to never shoot unfurnished homes (realtors know this), but if you do, lighting and set-ups are all the more important to make spaces look bigger. (All unfurnished spaces look smaller, especially on tape.)

Flower arrangements are essential. They work especially well in kitches. (Trust me.) Get the realtor to buy new plants if necessary, although for a high-end property they usually have. Real ficuses and bougainevillea are cheap enough, and look great. Vertical is always better than short -- great for dark corners. Silk is usually okay. Skip plastic if you can. If you can't, be careful with lighting, and make sure they're dusted.

Walk-in closets, baths, even some kitchens will HUGELY benefit from wide-angle lenses. I shot BetaSP, so the lenses ran well into the thousands of dollars -- totally worth it. I also found tons of other uses for the wide-angle lens once it was in my bag of tricks. Also in my bag. :-)

For all interior shoots, recommend professional cleaning, including carpet and furniture shampooing. The realtor has almost always worked on this already. Don't forget the garage floor -- something realtors often miss. Lights will magnify every stain and discoloration. For furniture, I wound up turning a bunch of cushions around/flipping them anyway. Regardless, smooth them out -- don't want a pillow casting a shadow on itself.

Exteriors are obviously a big deal. You'll often need to come back for these shots. Again, lighting is everything. For shaded plantings, I often used lights to fill in shadows. Polarized filters are essential for pools. Seriously, don't even think about shooting a pool without them. If you don't have a camera that accepts filters, attach the polarizing filter with tape.

You'll also need to show context. How close are the neighbors? What's the street look like? If it's on a country club, park or golf course, spend some time shooting it. If it's a gated community, SHOW THE GATE. I can't believe how many people miss this. Have the guard wave. Seriously. If it's a gated community, the gate is actually their first door to "home." They'll have a relationship with the guard.

For commercial properties, you need to show road access and parking. Doesn't matter how ugly they are. To a commercial buyer, access and parking are how they have the opportunity to make money, so they're always beautiful to the buyer. Again, I'm amazed how many people miss this. Of course, if the realtor thinks they detract from the perceived value, don't shoot 'em. True for all of this, actually.

As with houses, take time to consider lighting. Always ambient, so reschedule if the lighting is sub-optimal (never, ever gray skies, and avoid backlighting). Again, use shot set-up to make everything look as large as possible. Wide-angle lenses rarely work for this -- you're wide open, so it adds a fish-eye. Watch this for fixed lenses, too.

Take the time for proper graphics, animation, and DVD art. (isk art as well as covers and menus. Pay for someone to do the visual work for you if you're not up to doing top-notch work. For a million dollar-plus property, the images need to look like a million bucks. High-end residential real estate goes well into the millions, so adjust as needed.

Even MORE true for music than graphics. Spend what you have to for the right library. I used the FirstCom library and paid several thousand per year. One hundred percent worth it for high-end properties. When bidding, I got more jobs than I can count from the music alone.

A tip that doesn't cost money -- looooong shots, not short ones. Dissolves often work better. Expensive properties are all about soft.

Once added up, sound expensive for the client? Sure is. Some of them may balk, but I rarely found that to be the case. If you haven't looked at prices lately, do. I've lived in nice neighborhoods where $1 million buys a nice 1200 sq. ft condo apartment. A decent 3-unit building easily ran $5 million and up. Really, really nice neighborhoods go further up.

Even if you're charging in the $5K+ range, they're easily spending that for high-end display advertising and a catered open house. Do what it takes to get the broker to share the load. You mileage may vary, but on a $2 million house, splitting a 4% commission between the realtor and the broker means each gets a $20K commission. Commercial real-estate goes higher. Realtors know it takes money to make money, but if you help them to sell it fast, they spend less on ads and open houses.

If you're working with less-expensive properties, adjust your production values accordingly. Spend your time and money where it will make the biggest impact, which varies by property. Don't lower your production values too far down, though, or you won't get much work -- and virtually no return business. Getting more work, even if you're making less in the beginning, is an investment. Once you've got a few of these under your belt, you'll be able to work faster and better, and will make more money as you do.

Shoot, this is darn near an article. I might still do one, actually....

Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by geo on Jan 3, 2007 at 6:41:42 pm

It turns out that even though commissions are huge on the really high end properties, many real estate agents seem to be stuck with a tight, penny-pinching mindset. Therefore most video real estate tours you see are formulaic because they need to be produced inexpensively.

When we were asked to make videos for a couple of luxury homes, we were lucky enough to be approached by a more progressive thinking realtor. We treated it like any corporate video. Rather than just show a walkthrough of a pricey house or make an anatomically correct video brochure, we wrote a script designed to promote the home to the target audience.

You can see the videos by selecting "FILM" on the following sites:

They look pretty hashed up due to the compression, but they are absolutely stunning on a large plasma screen.


Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by Nick Griffin on Jan 3, 2007 at 10:28:55 pm

Wow. Great stuff and uncharacteristically well scripted and produced for a real estate video. Especially like the time lapse. Certainly not an inexpensive thing to do, but does a phenominal job showing the house in its environment.

Tim's earlier post said a lot of great things so there's not much I can add except to say that a shooter I used to work with told me that his secret and competitive advantage on real estate videos was that he had and always used a dolly. Dolly and/ Stedicam movement does a lot more to convey the sense of visiting and touring the house than can a fixed camera.

Now a question about the house. How old is this video? Is the house still on the market. I could really use a place in the Bay area. That is if I actually had Tim Wilson kind of money.

Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by Tim Wilson on Jan 3, 2007 at 10:39:06 pm

[Nick Griffin] "...if I actually had Tim Wilson kind of money"

Start by charging what I did. You're so much more talented and professionally focused that you'll make in a month what I did in a year. ;-)

Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by Monica F.P.Williams on Jan 4, 2007 at 1:51:20 am

What a beautiful work, what an amazing team: from script to seamless camera work and editing.
Now I want to buy a house too.

Monica F.P.williams
crocodile editing

Re: Real Estate Video Tours
by JBaumchen on Jan 5, 2007 at 5:17:31 pm

Nice work geo!

"be seen, be heard, be remembered"