Real Estate Video
As a Videographer and a prospective first-time home buyer.. i see a huge need for real estate videography in my area. Has anyone tackled this service before? And if so, how did you drum up business and houses to shoot?
Thanks in advance.
Cinematographer / Video Producer
I started to explore this before I moved out of the country last year. I don't have any practical experience but these are the challenges I saw while investigating it:
1) Real estate moves pretty fast unless it's a high-end home ($4-$5 million+) so you have to shoot, edit and upload/post the final video for the agent very quickly. Sometimes when a home becomes available, offers are received and it sometimes goes under agreement before it even hits MLS or has an open house. <-This is just from my own experience in buying/selling a home.
2) I think you have to have a fairly high volume to make any profit in this area because agents aren't looking so spend big $$ for a video. I'm talking under $100. I charge that much for a couple hours of editing, so it certainly doesn't include driving to a location, shooting, editing and providing deliverables. Perhaps the high-end homes have a large enough commission to include a decent budget for video.
That said- It is certainly growing in popularity and has been a trend for a few years now. I've seen plenty of real estate videos online so people must be profiting from it.
If you wanted to develop a client list, you could just shoot your own house or a friend's house and set it up like a real estate video with some simple narration, then contact agents with a 'this is what I can do for you' type of pitch. You could sell it along with additional videos, if they're a big enough outfit, to do agent bios, stories about the community, real estate trends, home buying tips, etc...
Good luck with it and let us know if you find it profitable/ worth the effort.
By the way- I've seen previous discussions on this topic so you might want to try a search of this forum with the keywords 'Real Estate' for more information.
Sounds like a great way to work your tail off and not make very much money. There is a homes showcase on one of our local channels on Sunday morning at like 5am - basically it is paid programming by a real estate franchise in the area. No doubt realtor websites are doing videos - likely on the cheap. But if you look at realtor.com - the publicly accessible way to view MLS listings, there are no videos.
I would talk to local realtors and see what their interests are. But don't ask them if they are interested in video because you are giving them a simple yes or no question and you know what the answer is going to be. Rather, tell them what they can get and how you can do it for them.
Having looked at some houses for sale a few years ago, about 60% were an absolute disaster, and video would only make them look worse. So only the higher-end houses that look like a museum inside would be conducive to video. In other words, not all sellers are truly motivated to sell.
My two cents - which is about what your average realtor will likely be willing to pay.
One of the only comments that I would add to this thread is that there is little chance to make any money on this kind of work, unless you come up with a predetermined templated design into which you plug in snippets and clips for the audience. Anything else is going to be a total loss of money and time. Few realtors are going to spend any real money and so you must make things as fast and painless as possible. If anyone wants anything outside the template (anything "original")' they need to book that under contract and for far more money.
You might be better off hosting a 1 hour seminar for $249 where you teach realtors to use a flip cam and upload themselves. Give them a camera to take with them and a full instruction sheet on how and what to shoot, how to narrate, how to edit it & upload it. They may just get fed up with doing it and then pay you; or maybe they shoot it and you edit it and upload. Make it VERY formulaic.
You've seen the quality of their flyers, they tend not to spend money.
Way back when, when panoramic first came out, we were right on the verge of charging $500 per pano - seriously, we had customers. Then literally the next day Kodak and Motorola (I believe) teamed up and was giving it away! They told you to shoot 36 images - a whole instant camera's worth in a circle - and they'd create the pano for free. Ugh. We never made a cent. And now for something completely different... I got out and the other guys went on to become http://www.spinimagedv.com/. Fun times.
I was asked to produce some video like this at a couple of sites around 50 miles from our office. The client wanted 3 different houses to have 3 minute videos each. They offered £200.
It would have taked the best part of a day to drive, shoot and edit the 3 films and undoubtedly would have needed tweaking after client had seen the finished results as they had virtually no idea of what they wanted it to look like.
I didn't do it - but I would think that if an estate agency that was dealing with properties of £1.5m+, they might be able to justify more budget - but with the property market still stuttering around the UK it doesnt seem a viable business until that happens.
Realtors tend to not spend much money on their listings if they don't have to, although they have no problem parking their BMW in the driveway!
That being said, my last realtor who sold me my condo was very generous of his time and even attends the semi-annual condo meetings so he stays engaged with the owners.
I laugh when I look at realtor.com - a big ticket house will have a picture of the house and no other pictures. Buyer beware, if you get a picture of the side of the house and only one angle of the kitchen, run away.
Real estate is funny.
In our city, not many people even know it exists but there is a very stunning house on the mountain overlooking the city that's been on the market about four years. Very museum quality, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Prairie-School design. 17,000 square feet and the original asking price was more than $14 million.
It had several price reductions over time, and had most recently dropped to just over $5M. And now it's in foreclosure.
The funny thing is, about a year ago we inquired about shooting a commercial production on the grounds (the place really is like a museum and would be a great shoot location), but the owners wouldn't even consider it. They wanted the house to stay a "hidden gem."
Not a very good theory if you are trying to move property.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
These guys have been developing a business model for a couple of years:
They link video producers and Realtors, then host the video tours.
Watch this video from that website. He was talking about rates ($50) at the 13 minute mark into the video:
many have looked into it. All of them strolled away after seeing no revenue in it.
All of them.
Realestate companies shoot realeastate tours (hance the stuff ya see). Video companies make videos. It's an either or thang.
There is NO MONEY in real estate videos. Realtors are cheap, even the million plus homes. Not only did I try this but I get many calls and they want you for what amounts to at least half a day for $100-$200, and you have to give them a media file which means some editing.
Around nine years ago I tried to specialize in QTVR (Quick Time Virtual Reality), these are 360 degree panoramas, mainly of Civil War battlefields and national; parks, and then I tried to move QTVR into real estate. They were so cheap I decided to target commercial real estate developers, such as huge office buildings, warehouses, etc. There is some money there if you get in but in no way should you waste another minute going after consumer real estate. You are dealing with individual agents rather than companies and they are tight with a buck because like us freelancers they live from big check to big check.
I hope this forum has saved you a lot of time. There is no money in non-commercial real estate. It's now DIY.
I'm wondering if the problem is we're all thinking about this as "the person doing the project."
This is not the job for your 5 digit kit.
This the job for your "intern" or the person you hire as your assistant who really wants their own project.
You have them do a few "tests" on their own property, friend's house, parent's house, whatever. You give them a "rule." House must be shot and edited in an 8 hour day or less.You can give them a formula or have them create one.
When you feel they're ready . . .
They get the Canon Vixia, Merlin hand held steady device, inexpensive Bogen tripod. Maybe a rate of $50/hr.
They shoot 2 houses near each other (broker MUST understand volume goes with proximity) in 8 hours and edit the two housed at 6 hours editing each for a total of 12 hours.
Price two house at $500 each for 20 hours.
That intern/assistant is doing $1000 on 20 hours and their pleased as punch they have their own projects to do. You're certainly may not be taking much off the top but someone just got a job and you're getting paid a bit as a manager.
Obviously juggle the numbers as needed but this is really for your "entry level" person and you take a small bit off the top to "manage" your hired hand.
You still have to decide if it's worth in on the managerial end but if you have a RELIABLE intern/assistant it can work. Remember that McDonalds/Burger King, etc. are very profitable. You don't need a master chef. You need a burger flipper. This job pays them more and pays you something as well.
We don't have any interns because we've always felt like there are too many times we barely have time to do the work itself without having to try to teach someone else. This is probably a shortsighted and simplistic approach on my part, but that's the way I feel.
In terms of a business idea, Steve's concept for offering a class or seminar on how to do it is easily the closest to something which could make money. However to truly work you'd have to take it on the road and do it in enough different places around the country to make the content seem worth the price of admission to most of these people. I myself thought about developing a DVD or writing a book on getting the most out of still photography for real estate -- basics like instead of tilting the camera up at the house, move back, shoot square on and crop out the lawn. Others would be tricks for balancing lighting, Photoshop elements basics and so on.
The real problem remains, as discussed here several times, agents tend to be more than a little tight with their pennies. Only the multi-million dollar homes seem to justify professional photography, let alone professional videography. And, at least around here, the bigger players want to put together monthly or quarterly booklets of multi-million dollar homes. This has more appeal to potential buyers and is no doubt less expensive on a cost per home basis.
Several years ago I pitched a developer on heavily promoting a new project with the goal being to fill it more quickly. He simply could not get his head around the idea that spending marketing money could result in more immediate income through fewer vacancies. I stopped beating my head against the wall and moved on.
As to Todd -
What a shameless way to show off your own home. Sure, it's somebody else's property. All of us know that the only people in the deep south making the kind of money needed for a home like that are the ones working in film and video production. But seriously, it could be worse than the situation you describe. You could be LeBron James with a 35,000 square foot home to sell in a Cleveland suburb. That's going to be a TOUGH sale.
I have two people who assist me at times and it's $25/hr when assisting me and $50/hr when shooting. I live in an area where 1000sq ft condo goes for about $500,000 (and this is a very poor part of town). A classified real estate ad in print and online edition of the local paper is about $300 for 14 days.
In short, it depends on your market, whether one has assistants and what prices brokers are paying for other advertising. None of this means brokers will have any interest in real estate videos of course.
Certainly in a suburban area with lower population density, longer distances between locations and, homes selling for $200,000 and local paper and online advertising costs $50, is not going to present the same opportunities.
See this as typical. They have on camera person, some out door camera stuff, interiors are mostly stills.
And a different broker. Ultimate low end complete with camera on auto everything but they're doing videos of rental apartments that seem to be in the $2000/mo price range. The shoot probably takes 15 minutes.
Again keep in mind these are NOT videos you or I would do. There the stuff the assistant with the Canon Vixia does. They can be edited in iMovie. Again, think "fast food" product.
I've been thinking about doing real estate video myself, but I've been wary of the potential pitfalls. Here's a model I've come up with:
First, it seems like only higher-end homes would justify the price of a making a video; and the homes would have to be in my region (maybe no more than 30 minutes away?)
My idea was to buy a Canon Rebel T2i, basic tripod, and maybe a low-end or homemade camera stabilization system.
Then, I would only shoot short, cookie-cutter videos which I could become very fast at. And, no VO (adding VO would add a lot of time to the production).
So, the realtor would get high-quality, 1080p, web-ready videos.
I'd thought of charging $150-$200 per video (maybe I'm dreaming there, but again, only higher-end real estate). So, even if it takes me 8 hours to shoot and edit a video (which I'd hopefully whittle down quite a bit) I'd be making $18-$25 an hour. Not too bad I guess. Does anybody see problems with this model?
The other idea is to do a walk-through video of the home with the realtor in the video showing off the home. This would add the dimension of having someone talking about the house.
This could mean a quicker shoot and less editing. Of course, it would also call for a wireless lav.
Look at the two links I posted for examples. One with broker the other just barren walls of apartments. I don't know your market but your rate wouldn't even justify the equipment purchase. I mention $50/hr for an "intern/assistant." Although I use McDonalds as business model you must factor in the cost and maintenance of your equipment as well as paying for all business and living expenses. Unless you make a BIG connection you're not going to have 40/hr week income on this either. At the rates you quote you might do better actually working for McDonalds IMHO.
That budget would pay you $18-25 per hour. What about your expenses - the travel, the huge amount of storage needed for each job, the time spent uploading the videos, the probable request for more of your time editing, additional CF or Flash cards, the time your edit suite is tied up doing donkey work while you could be out pitching for profitable work?
My business partner and I tried this exact venture when we moved to Charleston, SC. We had the same thought you did. "I'd love to see a video, especially as a long distance relocator. Why isn't anyone offering it?" We went into business (not just doing real estate) and found real estate to be the worst thing ever. Unless the home is selling for $500k or more, the agent isn't making enough commission to justify a few hundred dollars for a video. Selling agents get about 7% of the sale which they have to split with the buying agent, their parent company, and has to cover all of their marketing. After all that, the rest is what they get as a salary.
We tried all sorts of offers/gimmicks/editing tricks. Customized websites (basic template with embedded video and photos http://www.123marketst.com), videos with the agent in them giving a guided tour, and using premade templates that we dropped clips into to cut down on editing time.
The only clients we had any success with were multi-million dollar developers trying to advertise new communities, not individual homes. And those were so few and far between it's not even worth mentioning. We also had a few apartment complexes and condos that wanted an overall video that they could use for years.
We started during the housing boom, but were quickly thwarted by the bubble bursting. We had several agents say "Yeah! We'd love a video! But we can only pay you when the house sells." If the house doesn't sell, or they get fired by the home owners (happening a lot right now), they're out the money for the video. Not your problem per se, but that's their mentality.
Real estate is OK for a few dollars when you're really slow or if it's someone you know and want to help them sell their home. Other than that, don't waste your time. Most agents have a relative or friend's relative (read teenager willing to work for pocket change)who'll shoot on their handycam and edit with some nice iMovie template.
We've thought of this on and off for years, but have only ever figured out one way to make any money in the real estate market, and that's broadcast commercials.
BUT... these were not spots marketing single individual properties. We've done a couple for individual realty companies, and we've done quite a few for homebuilders and developers who had different "communities" (i.e., "subdivisions") they were developing. A couple were down-n-dirty DVcam productions, a couple more were higher-end spots (35mm film with pro actors, etc.), and the rest were more or less in the middle. None of them had budgets that anyone would ever get rich off of... I'd say the budgets for these :30s fell in the $5000-$15,000 range.
But again, none of this work was ever for individual properties. We've never been able to even remotely figure out how to make that work, or make money off of it. This market had a couple of 30-minute real estate shows in the past, each sponsored by a different realtor and were basically just a rather sloppy video slideshow of various homes for sale with a music bed, voiceover, and simple graphics (both produced by another company in town, not us). Both of these shows have now gone by the wayside, they just weren't financially viable.
Oh Nick, the next time you are over here... the pool needs some attention. [insert eyeroll]
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "Oh Nick, the next time you are over here... the pool needs some attention."
Now that we've established in an earlier post that I'm self-educated on pool equipment maintenance. (I'm betting that it would pay better than would videos for individual real estate properties.)
[Nick Griffin] "I'm betting that it would pay better than would videos for individual real estate properties"
Well, Nick... I was planning to offer you a Dr Pepper and a banana sandwich. Maybe I can't afford you.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "a banana sandwich"
Elvis Food! It's a deal!
You're foolish and dumb. What a dumb idea. Get a life! (haha!)
Okay, coming in late as usual.
We had a decent run doing real estate video, and I have some observations to add.
At the tippy-top of the list - there's no way you can pull this off by working with individual realtors on individual properties. You have to work through brokers, who get a slice of EVERY sale that comes through the office.
To put it another way, many realtors have second jobs to make ends meet. NO brokers have second jobs.
The first pitch to the broker can even be a regular old commercial, to sell the entire office. We did one for a Century 21 broker with 5 offices under him, the furthest of which were an hour apart. We had him gather them all to the office in the middle. Then we put 40+ realtors in gold jackets up the stairs leading to the second-floor office and around the balcony.
It was a subtle-ish team-building exercise, reminding them that they all had a stake in the success of the entire company. And when they all saw the response they got to this one ad - hey! I saw you on TV! - they fell over themselves to do individual pieces with us. The broker kicked in to the production cost, since he was of course getting a piece of the eventual sale.
So now, the realtor isn't resenting the broker - "I put in all the expense and he takes HALF of my money?" Every conversation became MUCH different when *everyone* had skin in the game. The broker became a partner, lowering an individual realtor's risk. The broker didn't kick in fully half - I forget, maybe 10-15%, enough so that he could hedge his bets, while realtors understood that he had a lot of bets to hedge.
Second, you have to turn the realtor into your creative partner. One of our first fights was that we would ONLY shoot under blue skies. It took juggling, and the realtors kvetched at first, but when they saw how much better even a marginal property looked in the right light, a whole lot more of our advice got taken without a fight.
Then, we took a lot of their advice on staging, even if we weren't nuts about it. Still, once I started straightening pillows a little more than THEY had - gently, as in, "The camera sees that wrinkle more than the naked eye does" - it gave us a lot more room to shift discussions our way later. Client Management 101.
Third, think broadly. We got away with doing two different real estate shows, but those days are gone...EXCEPT on local cable channels, where you can buy the spot infomercial-style. Even more common is video on the broker's website. That money came straight to us from the broker, so we never once had to hustle up collections - occasionally an issue from individual realtors.
(We never went to air with anything that hadn't been paid for, but we still did the half up front/half on completion thing, and sometimes had to wait longer than we'd been told. Realtors are all about cashflow.)
In fact, we sold a house a couple of months ago with a company that used online video for the majority of their properties. They use an external contractor who handles shooting, editing, VO/music, and compression. By working with the broker, that contractor had dozens of properties to work with.
Which brings me to #3. This is a volume play, and it goes like this. Once you factor in all of the other crap you have to do - answer the phone, go to the bank, read the COW - you're lucky if you WORK work half the time. So for these projects, cut your hourly rate in half, and work like a demon for a couple of weeks on 15 or 20 pieces at a time. If you plan properly, you'll actually pocket MORE for those days than you usually do.
Although I get slammed for this every time I mention it in this forum, a flat rate is far, far, far more effective and efficient, and a far easier sell. I found that realtors are much more comfortable with flat rates, and flipping to that from hourly actually took away the last obstacles for the last holdouts.
It still helps to base your flat rate on around half of your hourly rate. Trust me. If you stay on top of this, you'll wind up making more than you could ever get away with if you quoted hourly.
To that end, yes, templates are critical. If you treat these as one-off, standalone gigs, you are doomed. Doing it that way, the more you do, the less you make. You're DOOMED, I say.
3a. Use the realtor's resources. If they have stills, use 'em. It's not an either or. Get really good at the animated still thing, create templates, and scream through 'em.
Last thing - if you don't have an insanely killer demo reel, this will never get off the ground. Realtors are the most ego-driven clients you'll work with. Everything they're taught is that they need to promote themselves above their products - hence the pictures of themselves on their cars, business cards, signs, and everywhere else they can.
I don't say this as a criticism. It's a good principle when they are themselves are the brand. That's why you MUST build reels and full-length demos after you get a nibble that make them ACHE to put their faces in your work. Wow them with your prowess. You have to make them feel bad about THEMSELVES if they DON'T do a video with you.
Best place to start with a demo of a video to sell a house? Your own house. Doesn't matter that it's not a glamorous showcase. Most houses aren't. Show these realtors that you know how to make a comfy, regular house -- flaws and all -- look like a movie star. Then use yourself, your spouse, or any other normal-looking person to play the part of the realtor, and show that you know how to make an everyday person look like a movie star, and you're in.
The last last last bit of advice is to really steep yourself in this stuff. My wife and I have a peripatetic streak, and have moved around a lot more than most people. We pore over those real estate magazines on every vacation. We pore over things like the NY Times real estate slideshows (a total trip) and HGTV. (Don't overlook the chance to sell your shows direct to them. A lot of the ones you see are produced by shops that are smaller than you think.)
As a result of looking at so many houses, and working with dozens of realtors on our own househunting and selling, we look at the world the same way these guys do. Show the broker that you get what they're doing, including the part about showcasing the PEOPLE and not the properties. That and a killer reel make all the difference.
You also have to pay attention to micro-trends. Condos get hit hardest, first, during downturns, but can be the first to come back. Some neighborhoods are hotter than others. Zillow.com makes this stuff a piece of cake to find out. Whatever it is you find, TELL the broker what you know. If a particular neighborhood is tracking up, and the broker has properties in that area, make that your opening gambit. "You guys are clearly paying attention to the market. Hyde Park is hot, and you guys are all over it. You're working smart, maximizing every opportunity, and that's why I want to show you how to raise your profile even higher," blah blah blah.
Again, you're making this pitch to the broker, not the realtor (yet). Specifically, you're pitching to the broker's ego. They'll know you're full of poo, just like they know that they themselves are full of poo, but they'll bite for the reason that every buyer bites - you've helped them articulate their own desires, and helped them feel better about themselves for buying.
Which begs the question - do you want to work this hard?
If so, then you'll have a gas. I confess that we bought a couple of houses at choice rates because, doing the videos, we got to see them before they went on sale. Like I said, we moved a lot.
The bottom line is that these are guys are playing a high stakes game. To win their business, you have to play for keeps too.
Real Estate is a hard nut to crack. There are some very good points here. Every agency I see has their windows plastered with pictures of the various for sale properties.
My idea is to do quick shoots of the property and include LARGE font text detailing the price, features and the video clips that follows. None of this requires any editing and can be done with little effort.
This runs as a RANDOM screen saver on a computer hooked up to a large screen TV 24X7
Here is a mix of video and the 48 point text explanation
Digital video enthusiast