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How to create stellar real estate listing videos

2018-05-28

By: Alyssa Ennis

When shopping for a new home, real estate buyers want to know what it's really like to stroll through the kitchen, stand on the balcony or lounge in the backyard. Since they'll be investing years in a house or apartment, they want to imagine themselves in the space before they contact a real estate agent. Next to physically being there, listing videos provide the best experience for persuading buyers that their dream home is just a click away.

Related: Guide to an effective real estate listing marketing strategy

Although listing videos are big in real estate marketing, few real estate agents actually take advantage of the power of video to immerse and move buyers to purchase. The National Association of Realtors found that 85% of buyers & sellers prefer to work with a real estate agent who offers video marketing... but only 15% of agents actually use video to market their listings.

High demand and low supply gives those real estate agents willing to invest in video an edge in finding potential buyers. With a little practice, it's easy to create real estate listing videos that'll get your properties moving.

Planning shots in a listing video

You should already be familiar with the property, so make a shot list of all the rooms, outbuildings, porches, pergolas, and other pertinent features you want to capture beforehand. Focus on the interior first. Plan your shots like you would plan an actual walkthrough with a prospective buyer. Start with the entryway, then move into the living room or the next logical place. This will make the final edit feel natural as you take the buyer from shot to shot.

As a general rule, you'll want your video to contain around 75% interior shots and 25% exterior. You don't need to show every nook and cranny of the property. Concentrate on the most visually appealing and emotionally moving parts—the selling points.

One must-have is the "hero shot" that will be the climax of the story you're telling. It may be a beautiful vaulted ceiling, an indoor pool or a breathtaking mountain view from the backyard. Whatever it is, your hero shot should be the star of your listing video, and you'll want to place it where it has the biggest emotional effect.

Pro tip: Take still photos from all the vantage points you use to shoot video. Use the images to create a storyboard of your video. The images will work as reminders and guides for the best angles and spots to put your camera. You can import all of your images into a storyboard template and organize them how you want.

Estimating video length

Your video's length depends on the size of the property. A video for a small, 2-bedroom apartment should be shorter than a sprawling 6-bedroom estate with 10 acres. To estimate length, take the number of planned shots and multiply them by 5 seconds per shot. That'll give you an approximate run-time.

Ultimately, your video's length should be dictated by the shots that you capture. You don't want to rush past the selling points of the property, but you also don't want to induce yawning. Remember, it's a video, so prospects can play it back or press pause for closer examination, so err on the side of shorter. For quality control, enlist friends and family to critique the video before you publish it.

Using professional video equipment

Editor's note: This section contains links to products on Amazon.com. These links are provided for reference only, and should not be taken as endorsements for any of the brands or products listed. Also, Lucidpress does not receive any payment or commission from sales of these products.

At minimum, you're going to need a camera, a tripod and some editing software. Many of today's smartphone cameras work well enough to produce decent video footage, but a DSLR camera is a better choice for quality and flexibility.

A fluid head tripod is a must-have. A good tripod keeps your camera steady and lets you produce smooth, fluid movements. Jerky camera movements distract viewers and make your videos look amateurish.

If you're using a DSLR, buy a zoom lens with a focal length around 17mm-40mm or 16mm-35mm. Wide-angle lenses like these will capture a good chunk of a space without distorting or barreling the image. If your image is too rounded at the sides, your lens is too wide.

For basic video editing software, many operating systems already come with free versions, like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. These programs are easy to use, but they're also limited in their color-correction abilities, number of transition choices, and audio enhancement capabilities. To up your post-production game, invest in professional editing software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. Both come with powerful video tools but are harder to learn.

If you plan on capturing dialogue with your video, snag a lapel mic or shotgun mic and an audio recorder. However, recording dialogue is a difficult task, especially for beginners. It's better to find stock music that creates a powerful, emotional effect in the background. Besides, you should assume that a large portion of people will watch your videos on mobile phones with the sound muted.

Pro tip: Handheld gimbal systems aren't cheap, but they offer the ultimate in flexibility, compactness and convenience, letting you capture smooth, professional video without a tripod. Gimbal systems keep your shots steady even when you're walking around, so you can create sweeping shots in any direction that look like scenes in Hollywood blockbusters.

Lighting the scene

You can go all out and invest in a basic photography lighting kit to make your listing videos look their best, or you can just shoot on a nice, clear day. Most of the rooms you'll want to feature will be well-lit on sunny days, so take advantage of nature and show your properties in their true light.

For exteriors, shoot during the "golden hour," that time just before sunrise or sunset when the sun is in the horizon and casting warmer colors. The warmer light makes exteriors more attractive.

Pro tip: Some of your interior lighting will come from tungsten bulbs, which produce a warmer color than daylight or fluorescent bulbs. When possible, replace tungsten bulbs with ones that have a color temperature of 5500K. When you keep a consistent color temperature in your scenes, it's easier for your camera to maintain its white balance.

Prepping the area

Before you start shooting, take your shot list and walk through the house. Stow away any distracting objects. If the house is unoccupied, this might be stuff like cleaning supplies, drop clothes or painting equipment. If it's still occupied, put away any clutter on kitchen bars, pick up dirty clothes on the floor, and take down family photos. If possible, also take down any mirrors that would show your reflection while shooting. Turn on interior lights when appropriate and open window coverings for better lighting.

Pro tip: Don't shoot towards an open window. Your camera will struggle to balance the intense brightness of the window with the relative darkness of the interior rooms, and your images will suffer. Shoot with the camera pointing away from open windows, or cover them.

Shooting the video

You'll only need two to three shots per room. You're not shooting a film, so just get the best angles in the best lighting and move down the shot list.

For interior shots, get a few good tilts (up and down movements) and pans (left and right movements) of each room. If you have a tripod slider or steadicam system, also grab a few dolly shots, moving slowly from left or right. Multiple takes of the same space gives you more choices during editing. You don't want every shot to be the same pan from left to right. That bores viewers. Instead, mix it up and provide them with a variety of views to hold their interest.

Set up your tripod so the camera is at waist height, not at eye level. Interior spaces look more attractive from a slightly lower perspective. Any pans, tilts or dollies should be slow and smooth.

For a pan shot, start the camera pointing at one side of the room, then use the tripod handle to slowly move it to the other side. Start and stop each camera movement with a five-second pause. This will create a "head" and "tail" for the shot, giving you some room to work with when editing them together.

For exteriors, you'll need two to three shots that show the front and back yards, any separate structures, and any hero shots. But, don't just piece together the whole property through multiple images. Prospective buyers want to see the entire home within the context of its surroundings, which could include the lawn, nearby structures or a body of water. Get at least two shots that show a more encompassing vantage point.

If you include shots that are static, use them sparingly. The viewer's attention is captured by movement and color. You're making a video, not painting a picture. Keep the action going.

Pro tip: If you want Hollywood-style shots that will really wow house hunters, consider renting an aerial lift for the shoot. These professional lifts get up to 60 feet above the property to capture high-angle aerial shots. They're safe, easy to set up, and give you the platform to grab dramatic footage that will make your listing stand out.

Video storytelling in real estate

To really sell a piece of real estate, you have to connect with viewers on an emotional level. Good cinematography and editing is key, but without storytelling and music, you're just presenting moving images. Storytelling can involve following a character as they move around the home doing domestic things, as in this listing video from Savvy + Co Real Estate or this one by The Boutique Real Estate Group.

But, storytelling doesn't have to include actors or characters at all. It can simply suggest feelings and emotions that connect with viewers. For example, if the residence is occupied, use the existing furnishings to tell the story of the absent individuals who inhabit it.

That doesn't mean going into personal details, but you could suggest how the spaces are being used by including a close-up of a child's toy sitting on a dresser, or a porch swing as it moves in the wind. These personal touches tell the story of lives being lived in the home. Such images connect with viewers, letting them imagine their own lives there, turning a house into a home.

Pro tip: If you really want impressive exterior shots, consider investing in a drone. Every year, drones get smaller and cheaper, and the image quality for prosumer models works great for these projects. You could even use them to shoot interiors... if you're brave enough. They're challenging to learn, and you can't just fly them anywhere (per the FAA guidelines), but their sweeping movements and intense aerials create emotional connections with viewers.

Related: Real estate video marketing -- The ultimate content marketing tool

Publishing listing videos

Even if you produced a video that could make the list of top 10 stunning real estate listing videos, it won't matter if no one sees it. Video hosting platforms like YouTube or Vimeo are the best places to store your listing videos. While YouTube provides unlimited storage, Vimeo only lets you upload a specific number of videos at a time. Both let you embed videos on your own website.

After uploading your real estate listing videos to YouTube or Vimeo, optimize them for search engines. Here are some things to include:

  • Descriptive titles. Don't just call it "Farm House Video." Include more descriptive words like "Property at 1132 N Elm St."

  • Video descriptions. Include a short explanation of the video and property. Add your name, business address and website.

  • Free or licensed music. Use either public domain music or licensed stock music so YouTube doesn't flag your videos.

  • Suggested videos. Set your channel to display "suggested videos" so viewers can see your other properties.

Pro tip: Hosting platforms are only one avenue for distribution. Digital lookbooks are mixed-media catalogues made from still images and videos that can showcase your properties in fuller detail. You can create and host them directly on the web for free.

Key takeaway

While these tips are helpful for getting started, rising above the competition means upping your game over time. Listing videos are getting less expensive to produce as equipment and software prices come down. Staying above the fray means finding creative ways to engage potential buyers. The best training is to stay current with video trends in the real estate space. They'll show you where the benchmark is, and you can use your creativity and skills to exceed it.

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Alyssa Ennis

Alyssa Ennis works as a writer for Content Harmony in the heart of downtown Seattle. She's passionate about design, real estate, and her pet chihuahua Oliver. A former professional photographer, you can typically find Alyssa exploring Seattle with her Canon camera in one hand and a venti Americano in the other.

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