Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Ten Tips for Terrific Listing Videos

is the second largest search engine on the web, yet most REALTORS still haven’t figured out how tap into its traffic. Maybe that’s because their listing sheets can’t play a video? ┬áLet’s change that.

In yet another example of “maybe it will go away” thinking, REALTORS are hoping nobody notices their online marketing looks nothing like YouTube. Most home marketing remains in the glorified Sears-catalog stages: browse the site, see a couple of and text, then print it on an inkjet printer. Of course, when they’re shopping for something they might like to buy – a computer, a car, a hotel room – videos and virtual tours make all the difference. So it’s high time the real estate industry made it mandatory that every listing online had at least one good video.

REALTORS did it in the past: the market leaders in the industry long ago mandated their agents add at least 6, then 10, photos at minimum before they’d post the inventory online. The same kind of line in the sand is needed for video marketing. And not the “photo slide show” kind either. If a 14 year old can post a video from their school field trip online in seconds, a well-paid real estate professional should be able to do something at least as good. (Else we might start recruiting more 14 year-olds, but that’s another story…)

Of course, it’s not just quantity we want: There are millions of photos of homes online these days – most of which rank from “awful” to “was the agent barking mad?” So here are ten ideas on how to shoot quality video for marketing a home, just in case the agent actually wants people to consider buying it:

  1. Plan ahead. Don’t just start shooting video and ad-libbing your narration. Think of the outdoor spaces and indoor rooms that need to be highlighted with video, and write out a few short sentences you’ll say for each. Whether you’re just narrating or personally appear in video, don’t talk off the top of your head. Likewise, plan where to place the camera and what you’ll to pan or zoom towards in the shot.
  2. See the light. Open windows and turn on all overhead lighting. Look for shadows and eliminate them or change the shot. You don’t need to video the whole room – just the key feature areas that will are most likely to interest and excite the viewier.
  3. Stay still. There is absolutely no reason to wildly pan back and forth, zoom in and out, and definitely no need to spin around like a ballerina. Nobody does this in person, so stop shooting the camera like you’re a drunken sailor (no offense, sailors).
  4. Be there. Get in front of the camera and talk to the viewer. Look directly at the lens and smile. Move your arms and walk very slowly if you cross the room. You’re selling the home, so you have to be present in the video.
  5. Do not edit. You’re a REALTOR, not Kubrick. Cut out the cutesy stuff and save your time. There’s no need for special effects, transitions, flying logos or fades. At most, add a text-over effect with the street address and your website or phone number. (And to hell with MLS systems that won’t let you do this; just post it on YouTube and Facebook, which is all the traffic you need.)
  6. Avoid certain shots. Do REALTORS actually know what happens in bathrooms? Then let’s stop videoing them, shall we? No toilet or vanity or moldy tub shots, please! If the bathroom is less than 20 x 20 feet, then it’s just a bathroom. No need to video it.
  7. Tell a story. The purpose of a movie is to tell a story, not catalog countertops and floors. Determine what each home’s unique story, benefit or living experience value is (compared to the competition) and shoot your videos to highlight and tell that story.
  8. Stop the music. First, you probably don’t own the rights to the music for commercial purposes. Second, your musical taste is yours. Third, if buyers wanted really good music videos, they’d go to YouTube on their own.
  9. Keep it short. It’s a marketing commercial, not a documentary. People are distracted today, especially online. They won’t watch a …. what was I saying? Oh, right… they won’t watch your videos if they feel they forgot to make popcorn.
  10. Show product engagement. It’s boring to see photos and videos of featuring people-less rooms. You’re selling a place where people will live, play, relax, exist; not a museum. So bring in the actors (or just use the family that lives there). Show some chopping in the kitchen, relaxing on the back deck, playing in the yard. Buyers need help envisioning how they might live there – so call in the extras and start the show.

Of course, many other tips come to mind: Use a tripod. Shoot in high definition. Upload to YouTube. Post the video to your Facebook page and embed it into your blog. Probably you have some ideas on your own, too (please share them below). But the key point is this: For and , surfing the web is a multimedia experience. The Boomer-days computer experience of card-catalog flat information just won’t work for them (or anyone, Boomers included, really). Nobody expects real estate marketing videos to be a production-studio release. Just shoot it as naturally and straightforward as you’d do a showing with a buyer in person.

But the deadline for adding a video to every listing has come. With so much inventory saturating most markets, video is the key technology to help your listings stand out against competing properties. Great video will help sell your listings, especially when compared to the foreclosures in the marketplace that are unceremoniously dumped online en-masse, with minimal data and barely photos . Good video will also help you get more listings – from other agents who are still printing postcards, as well as For-Sale-By-Owners who can’t put all of the pieces together on their own.

So what are you waiting for? Comb your hair, fix your make-up and get out to your listings. The casting call has sounded: Aaannnnnnd, Action!

  • johncoley

    I agree with almost all of these points. Taken as a whole, this is an excellent article and I plan to keep the points in mind for my next video. However, I would disagree with #4. Maybe some agents might want to be in their listing videos, that's fine. But not all should, and not all listing videos should have agents in there for a couple of reasons:

    1. Focus on the home – if the agent is in every listing video, the temptation is too great to keep the focus on the agent, and not on the home. I agree with your analysis of gen x and y, and would take it a step further – they are looking for homes, not agents. Agents are mostly just in the way. The story is about the home. Let's not revert to the glamour shot mentality of “it's all about me.”

    2. Branding – I am no lawyer nor MLS expert, but if an agent appears in a listing video, I am pretty sure that it would be considered branding, and not allowed on an unbranded link feature in the MLS. Think about it, would you be allowed to submit a virtual tour to your MLS with your glamour shot inserted every 3 pictures? Of course not. If your MLS is like mine, and you insist on being in the videos, better shoot and edit 2 – one with and one without you. Be sure to put the videos with you in the branded section, and without you in unbranded. Even if you keep it away from the MLS and have it only on youtube, how likely will another agent be to forward it to their buyer if you are all over the vid?

    Obviously, if you're only putting the video on your own site, brand away. That's where I get most of my views and traffic, anyway. But, after going to the considerable effort to do a good video, can you honestly say that you're looking after your SELLER'S best interests by not putting it in the MLS?

    Also, I get that “personal branding” is a good thing and you should appear in some videos to show other sellers and buyers that you're cool, the expert, etc etc. I do appear in some of mine, mostly community info ones and how to stuff. But I also realize that buyers want to see homes first, second, third, and agents a distant fourth, so I try to keep my emphasis in that same spirit.

  • Hi John – thanks for your comments. On the whole I agree with you except for the MLS part; it's such a shame that MLS is so “anti brand” as a real estate tool. It's totally counterintuitive and seems anticompetitive in fact, that any REALTOR would want to be part of a system that “neuters' his brand and competitive advantages in selling homes – FOR HIS CLIENTS – at every turn. If I'm great on video, and can SELL the home by appearing in it, what a shame that video cannot get into the MLS where it would then appear on all of the “so-called cooperating” brokers' websites. So you can see why I wrote the bit about “forget about MLS and just get it on YouTube” because clearly MLS is not the place to make videos on listings shine…

    Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks again for your comments!!

  • Too bad people are finding reasons NOT to shoot video instead just getting out there and doing it. I've been taking reality video of my listings for over a year and have had a great response to them. Also done some SSP (shameless self promotion) as well as lots of community events for my blog. People LOVE it.

    Your tips are all well taken and I've discovered most of them already except for “product engagement”. Never considered putting the owners in the video Matt. Great idea.

  • Patti Stehlin

    Do you suggest a particular camera? Such as the Flip?

  • I like the Flip HD and the Kodak Zi8

  • Thanks! I was wondering, what kind of camera to get. Our company is jumping in next week!

  • Thanks! I was wondering, what kind of camera to get. Our company is jumping in next week!

  • Take a look at the Kodak Zi8- we love ours!

  • Take a look at the Kodak Zi8- we love ours!

  • Debbie

    John – Do you have a MLS approved hosting site for your non-branded videos for MLS listings?

  • Anonymous

    Debbie- I put all of my listing videos on I don’t brand those and that’s what I use to put in the MLS. All of the rest of my videos are branded with my logos,and sometimes me, and I put those on YouTube.

    John Coley

    Lake Martin Voice Realty

    For Lake Martin Real Estate Market News & area info, see my blog: