BETTER BUSINESS - LISTINGS IN MOTION

As the industry progresses from newspapers to online, some industry figures are suggesting it’s time to move from still photography to video displays. Real Estate Business explains

High quality photography of well-lit rooms has long been an effective sales and marketing tool for real estate agents.

And while photography retains its place in most online listings, an increasing number of agents are also including various types of video presentations for prospective buyers.

For one agent, the reason for the move towards video is simple.

“If a picture paints a thousand words, than a 60 second video paints 60,000 words or more,” principal of western-Sydney based agency, Just Think Real Estate, Edwin Almeida says.

Making the switch from still imagery to video wasn’t a decision that Mr Almeida made entirely by himself.

In fact, his decision was based on meeting the growing expectations of Australia’s vendors and home buyers.

“The fact of the matter is people start their hunt for property online, they shortlist the ones they like, and then go see the property,” he says.

“Potential buyers want to see real and accurate details of a home. Everybody knows photos can easily be edited using Photoshop but this becomes harder with video.”

Recent research conducted by the owners of realestate.com.au, REA Group, found that approximately 85 per cent of potential home buyers begin their property search online.

With such a high percentage of buyer enquiries now generated from online marketing, Nathan Sahyoun, principal of LJ Hooker Parramatta, in Sydney, decided it was time to better utilise the capabilities of the online medium, giving potential home buyers more information to aid their property hunt.

After an extensive 12 month research campaign, Mr Sahyoun found video was the best format when displaying a highly informative and detailed listing.

“After studying consumers’ needs and wants when buying and selling properties, we recorded a very high percentage of people wanting to see beyond just a photo of the property,” Mr Sahyoun says.

“They want to be able to experience as much of the property as possible to be able to make much more informed decisions in a more time effective way.”

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Providing home buyers with extra information on their property is sure to put a smile on the vendor’s face, but what’s in it for the agent?

Plenty, according to Tony Blamey, general manager – real estate, at Fairfax Media. The owner of Domain.com.au says within the first six months of adding video listings to the online property portal, more than 2.7 million potential home buyers streamed the videos online.

“Video is becoming increasingly popular,” Mr Blamey says.

“We’re seeing listings with video attract around three times the page views and enquiries of listings without video, so that engagement level is much higher.”

Similar results are being recorded at other online property listing portals.

Ben Stockdale, chief executive of thehomepage.com.au, says listings with video attract higher enquiry rates and are proving to be very popular with home hunters.

“In the final week of September we had a 2.35 per cent conversion rate from our website to people actually contacting the agent directly via an email,” Mr Stockdale says.

“Videos definitely keep vendors engaged on the site. They are watching the video all the way through, which increases the general time on the site, and engagement with the property itself.”

Mr Stockdale says the feedback he has received from both consumers and agents has been very encouraging, with some agents reporting a reduction in their days on market since making the switch.

LJ Hooker’s Nathan Sahyoun has seen similar results in his agency.

“We have seen a spike in the number of enquiries since using video marketing.”

“Not only have we seen the number of people viewing properties increase, but the number of engagements or time spent viewing properties has also climbed.”

Charlie Brendon-Cook, senior sales executive at Ballard Property, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, has been using video as a way to market properties for over five years.

He amassed a wealth of experience as a business owner in New Zealand, and has discovered firsthand the benefits video listings for himself and his clients.

“[Video] can provide buyers with an insight into the property that is not always apparent with photographs,” Mr Brendon-Cook says.

“It is different and they [vendors] really see it as a value add, plus it’s just something a little extra so they can see I am not an average agent.”

BOOSTING YOUR SERVICE OFFERING

Since adding video to their arsenal, Just Think Real Estate has been able to boost their service offering to clients and differentiate the agency from its competition.

This has been a smart move because not only has the agency been able to retain more clients, but they have secured several new clients since making the switch, Mr Almeida says.

“We have been able to compete more aggressively for market share and vendors in the local area are taking notice as they see more value in displaying their property in a video format.”

Online listing sites like Domain.com.au have found ways to give agents currently using video a real leg up over the competition.

Suburb TV is a new addition to Domain.com.au, which Mr Blamey believes will allow agents to stand out from the crowd and position themselves as the area’s first point of call.

“[Suburb TV] allows agents to sponsor their own suburb and it is video content that showcases the local area, and it’s hosted by the real estate agent,” Mr Blamey says. “It allows [agents] to position themselves as the authority in that area, and they talk about the lifestyle aspects of a particular area.”

Additions such as ‘Top Spot Videos’ on Domain.com.au have also paved the way for those agents serious about selling real estate through video marketing.

Similar to the ‘Premier Listings’ option available on realestate.com.au, agents can now position their videos as the number one listing in a particular suburb.

Mr Blamey claims agents can use this as another listing tool when trying to close the deal on a potential client.

“Agents love that. Anything that can differentiate [themselves] or have exclusivity is a real benefit for them.”

Mr Sahyoun says it’s important to give vendors a wide range of marketing options.

“To sit in front of a vendor and not offer them all available marketing channels, we would not be doing right by our clients,” Mr Sahyoun says.

“Many agents don’t offer videos as a form of marketing and this has positioned us as market leaders in digital marketing within our area.”

This idea of extending your marketing mix is supported by REA Group general manager of sales and operations, Arthur Charlaftis.

Mr Charlaftis believes more agents should provide a detailed outline of all the marketing options available to a vendor, and this needs to include the online medium.

“Vendors are consumers, and most who are actually selling are usually buying [as well],” he says.

“So, I think over time [agents] are going to find they’ll be doing a detailed schedule in terms of online [advertising] for the vendor, and that is going to be a competitive advantage for the agents who move quickly.”

WHAT MAKES A ‘GOOD’ VIDEO?

Like anything new, there are many questions still surrounding video marketing.

How long should it be? What do I include? Do I need professional help? Can all properties be filmed? The list goes on and on and on.

Unfortunately, there is no real blanket solution or one size fits all approach, as Real Estate Business quickly discovered.

There are various ideas and opinions on what makes a ‘good’ video, as everyone has developed their own unique approach.

But for senior sales executive Charlie Brendon-Cook, capturing the ‘true essence’ of the property is the most important feature of any video listing.

“You have to capture the essence of the home,” he says. “Photographers can go to a property and if it’s cloudy they will just throw in a blue sky, but [with video] you have to pick your time, you have got to pick the ideal conditions.”

Having a commitment to perfection – as Mr Brendon-Cook puts it – can take time and you may have to sacrifice few afternoons or early mornings to ensure you get it right.

There appears to be a common census that keeping a video short and sweet is the best approach.

Speaking in regards to Domain.com.au, Tony Blamey says the site generally receives videos ranging between two and three minutes in length.

This is about the length of time that both Mr Sahyoun and Mr Brendon-Cook let their videos run.

Having a strong focus on the key elements of the property, coupled with a few local market features, are key to an effective video, according to Mr Sahyoun.

“We try to bring the local amenities and lifestyle into the video, to give potential home buyers a real feel for the local community.”

Mr Blamey largely agrees.

“Effective videos are going to showcase the entire property, so really go through all of the rooms in the house.

“Talk about the aspects of the property, and how it fits in to the local area, and what are lifestyle aspects of that as well.”

In order to achieve the optimum result it is important the video sells the property, according to thehomepage.com.au’s Ben Stockdale.

“The one thing I don’t like about video listings is when the video is all about the agent or the agency. These are two separate videos in my opinion,” he says.

Potential home buyers are far more interested in the property rather than the agent selling the home, and this is something that too many agents forget, Mr Brendon-Cook says.

“We did have one pretty girl walking through when we were selling one of our beach properties but definitely not an agent standing in a suit, looking like an undertaker.”

WHAT ARE THE COSTS?

The costs of presenting a property in video format can vary greatly depending on the format, style and quality of the production.

However it really comes down to what your client is willing to pay.

Producing a video in a high definition (HD) format will quickly chew into you profits.

“In some cases I have seen a video production cost up to $40,000,” Mr Stockdale says.

Mr Brendon-Cook suggests the cost of the video should reflect the cost of the home.

For a property situated in the lower end market with a price range of $300,000 to $400,000, Mr Brendon-Cook has managed to cut costs by shooting video on his mobile phone. But this is hardly appropriate from home situated in the million dollar bracket.

Other agencies have found great success in forming strong relationships with professional media production teams.

Just Think Real Estate has managed to consistently produce high quality videos and reduce all marketing costs, by investing in multimedia production company Just Think Media.

“In the past, delivering more than text and photos was very cost prohibitive,” Mr Almeida says.

“It was not a difficult decision to invest in this [Just Think Media] given that marketing expertise is a main part of our service we must offer as real estate agent.”

Mr Almeida is able to put together a marketing package for a property including video editing, photography and floor plans for approximately $600.00.

Domain.com.au now offers agents the opportunity to present and produce their video listings for approximately $500, Mr Blamey says.

“In terms of production we’ve partnered with video production houses that have a television production background,” Mr Blamey says.

“They’re able to do it very efficiently, high quality, at a cost effective rate.”

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