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Video vs Tours – Which is More Effective?

November 10th, 2011

Today Mike O’Neill in Knoxville, TN asked a great question: “I see lots of articles about using Video to market your properties, a few on Tours. Can you write an article about Video vs Tours ? I’m in Knoxville, TN doing some real good virtual tours, but I’m seeing Video moving up the popularity scale. I would love some info about their effectiveness.”

First of all here is my take on this question:

  1. It’s nearly impossible to make any meaningful comparison of tours in general to videos in general because the quality of both varies so widely.
  2. There is some property video that is way more effective than most tours. The reverse is also true.
  3. As we’ve discussed many times if you have been following discussions on this blog about video in the last year or so, property video doesn’t replace still photography. Video typically gives the potential buyer of a property a deeper look at the property and if done well, adds more of an emotional appeal than is possible with stills.
  4. A significant trend I see occurring is that tours are evolving to present both stills, embedded video along with branding and all the other things agents have come to expect in tours. Here are a few examples that I’ve seen recently:
    • www.imageya.com – These are a little expensive but are well done.
    • virtualviewing.ca – Reader CJ has created his own still/video tours that look really good.
    • Pfretour.com – Allows embedded YouTube video but needs to be polished up a bit.
    • There are probably many other examples out there because embedding video in any web page like a tour isn’t very difficult.

That said I ran across a general marketing article just the other day at imediaconnection.com that points out that:

Online video leads to higher conversions and sales. It is more engaging than photos and text, allows for greater online visibility (within search as well as social media), increases the likelihood of sharing, and allows business owners to form an unprecedented emotional connection with customers.

This says it all, you just don’t get the opportunity to make as great an emotional connection with stills as with video. Note I say opportunity. Not every video makes that emotional connection. Making great video is way harder than making stills. In fact it’s harder than hell! But my sense is that photography is rapidly evolving towards an enterprise that involves both video and stills. I don’t think it’s one or the other- great marketing involves both.

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20 Responses to “Video vs Tours – Which is More Effective?”

  • I agree, I think each has their own pro’s and con’s making videos are much more pricey and time consuming as compared to the stills and virtual tours. Stills and virtual tours are becoming a commodity slowly but a “must have” – videos are more in the rave right now.

  • Yikes! Looks like http://www.imageya.com stole some of our design with the menu and background.

    Guess I will have to have my lawyer (my Brother) contact them…..

  • The problem I’m finding is that they like video and need the stills but can’t really afford to do both…

  • I agree videos are the rage right now, but I’ve yet to find any research that shows whether they are effective in home buying decisions. Almost all the research data I’ve seen is related to the retail space with a few exceptions in the B-to-B arena. These don’t translate into the real estate market. If anyone has real estate specific research on video usage please share because I would like to see hard data as opposed to “expert” opinions.

  • It’s really hard to say which is better. Just like we(photographers and videographers) are marketing our service. We are selling us. A home seller may not favor video or virtual tours. In my opinion we(photographers and videographers) have to keep our finger on the pulse of our clients(agents and brokers). What our clients want is the way we should continue to move.

  • Hear’s The Discussion I don’t hear taking place…..Analytics Rule and Real Video Tours Just Don’t Provide It The Way Agents Use It!

    OK, I’m in metro Baton Rouge, LA, population 800K with bedroom communities included, approx. 2,500 RE Agents. I have shot a few tours and had Mark Passerby at Hdhat Dot Com edit and syndicate, very happy with Mark. The primary local HD Video Tour company, with about $20K in equipment, is an Agent and now a mortgage loan officer because there is not much demand for these tours. Here’s what I know about local RE Agent Video Marketing.

    #1.) Less than 1% utiltize video at all (photo slideshow or real tours)….still in 2011 that holds true.

    #2.) I don’t see real “Video” clips making it up the chain in use at all. I even run the Baton Rouge Housing Reports Dot Com where I try to post a “Local RE Agent Market Report Of The Month” and Agents locally don’t create these videos or real video in front of cameras. So many of them have heard the benefits of online video marketing and really don’t care and don’t use it.

    #3.) Of the 1% that use video, it’s either amateur photo animoto OR amateur photo or professional photos ($100 to $125 locally) slide shows but not real video tours. The big winner locally is Tourfactory.com (TF). I asked two of the local super Agents why they use TF and they said immediately because of their impressive analytics reports they can send to their clients weekly showing they are hunt for the a buyer or seller of the home listed. An Agent showed me 1 of these reports and it was impressive and I had no ideat heir videos were generating that much traffic. That report can be created and sent to a client in about 1 minute….HUGE Benefit. Now, the TourFactory slideshow using Prof. Photos is winning out. Agents locally are not going to pay for prof. photos and video tour.

    #4.) The reasons local Agents are not utilizing real video tours is price, time it takes from start to finish and the challenge of delivering weekly video analytics reports to their clients when not using a tourfactory.com type model. I mean, if you have the video tour on your Agent Blog, YouTube, Wellcomemat, Zipvo, PropertyTube and say 5 other video sharing sites, that’s a tremendous chore for them to somehow compile those stats into a report deliverable to a client weekly. In my opinion, real video tours WILL NOT gain ground in usage until video can be shared across a vast array of video sharing sites and there’s easy 1 minute analytics report creation from that 1 video submission.

    This is what local super Agents have told me and they vote (pay with their pocketbook) with what’s working for them and they are in the top 5% of all 2500 Agents. While this is bad news for the real video tour companies, it’s GREAT NEWS for the local professional photographers. And, maybe the video syndication company that can figure out how to submit a tour to multiple video sharing sites and very easily compile a weekly report similar to TourFactory stats reports wins. I could be totally wrong and uneducated about this topic, but it appears there is no such company or service in 2011 that will do this?!!.

  • I’m assuming we are talking about the same quality video and tours. Of course a good tour is way better then lousy videos.
    Videos are better. Why? Because you can show exactly what you want how you want and you can even promote yourself. With tours you are a bit limited because it generally involves the viewer in a large number of clicks and that’s not very attractive. On a video you just have to sit click play and watch. If the video sucks you’ll just skip it. If the video is great you’ll see it all from the first second to the last. If a video tour is great a viewer might get tired of clicking around; even if it doesn’t involve clicking you are just showing still photos. Still photos are nowhere near from what a video can show to you. Even if a tour has video it’s very boring. Just pans and such. Not very interesting… People get tired in seconds even if the photos are great.
    We have to have always in mind the effectiveness and what is the porpoise of the videos and photos, sometimes photographs forget about that even if they are great. I find countless times photos of details that don’t matter at all, it’s a common error.
    If the viewers could vote in what they want to see I bet +90% would choose good videos. It’s just very superior. Buyers want to see the REALITY, the trick is to show how exactly things are (of course you have to make them look great). Buyers want to feel like that the house belongs to them. They want to feel like they were there. It has to have a natural feeling. We live with time. Video provides that, another dimension that stills (our tours, even tours with video) don’t offer. It looks artificial. That’s why HDR photos can be dangerous.
    The buying of a new house is very emotive, way more then a rational decision, moreover when is the woman that in 90% have the last word.
    It’s like watching a film, for some time you live what the main character feels. It’s like you were there living in that space. You are transported to a different reality from where you are.
    Reminds me a lot of the platinumHD video http://photographyforrealestate.net/2011/10/13/my-nomination-for-best-property-video/
    It goes against some preconceptions and it shows pure reality like things really are. People even cried watching it! Of course it’s audacious because a buyer will almost certainly not buy a house if they feel that they are in another person space. But that’s not always the case.
    Video is a whole new level. Like it was when sideshows and tours appeared and there was only stills at the time.
    Tours have it’s space. It’s better then just stills if done properly. But it’s no where near as powerful as videos.

  • Videos absolutely drive sales! This is from a Real Estate Agent’s point of view:

    Seeing a few pictures on MLS or a website just doesn’t satisfy a sophisticated customer any longer.

    I agree with you that main obstacle to video tours are they take time and are costly but more people are starting to expect them. We are a leasing and property management company and I do all our videos because I really enjoy the challenge. I can tell you from firsthand experience that we are getting more and more customers renting our homes BECAUSE they saw the video and knew they could trust what they were seeing. You have give them an honest look at the home but deliver it with a little artistic flair.

    Gone are the days of low quality ‘Uncle Joe’s home video’ tours selling homes.

    I know renting is less of a commitment than buying a house BUT the concept is the same. When people get onto our YouTube channel they often continue to browse and will find a home they rent: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tampalocators Even after a video has sold the house, they are still free to be seen by prospective customers so they will linger on your website or YouTube channel even longer. If they stay, chances are excellent they will buy from you (or your Realtor customers)

    For us, video tours have taken on a life of their own to the point that our YouTube channel has a higher page rank (6) and just as much traffic as our main site. Video tours are powerful and worth every penny. If I could not do my own tours, I would gladly pay for the service because it has made all the difference to our bottom line.

  • I find it way harder to create a professional looking video than I do stills. I mean, forget about the audio, the transitions, encoding, etc. and just think about the lighting challenges for a minute. The great thing about still photography is that it is relatively easy to control the lighting in the scene. With video, lighting and dynamic range have always been a problem and you cant just hide a strobe or two out of the frame to fix it (assuming you are panning or gliding). I believe as soon as people find an easier way to deal with this issue you will see a lot more VFRE. This issue was the primary reason I decided to pursue still photography as opposed to video. And VFRE was what got me started with all this in the first place…

  • Bill: I have been doing video full time since 2006… Thousands of videos, hundreds and hundreds of clients, many who do video for EVERY listing, regardless of price. I have been asked about analytics, stats, etc. exactly ONE TIME. And this was from a Realtor (who had never used video) at an Inman Connect Real Estate conference in San Francisco where I was speaking. Other than that, the question has never been asked. Never. I was talking with Wes Moore of iPlayerHD a couple of months ago regarding this… and he basically said the same thing – people don’t ask. One would think they WOULD, but they don’t.

    Why? Because video elicits almost immediate response, and almost always it is positive. When an agent uses video they receive positive feedback from the seller, from buyers, from other agents, and from competitors. Almost always. They don’t need stats and analytics to prove to them that video works.

    I used to keep track of ‘testimonials’ from agents for my website, and I stopped a long time ago, because there were just too many! I hear success stories every single week from clients… IT JUST WORKS.

    And it works on so many levels….

    Buyers talk about it because it is what brought them to the home, and perhaps “talked them into buying it”. They specifically state it was the video. Not the photos, the VIDEO. That’s what did it for them.

    Just a few weeks ago and agent was taken aback as a buyer called to see a home… she showed it to him and he spent less than 10 minutes looking around… and then said he wanted to make an offer. She said she wasn’t prepared because “that just doesn’t happen anymore”. He specifically stated that he came out for the sole purpose of putting in an offer… based on the video, which he said he had watched numerous times. They weren’t even looking in that town. He bought the house and then listed his house with that same agent. I hear stories like that ALL the time.

    Sellers talk about it because it’s the reason they choose to hire that particular agent to sell their house due to their superior marketing efforts over their competitors. They like it because they are busy, have kids, pets, etc. and getting ready for showings is a major undertaking. They know when someone does make a personal appointment to see their home, they are a VERY serious buyer (it’s effectively a second showing!)

    If the agent appears in the video, it gives them instant visibility, credibility and likeability….it loosens the tension at open houses and listing appointments because the prospective client recognizes, feels comfortable and “knows” the agent instantly because they recognize them from the video. Appearing on camera for even 20 seconds goes a long way in establishing that likeability. It’s pretty amazing, and something that can’t be duplicated with an airbrushed 10 year old photo on a webpage with a “me, me, me” bio.

    Buyers love video. Sellers love video. Those who generally don’t get it are the Realtors. 95% of them just look at it as another invoice. And that’s the biggest problem with this business. You’re catering to a very small percentage of people. But I can tell you they are out there, they “get it”, they love it and they pay for it. All the time….

  • Fred (above) is spot on. It works.

    And one more very important point for the use of video that is often overlooked. I live and sell in a resort ski town in Colorado. Yes, the majority of properties are located within the community and close to the Steamboat Springs ski area. But there are hundreds of properties in the outlined area that takes a bit of driving to get to. 30 minutes north, 40 minutes south, bumpy dirt roads, snowy roads, it’s just not that easy to drive out there to look at something that might not work.

    So I bring the home to the sellers with video. I bring the home to buyers, in their Chicago high-rise, in their Dallas suburban estate, or even to their computer screen in Steamboat. Time is valuable and whatever it takes to market and show the home to as many people is what this game is all about.

    If someone watches my video several times and decides to take the drive out and take a look, I have done my job (or half of it). But I doubt they are going to drive out based on a few pictures.

  • In a recent HGTV segment of ‘Selling New York’ a mini-helicopter was used to record aerial views of a unique property that would be promoted via social media. This is what real estate video is all about.
    In addition to YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn and Facebook we’re currently using PFRETours.com to showcase our clients’ listings as in this sample tour: http://www.pfretour.com/1500
    It’s not perfect but it does syndicate to realtor.com, zillow, and trulia.
    A big part of ferreting out potential buyers is being able to target your market demographically and video definitely gives us that edge.

  • I know I’m a bit biased and in the minority here but I just don’t get the point of Virtual Tours. It would be one thing if they used photos that weren’t *already* being used in the listing but to use the same exact photos that viewers have already seen? And to put them to bad music and the cheesy Ken Burns effect? I just don’t see the point. Video, whether it’s a walk through or cinematic style, at least gives the viewer more information and a new perspective. Again, I know I’m in the minority with this opinion… Just my 2 cents.

  • @Malia

    I dont think you are in the minority Malia, more and more agents are feeling the same way in my area.

    Alot of the big tour companies have to rely on using the photos for both a slideshow and a “virtual tour” because they cant do anything else. Its almost like they try and trick the viewer by offering the same thing 2 different ways.

    myvisuallistings.com has a photo gallery and then uses the exact same photos in their highly advertised “video walk through tour” (a ken burns slideshow to music) and charges $129 for it! here is an example: http://www.myvisuallistings.com/fsvt/42043/ . Obeo is another company doing this.

    I take the opportunity to contact any agents I see using their system and explain that they should be offering their clients something like video, which provides a completely DIFFERENT view on any house in addition to photos…and while the cost is slightly more, the final product is far better and more importantly more useful to a potential buyer.

  • @Malia – the point to virtual tours is they are a doorway to video. Currently, the MLS accepts VTs but not video and its inherent branding. Most video is uploaded to YouTube which creates problems for MLS guidelines. RE agents rely heavily on MLS sites to advertise their listings and we are selling to agents so we have to conform to their requirements.

    Platinumhd.tv has created their own showcase for listings and it works because Australia doesn’t have an MLS like we do here in the states. My area comprises PA, NJ, DE which is controlled by TrendMLS and they do not accept video. So we fly beneath the radar by utilizing sites like pfretour.

    I like the idea of offering realtors/brokers a package deal of photography, photo tour, and video. It’s more work for us but it gives us more control. We can’t upload a video to pfretour without first uploading a photo tour so we need to provide the whole ball of wax. Sure, it would be great to just shoot videos but it takes a lot of social media to get videos out there where they can be seen by the right people – potential buyers.

  • There are a lot of good points here. My thoughts are that there are pros and cons to both genres. To Malia’s post… Some MLS’s limit the number of photos and also the size of the photos. Having a Virtual Tour helps to show a lot more content than would otherwise be available. I also agree that the Ken Burns effect can be cheesy if not handled properly but it can be effective if done with variety and subtlety. More importantly, it’s all about the quality of either the video or photography or combination of the two. If time is not taken during the shoot or in post to perfect the content it doesn’t matter much which format you use. I have chosen to go with a hybrid of sorts. I create an mp4 video made from stills. Yes I use the Ken Burns effect and I do add music but I’ve never had anyone tell me it is “cheesy”. Again, the quality and artistic input dictates the final product. The primary reason I have chosen this format is due to light control. Particularly because in my market (Florida Coast) it is imperative to show the views from the windows. Blown out windows just won’t cut it! I have yet to find a way to do video (within a modest budget) that gives me the control that I can get with still photography and portable flashes. Here’s an example… http://bethere360.com/2011html5/2295genesea/index.html

  • I think the “virtual tour” has always been a vehicle for whatever is left out of the listing on realtor.com or whichever RE portal you are on. In the past it hosted more pictures of better quality, maps, panoramas and other features. More and more these features are programmed into the RE portals themselves. I would agree with Malia that mnay offer nothing more than the listing itself does. A popular service here creates a virtual tour out of the listing data, and realtors love it because its cheap and requires no effort, but it offers exactly nothing more than whichever web portal you are on. This is bad! I love the “virtual tour” concept, it almost feels like a dirty word saying it here, but what photographer should not embrace the chance to market themselves to realtors and everyone else through an accepted, premade, syndicated and usually automatic circuit?! Is there any form of marketing for us that reaches a broader scale of our exact client base. Embrace the chance to make it anything you want and brand it, call it a website if it makes you feel better that’s all it is, and support it with rich(er) media!!! That said, it will be a sad day for us when the “virtual tour” is no longer, it is hands down the most effective and cheapest advertising you do. Sorry this is veering OT.

  • Both are here to stay like the others have said its the quality that will decide if it’s effective or not. Combo of the 2 will land you the larger listings is what I have learned but can be very time consuming I order to put out a high end product but saying that your work speaks for itself and once you shoot once for a agent chances are you will shoot for them again and again.

    Video is here to stay and all the top dogs are pushing towards it. Sotheby’s international convention in Miami they launched their YouTube channel.

    The wall street journal is featuring one of my videos I shot for sothebys the following week of them launching their YouTube and it’s going to run until the end of the month and more then likely feature another estate video and so on and so on.

    High quality video makes agents feel like rock stars and same with luxury home owners, they like to show off their video more then the agents do.
    Top right with the twilight screen cap.

    http://online.wsj.com/ad/article/sir-living?WC=HPLivThumb

  • Part of the problem is marketing. “Video” is the new buzzword, and many “slideshow”, “spin tour”, “visual tour”, etc. providers are now marketing their SLIDESHOWS to Realtors as a video product. It sells more, and they realize that having images on YouTube is an asset, so they make their slideshow tours exportable in a video “format” (.mp4). A perfect example is “MyVisualListings” posted above, marketing their product as a “video walk through tour”. Of course, I think it borders on false advertising as it is not a “walk through” nor a “video”, but it creates a buzz, and most Realtors don’t know the difference, so they bite.

    It’s also cheap and/ or free as many offices now provide these types of services to their agents for free so they can develop their “virtual tours”. It’s an uphill battle, for sure.

    It also makes it imperative that agents who actually DO video understand how to market AGAINST those agents who “think” they do video, but in reality just upload their crummy pictures to a free slideshow service. I strongly urge my clients to put their videos on their iPad and SHOW them to clients at a listing presentation, and explain what other agents are passing off as video. In fact, I created a small video showing actual comparisons between “slideshow” tours, “spin” tours, and actual video, so clients can actually demonstrate the difference at the listing table and sell AGAINST those others who brag about their “videos” when in reality it’s just the same B.S. that litters the MLS on every listing. Doing video sets you FAR apart from your competition, but it’s important that the agent really explain the differences to the client, rather than assume the client knows the difference – they don’t.

    Joanna Michl: In regards to the MLS, I work with three different systems, and ALL accept LINKS for “virtual tours”. That’s where the VIDEO that I create is placed, and I’ve been doing that for 6 years! Actually, the one link I provide offers video only, a photo slideshow only or a combo of the video and the slideshow with one single link. In fact, that’s where most of the traffic is! If your MLS allows a LINK (vs. direct upload of video), there should be no reason that you cannot add a video to the MLS.

    I do create four versions of every video however, one branded (with agent contact and logo) and one unbranded (without contact info to be compliant). I create a mobile version of both of those as well, as that is a HUGE part of this market. The unbranded link goes on the MLS, and the branded links go on Zillow, Trulia, etc. Realtor.com is the only major portal that I’m aware of that offers direct uploads of the actual video file. I send the branded video file to the agent, and they upload the video to Realtor.com

  • @CG

    You are in Ottawa and are not in my market so you shouldnt worry about my prices. Every market is different and you need to base your prices on YOUR market.

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