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Real Estate Marketing From The Point of View of a Home Seller

December 7th, 2011

Levi and I haven’t sold a property of our own since 2006 but this weekend we are putting our furnished rental in Snoqualmie, WA on the market. Putting this property on the market gives me a chance to “eat my own dog food” in the process of marketing the property. We’ve spent the last week getting the place ready to put on the market. When the home you are marketing is your own, this stuff takes on a whole new meaning.

Last Monday I hired Malia Campbell to come out an shoot a cinematic video for me and we will probably get a look at the video this coming monday or so. She came out to shoot for me despite still being jet lagged from returning from Spain and having a bad cold she picked up on the way back from Europe. Thanks Malia!

I compiled the stills from shots I’ve done over the years. I’m using a pfretour.com tour with a custom URL as a property site. The primary reason I’m using a pfretour.com tour is that I can embed Malia’s video on the video page and have stills and video one site without building a custom site. The video that’s on the site now is just a very old series of stills made into a video. Malia’s video will replace this soon. I’ll also be putting links to neighborhood videos on the site and more stills.  There are a bunch of thing’s I don’t like about pfretour.com tours. I really would like to have the video on the first page instead of the stills and the have the placement of the embedded video on the page closer to the top of the page but I know of no other tour hosting that even allows stills, video, maps etc. on the same tour. Michael and Alfie (the pfretour.com developers) have promised to fix these these thing but don’t know if it will happen in time for my home sale.

In the process of studying the market in this neighborhood we’ve made some interesting observations:

  1. Only the upper-end homes ($650K and above) being marketed well (tours, professional photography, rider signs that have tour URLs and QR codes and great flyers with direct links to an online listing page).
  2. Discussions with agents clearly indicate the reason for #1 is agents just don’t understand the technical aspects of how to do it. They need to be shown. Most of them don’t have even have a clue what URL, QR code mean and even what the capabilities of their brokers site has.
  3. The only tours in use by upper-end agents in this market are tourfactory.com tours. This is because tourfactory.com has invested time and money in the last 20 years educating agents. They’ve come to every local real estate convention in the area in the last 15 years.
  4. As far as I can tell we will be the only listing in the Snoqualmie Ridge that will have video.
  5. I didn’t see a single QR code on a flyer or a sign ours will be the only one in the neighborhood.
  6. Many of the major broker sites have no way to link to the listing page on their site with a simple URL so you have to have a tour of some kind with a simple URL to be able to get people from a flyer or for sale sign to a listing site. Yea, you can use the MLS # to search.
This whole experience is confirming the feelings I’ve had for a long while, that a huge part of what real estate photography/cinematography is is just training your client, the agent, in the technical aspects of how to market a property. You have to sell agents a marketing system, not just stills or video. That’s what tourfactory.com does and many agents are using it. A few brokers are giving agents technical support for doing all these technically involved marketing activities.
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25 Responses to “Real Estate Marketing From The Point of View of a Home Seller”

  • I know what you mean about the agents really NEED to be educated. I just changed firms and in my research before the change noted that of the 82 listings, only 2 had tours. And while the broker is estatic with my skills, coupled with another agent I haven’t met yet with a design background, informal discussion with other agents had the rationalized excuses of why “they didn’t see the need.” Unfortunately, it is not just them as it is area wide. I thought it was Tour Factory, but checking, it is a competing DIY tour RealBiz360 that our MLS offers to all agents as a member benefit. Individual tours for $2, or the Gold Package unlimited tours (with additional features over single) for $5/mo plus 1 time $25 setup vs the normal $25mo/199 setup. Reality is, even at those killer prices, few people use them so my initial concers on competitive pricing were unfounded.

    On a positive note, yesterday I attended a conference call sponsored by Docusign and presented by a brokerage in Texas that uses professional photography and video. While the focus was on “paperless” office and use of an iPad, one area really stood out on a a listing presentation. When the owner is giving a tour of the home, using evernote for notes and audio recording plus photo for each room for recall, using those low quality iPad photos in future listing presentation. Couple those photos with professionally taken of the same room and ask the future prospect “which home would you buy?” and you educated them on the benefits of professional photography that you will use when selling their home. The Realtor in denial…they don’t get the listing! While many here are not combined Realtor/Photographer, those dedicated as Photographer only may want to educate your client base on the good/bad photo technique adding value to the presentation, landing more listing for you to shoot. Perhaps even educate them on how to take really bad photos for comparison, like point the iPad/iPhone at a bright window.

  • @LarryL – you hit the nail on the head – it is not just photography – it is a whole package marketing system. Many real estate photographers as well as agents don’t understand this. At Powervision360, Brad and I offer complete systems for agents to purchase. Our price stands firm whether we the agent uses the whole package or not! We wish you the best of luck – and please provide updates and statistics about the website, the open houses, the offers, etc.

    @LarryG – do not despair – this agency wide monthly package is all over the place and you have to make a decision to stick to your guns on what you are offering. Enough pasta against the wall – and some finally sticks. You don’t need too many agent/clients at good pricing to make a very decent living. Once you have a client – service the heck out of him/her and make yourself indispensable. Always have a reason to refer something to that agent that could be helpful at the end of a phone call ie..e Hey Joe, before I go, did you see the special at Costco that allows you to buy $100 worth of meals at Olive garden for $75. In $25 denominations that allows you to have some great stocking stuffer at a great price – just thought I’d let you know. Nothing to do with business, but it sure sticks in their memory!

    suzanne

  • Good luck Larry. Might it be the territory for the lack of technology? Although quant and scenic, Snoqualmie isn’t the most progressive town in the Northwest. I’m guessing you’d see more QR codes in Belltown – no? And using Malia is great – can’t go wrong there. I look forward to seeing the video.

    Suzanne – Pretty neat product you have created and I love that platinum home in Arizona? I’d live there in a heartbeat. But one thing – seems this game is forever morphing into something new every day. And what a realtor and seller know on what is important to them is changing too. So I’m just not sure a package deal is the right method. I know people want to see upfront how much it’s going cost. But I guess you’d just have to be more fluid in the products, that is if you’re offering the full-meal-deal and not just picture and a video. I’m an over ambitious realtor and do it all myself. And what I feel the clients wants and what I feel is effective in marketing real estate is always changing.

  • I agree. You need to market a package deal. You need to educated agents. As a agent/photographer, I educated my entire office just by sending out my flyers of new listings. They couldn’t believe the difference in quality of real estate photos. I started getting calls from agents in my offices to photograph their listings.

    You also need to educate agents on how photos will bring them more business. The main part of my listing presentation is Professional Photos and Web Presence. Things have changed… clients now choose the homes that they want to see by viewing listings on the web. I simply show sellers one of my listings on my site, or Realtor.com, compared to the listings on the same page. 9 times out of 10 my photos blow the competition away, and my listing stands out on the page. This alone can close the deal on getting a listing. And my photography skills still have a ways to go.

  • @Charlie- Actually there are two parts to Snoqualmie. Old Snoqualmie which is a little quaint red-neck town that is the remnant of a logging rail head from the turn of the century and Snoqualmie Ridge ( a couple miles away, where our listing is) that is a large yuppie bedroom community for Bellevue, Redmond and Seattle with large national builders like Pulte, QuadrantHomes and many long time upper end local builders. The Snoqualmie Ridge population is all young, high tech people… the only ones here that are not high tech are agents! We’ve worked in this market for about 25 years and know most of the agents.

    @Charlie- yes I agree, what buyers and sellers want is changing… My wife who has worked in this market wants me to do 360s like I did in 2002 and I’m telling her, “no we need video”. I’ve met potential buyers and they all have smart phones and know what to do with video and QR codes.. but 90% of the agents seem to be in a time warp. most find it difficult and annoying to keep up the the technology.

  • @LarryL – You have made some very excellent points! Education is the key to growth. This is really true in helping Realtors raise the bar on how their listings are marketed. A total system is essential in today’s landscape.

    When we rolled the feature in our system to embed true full-motion videos in our tours over a year ago, we knew the flow of the presentation was super-important. It is for this reason that we chose to treat video as “just another scene” in the presentation. This way, the video, panoramas and stills can be organized to tell the home’s story. In my view, this is the big limitation to treating a property video like another tool – and a huge limitation to the pfretour approach. To my knowledge, no other virtual tour platform allows video “in-line” other than the TourFactory system. Does anyone know of any?

    Hey Larry – you used to be a loyal TourFactory customer and a great source of new feature ideas before you started your own virtual tour company. Can I give you a free TourFactory template for your Snoqualmie listing so you can run both in parallel? I’d be curious what your readers find as pro’s and con’s of each technology platform (there would certainly be both for both) independent of marketing and history. The brutally honest feedback that we would get could help us both grow in our respective niches. It could be like the old Pepsi-Coke challenge. 🙂 Whadaya say?

    Thanks,
    Herb

  • Herb – I looked at your product. Some great features and the overall look and feel is nice. One question though, video is all the talk and will soon be all what it expected – IMO. And I went to look at a video of your featured listings and I personally don’t want to download a video. I just want it embedded and click “play” to view. Are you finding that people want to download them?

    Larry – Oh how that area has grown. I remember the old Snoqualmie.

  • @Herb- Sure I’ll set up my Snoqualmie Ridge listing with a tourfactory.com tour. I too like the touch and feel of your tours but
    the problem is as Charlie points out, the way you support video is weak as far as I understand it. Nobody wants to download video to look at it. I want to host the video at YouTube or iPlayerHD or Vimeo and embed the video in my tour. I’d like the video to be show cased and have the stills be secondary. From what I see the tourfactory approach to video is the primary reason no one at Snoqualmie Ridge is using video.

    I helped the pfretour.com guys get started but I’m not a partner in that site.

    Another logistic, I’m going to Maui tomorrow morning but would be happy to take time between Mai Tai’s to setup a tour on tourfactory.com for comparison. You can contact me directly @ larry at lohrman dot com.

  • Larry, About those broker sites that have no way to link to the listing site, how about using a photo of the QR code as one of the MLS photos?

  • @Larry – We have two totally different “video features” and one of our big challenges is educating people on the difference between them. The downloadable video is something that’s been in there since 2007 – we just build a video from still photos like everyone else.

    The exiting new feature that I was eluding to today is using in-line videos for scenes. It is my humble opinion that this is where things are going. Rather than try to describe it, here are a few examples that show off this new feature:
    http://www.tourfactory.com/707734
    http://www.tourfactory.com/776156
    http://www.tourfactory.com/693471
    http://www.tourfactory.com/787823
    http://www.tourfactory.com/439254
    http://www.tourfactory.com/680681
    http://www.tourfactory.com/681954
    http://www.tourfactory.com/720513
    http://www.tourfactory.com/714823
    http://www.tourfactory.com/679246

    As you can tell by the variety of approaches, this is a photography/videography technique that is still being developed. I think there is a huge opportunity for photographers that are integrating video into their work to develop a new level of professionalism that separates them from amateur photographers in this area.

    The community of photographers that shoot for us have been passing ideas back and forth, working on techniques and evaluating equipment in pursuit of this new standard for the past year. I am constantly amazed by their creativity and ingenuity – and energized by their pioneering spirit. Contrary to industry pundits, the American Entrepreneur is alive and well… and shooting photos for real estate agents.

    It is an exciting time to be in the business of shooting photos/video for real estate for sure!

  • @Shawn- outstanding idea!

  • One of the areas I operate in has MLS rules that would (probably) prohibit inserting a QR code as one of the photos. None of my clients wants to take the chance and test this — but I have one who has me surreptitiously paste the QR code into a picture frame that’s prominent in one of the photos….she claims that people find it, and click on it!

  • Replacing one of the photos inside the photo with the QR code… Now that is a new idea, I might have to steal that!

  • Movies, and where to post them. have been a hot topic for the past couple of years. ProHomeSites.com is a good choice for tour packages because you are not limited to your choice of media and how you want to display it. We’ve taken the time to build a top notch product that offers everything a real estate agent could ask for in a tour package. You can load as many pictures, movies, or tours to each package and it can all be done in hi-def with full screen viewing options. You can also change all of the background colors to customize each package to the individual agent and there are brochures that can be customized, customizable Craigslist ads and it even generates a QR code for each property, all included in the price. Not bad for starters.

    Another really big feature is the ability to include personal marketing videos that can be produced for agents. There aren’t any other companies that I am aware of that allow this feature. The personal marketing video opens a brand new income stream for videographers that focuses on expanding the agents branding to those that are viewing the tour package. After all, not everyone looking at properties has an agent and the tour package is a natural place to place the personal promotion video. The personal marketing video will play when selected, or will play after the property video ends and is only available on the “branded” package. On the un-branded version of the package, used for IDX, the personal promotion video can be turned off.

    We addressed the movie issue early in our development mainly because movies are growing in such popularity. But movies really can’t be “embedded” from other sites, such as YouTube, if they are going to be loaded to most of the mls systems in the country because of their IDX feeds which limits any sort of “branding” in the package. Another obstacle is with embedding comes with the continued play that occurs when your video ends and the next video in the stream begins to play. This could result in very unacceptable video content being shown with your property and some pretty negative consequences to your agent. Therefore we chose to host the video because we can control the content and can provide a higher quality video experience, including a full screen option, and not limit our individual creativity. Give it a try. At ProHomeSites.com, your first package is free for six months and no subscription is necessary.

    Sample tour package… http://tour.prohomesites.com/t5mzn63dqz (copy and paste link)

    My credentials… Photographer, developer and CEO of Digital Magic Productions, Inc. I’ve also been the owner of two real estate franchises, (Century 21 and RE/MAX) and have been a strong proponent of delivering quality high tech solutions to help real estate agents expand their business for over 20 years. – Thanks for reading this post. All comments are appreciated.

  • I wish Tour Factory / TourFactory.com would offer a self serve / option for photographers / other companies to upload clients photographs etc. I would definately be using their services and bring them in allot of money! I’m looking for a great system to showcase all different types of media for my clients!

  • @Daniel
    It wasn’t TourFactory but one of their DIY competitors that told me many of the photographers simply ask the Realtor for their user name/password and simply logon and upload. The tour company doesn’t object because they are getting tours with far better quality photos than the typical Realtor DIY, so it reflects positively on the tour. I do that and give the Realtor a choice – my tour or theirs. Most select mine, but they have a choice. There is no price break so that doesn’t come into play with their choice.

  • @Mike- A couple of comments:
    1-Prohomesite.com tours appear to have a a good range great features however my feedback is that I’m not crazy about the graphic design… this is how tours used to look back in 2000…I wouldn’t use them for this reason. I’d have a good graphic designer work them over.
    2-After years as a Realtor tracking web stats for our listings on the MLS, our broker site and our tour site, I have to say, I don’t care much if a link to my tour/property site is on the MLS or not… tour links in general don’t propagate from MLSs to other sites and only agents see what’s on the MLS… my experience is that nowadays sales are buyer driven from regional RE sites and broker sites so that’s where I want my tour links. Why bother to limit your tour design by MLS restrictions. Also, most people doing professional video will also put the video on hosting sites like iPlayerHD which doesn’t have any of the downsides of YouTube. I believe you will find it VERY expensive to keep up with what’s needed to continue to serve quality video… it’s just changing too fast.

  • @LarryG- Perhaps Herb will comment on this but tourfactory.com has their own network of photographers that use tourfactory tours and are competing with you and an independent… that’s why they are not going to create a option that works well for independent photographers.

  • @Herb

    Slideshowpro.com has their platform that allows video “in-line” for $49 a year, unlimited tours.

    In fact, any slideshowpro slideshow product, whether through their hosting or if you have it hosted yourself has the video “in-line” with photos feature.

  • Wake up!

    Video, video, video

    I haven’t had an order for a virtual tour for over 2 years.

    Michael

  • I use HDshowings it’s clean and simple and allows for video, images, and panoramas, and ALL of those features also work on androids and iphones which is key.

    Its made for independent photographers to rebrand, but does provide an admin for you and your clients (realtors) to customize however they like.

    example http://www.hdshowings.com/870f

  • @Dave- The best choice for high quality video right now is the 5DMKii (most people doing real estate video are using the 5D) with a Canon 17-40(second best) or 16-35mm (very best) . As always Glass is the most important factor. The Canon 7D (cropped sensor) is also widely used for video best lens for the 7D is probably the Canon 10-22mm.

  • @ Herb, TF has been nothing but problems for agents that I have done video with. The support they got was terrible trying to figure out why the video had to be compressed so much in order to play smoothly, it was not HD any more and they had to turn the music off on the video or music on the tour. It completely discouraged that agent from doing video in the future.

  • @Larry…you’re right. TF is not going to make it easy for photographers that are not affiliated with them and they promote on their website to do business. However, through their offering of a DIY option to Realtors, it creates a back door. It was RealBiz360 that suggested asking the Realtor for their user name/password and simply upload it for them. Ironically, RealBiz360 also has the “professional photographer” recruiting page on their website but they don’t go as far as TF and have a page promoting specific photographers for the area. While TF photographers are a little cheaper than me, thankfully they are still above $100. The whole idea is to address the situation where the brokerage has a “special relationship” with a specific tour company for their agents (or in the the case of the MLS benefit – every agent in the MLS system) and give them a choice of either my proprietary or what they have subsidized at either free or deeply discounted. After viewing both, they usually choose mine and price, particurally when the broker provides for free to the agent, doesn’t come into the decision as I don’t give a discount using their DIY platform.

    Also, on the MLS while they do have the unbranded requirement necessitating 2 versions of the same video, you may want to rethink “tour links in general don’t propagate from MLSs to other sites and only agents see what’s on the MLS”. When agents find a home (or group of homes) for a client, they usually email it from MLS for the client to consider. It sends a link with client based info about the property – description, photos, link to tour etc, while omitting Realto specific info like showing instructions, gate code, commmission %etc. Likewise it is propogated from MLS through the IDX system which is the underpinning for the broker’s site search engine. In my “spare time” I am currently developing a new site and inserting the IDX link HTML language to provide the search function. Since my website is not operational right now with my move this week from Prudential to Exit, to avoid syndication distribution issues, I tested on another agent’s site rather than a national site like Trulia and searched for a property I shot last week. It came up on that agents website frame giving 1 line credit notation to the other brokerage per IDX rules, but more important, had all my still photos and a tour link.

  • It’s funny that this article complains about the lack of QR codes and the following day there is a post explaining that QR codes aren’t catching on. The last thing I want on my beautiful home tour or brochure is an ugly QR code that no one knows what to do with. Personally I don’t think QR codes will ever catch on and I am not using them, much as I love new tech.

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