How Long Should A Property Video Be?

May 1st, 2016

KristineLemannPeter who is new to video but not new to photography asks a classic question about property video:

…the main question on everyone lips is “How long should a real estate video be?” followed by “my brother in law (or fill in the relationship) says no online video should be longer than ___ (fill in the blank)” but the usual opinion is around 2 minutes. I am assuming they have read the generic and assessments that no one will watch a video that is longer than 2 minutes without any further examination of what and why. I think that for a cold contact stumbling on a video on YouTube that is probably correct …

I offer my own opinion. That is if someone is searching for a topic they are especially interested in, they will watch as long as you keep them interested and it does not matter how long the video is (within reason) as long as their interest is maintained. Pad it out and you will loose them. Leave out too much or go too quickly and they will be frustrated because they want to see more and have time to be able to absorb it. And I would think that if someone is thinking about shelling out millions, they will want to see more rather than less and then be able to show it to a spouse, family and friends to get their reactions. That is if they are a potential buyer. Now the seller wants to see all their favorite rooms, kitchen, guest houses, barns, groves, trees, gardens with those imported Italian fountains and so on. They want to feel proud and have their baby look like what they spent for it.

But what statistics are there that back any of this up? I found one site that bases such an argument on their site logs statistics, the only one that does not seem to be an opinion based on opinion. Do you have any more? Say other well-established video production people who have a track record based on statistics? It is easy to make a long rambling video but really tough to make a short one that is not a railroad track of 1-second jolting cuts. Fine for the young that have attention span issues but for adults not so good. This is the one I found. Too bad the videos on which it seems to be based are mostly shot with iPhones and ham voiced realtors doing their own narration. Still even that seems to work.

Over the years, we have talked about the property video length and generally come to similar conclusions that you have. Many people will argue that there is a specific maximum length around 2 or 3 minutes. But the top videographers always point out that the purpose of a property video is to engage the viewer emotionally. That’s what video is good at. So if you engage the viewer emotionally and keep them interested the length is not an issue.

The example I always come back to is one of my very favorite property videos of all time. This video by Brett Clements and crew at Platinumhd.tv and it won the 2008 Australian Property Video of the year award. Several things stand out to me that make this video so strong. It is extremely engaging. And the personality playing in it (Kristine Lehmann, the listing agent) is outstanding. The shooting and editing is extremely creative. The length of this video is 4:44. Does anyone think this video is too long?

So, Peter, I’m with you! For the vast majority of property videos, 2 or 3 minutes is all I can take but, when the video is emotionally engaging, whatever the reason, the length of the video is not an issue!

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11 Responses to “How Long Should A Property Video Be?”

  • As pointed out, the answer is dependent on the viewer and their interests.

    If it is the seller, most would would like to see a full feature film, maybe even a trilogy….. They have no clue that this is only a promotion of their property.

    If it is an agent, they would like to see a 15 to 30 sec cut that would prepare them for a listing showing, they could care less about the quality, style or “curb appeal”

    If it is a home buyer, that is about to fork down a half million bucks, they want to see the property…and not so concerned about a minute or two either way.

    Bottom line, the video should fit the property…if it has a lot to offer, it is longer, if not, it is shorter.

    Those that bring up stats are lacking the diversity of the viewers and their particular needs.

    Bottom line, make it the way your client wants…..they are paying your fee

  • There is NO way you can tour a home in 2 minutes. Understand that there are many different styles of tours. Some are promotional with little snippets of rooms here and there designed to hopefully create interest. These can easily fit the 2-3 minute model. An issue with this type of tour is the viewer is often left without understanding the flow or continuity of the home, which after all, this is what the buyer is….buying. They are not buying a home of wonderfully staged rooms.
    The other style is more of a comprehensive approach…. not to show EVERY room, but enough that the viewer can understand how one room relates to the next room, again the flow of the home. Which in my opinion, is what the viewer/potential buyer wants and what you can’t get from just photos, easily anyway. And video lends itself well to this style. If done correctly, the viewer will watch it thru, not only that , they will watch it over and over again and probably forward the tour to other family members( this of course could be true of any tour style). So, it is as long as it needs to be, with in reason and dependent on the size of the home.

    Also, I feel the tour is meant to be used in conjunction with great photos. One last point, if I may. Before video tours had really any popularity, you would often see video of VT slideshows say on YouTube and Vimeo etc. ..the same photos used in the MLS with a bit of Ken Burns effect. So 30 some-odd photos each at 5 seconds and there is your 2 minute “tour” . I think that is where the whole 2 minute maximum attention span issue developed and I think it is longer for a good video tour.

  • One to two minutes should be enough to give you a tease. Because that’s what you want. You want to leave the viewer wanting more, not stopping the video part way through.

    As John states above, another key element in video that is difficult to get through pictures is the “flow” of the house. How one room relates to another and the layout of the floor plan. That’s difficult to capture in still photos unless you take 50 photos. Or unless you use the Matterport system, which is absolutely the best experience for homeowners. Because not only does it let you experience the flow of the house, but let’s YOU control the flow. With photos and video, you are forced to look at whatever the photographer looked at. but with Matterport, you are in full control.

    For example in the video linked above “one of the all time favorite”, I was getting restless at about 2 1/2 minutes. Too much of her talking about philosophy and zen or whatever. Sure, you can sell me on the house, but at some point you actually got to show me the house. That video is certainly a good video in concept but it’s way too long and way too focused on the realtor’s ego of hosting their own TV show.

  • If you were in the market for a new SUV, and I sent you a 5 minute video of the latest, coolest SUV that just came out, you would watch the ENTIRE thing. Maybe more than once. You would probably then go to the website and look at additional information, right? If you JUST bought your SUV a month ago and I sent you the video on the latest and greatest, you probably would watch for a minute or so… but that’s the level of YOUR interest now because you are no longer in the market!Conversely, if you were in the market for a new SUV and I sent you a great 5 minute video on the latest Ferrari…. you also probably would watch a bit out of curiosity, but nothing more.

    If someone is NOT interested in buying a particular property, who CARES how long they watch? If a sleepless woman in Indonesia is browsing decorating ideas on bed on her laptop at 3am because she can’t sleep… WHO CARES how long they watch? An actual, truly engaged and interested buyer will watch an entire video (assuming it’s not redundant … you do have to keep it moving and interesting of course!). And they will watch it over and over and over again. And again. I know this for a fact.

    These videos are made for 1) THE buyer, 2) the seller (who will refer that agent in a heartbeat because they love the video and 3) the agent (who will get many, many new listings because of the video). Everyone else that watches for 30 seconds or a minute or whatever… who cares? It’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not relevant at all.

    I shoot 4-5 videos every single day, and in 11 years of doing this I’ve had exactly THREE people ask about ‘stats’… and none of those were currently using video! Of my clients who DO use video, I do not provide stats, and I have NEVER, EVER been asked about stats, about length, drop off… never. Literally it’s a question that is never asked! And my repeat business is literally 99.9%. So something is resonating somewhere, so I don’t pay attention to length one single bit.

    It works. And most of my videos are at least 4 minutes. It’s simple as that. When agents get super happy sellers, find that perfect buyer and get tons of new listings because they use video, those are all the stats they need.

  • In my opinion, almost every one of these videos I see is too long. It’s not a blueprint. Get them emotionally engaged with the best clips possible, and end it. What I see on average is a bunch of hastily done shots. Why not spend more time on each shot and show far fewer. I think a minute give or take is perfect. How long is the average tv commercial?

  • Fred’s summary was spot on.

    I will add this bit though. Editing video is a lot like butchering a cow 🙂 you can turn the entire thing into hamburger and run it all, but I do have some clients that would like me to only put in choice cuts which takes longer, and subsequently cost more to edit. The goal in this case is to make it 99% fat free.

    The point of choice cuts instead of hamburger has more to do with branding both the photographer and the agent.

  • You do not have to show every last detail of the home. Focus on the strong points of the home and property. Remember that the buyer is probably going through multiple properties over a long period of time in one sitting. Your video might be viewed after ten others. If the buyer looks down at the time of your clip and sees 10 minutes, their first reaction might be frustration. One of the biggest mistakes i see people making is showing the same space from too many angles. This can ad a lot of unnecessary time.

    I agree that emotional engagement is the key! It is also important to think about the purpose of the online real estate video when considering length. In most cases the most important purpose is to spark enough interest to get the viewer to call the agent and set up a showing. For this reason, it is usually good to leave the viewer wanting more. For most, this probably means shorter is better, but ultimately, there is no magic length.

  • First, thanks for all the helpful information I’ve been able to garner from your blogs. I’ve been doing RE photography for about 3 months. I’m starting my photography business on a part-time basis as I prepare to retire from my current business position which is totally unrelated to photography. During March and April, I’ve been able to create the photos for 39 homes. So far, I’d say it’s going pretty well. My mastery of Lightroom has greatly improved. Eventually I will need to branch out my marketing as I will have much more time to spend on photography. Currently, I schedule shoots over a long lunch hour, after 3:30 PM or on the weekends. When I retire, it will be great to cut back to 40 hour work weeks and to be doing something I LOVE to do.

    Recently I’ve been exposed to the Matterport 3D Virtual tour. Are you familiar with this process. It’s intriguing to me. However, the start-up is costly and I’m not sure if my market will support it. While I’ve done a couple of homes in the $500,000 – $650,000 range (which is high for my midwest market), most of the properties I am shooting are around $220,000-$350,000. I’d love to know if your subscribers have any experience with this system? Can a guy make money with it? Any input will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance for any info you can provide! Randy Schwager

  • @Randy – See my post: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2016/01/27/are-matterport-3d-tours-a-money-making-product-for-real-estate-photographers/. This is a successful product in some location but not everywhere. Only about 7% of PFRE readers said Matterport had paid for itself.

  • Thats a very subjective question and there is no one size that fits all. Ultimately it depends upon the intended use of the video for eg. is it part of the Realtors property marketing mix or is selling a lifestyle you are wanting to sell people on. I do agree thou that 90% of the videos I see are way too long, an ideal length for a Realtors property marketing video to me is 2 minutes. 90% of the videos I produce are 1.5 to 2.5 minutes long. A videos job is to give the prospective buyer a glimpse of the properties key characteristics and if the potential buyer makes an enquiry its done its job. I’ve even had a large international Realtor client tell me they do not want their videos longer than 2 minutes.

  • In my opinion 30 seconds. Attention spans are fading online due to time poor Mums and Dads and folks in general. Create the hook in the first 30 seconds, like a TVC, best shots up front first. But that’s just me, I’ll give the paying customer any length they require that’s on my rate card, the maximum length offered is 90 seconds.

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