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Do Professional Voice Overs In Tours Help Sell Listings?

Published: 28/08/2015

QandARob, a professional narrator, asked the following question:

Do professional Voice Overs - when appropriately and strategically placed in a tour - help agents sell their listings faster? Does the voice over compel a buyer and say something different that cannot be captured through our lenses? I'm not talking about a one to two sentence per photo frame. Rather, 3 to 4 sentences spread over 4 to 6 photos, then perhaps a pause in the narration of about 3 additional photos that might be related to the same room. The narration picks up again when a new room is introduced during a tour.

You may be asking the wrong question. Maybe your question should in what situations will agents pay an extra $75 to $100 (what you would have to charge) for professional narration?

Here are several of my thoughts on narration:

  • Professional narration on tours and video is very compelling when done well. I know of no data available on the effect of professional narration.
  • Half or more of doing it well is writing the script. Most agents typically aren't very good at writing scripts. Most agents I know want someone else to write the script for them.
  • I've seen professional narration used on still photo tours, but I doubt many agents in the US would pay $75 to $100 extra for it. In the mid-2000's our broker in Seattle (John L Scott) provided free professional narration for all of the still tours on their listings in the Seattle area on their website and the agents didn't have to write a script. The narrator would create a script from the photos posted on the listing if the agent didn't supply one. 99% of the agents didn't supply a script. They stopped this great service when the narrator retired about some time ago.
  • Professional narration is more frequently used and expected on property video for upper-end homes. It is more likely agents would be willing to pay for narration in this market.

What do you think about Rob's question?

Larry Lohrman

12 comments on “Do Professional Voice Overs In Tours Help Sell Listings?”

  1. Most of my clients (maybe even all) who are doing voice overs for their videos consider these real estate videos to be a branding opportunity so they prefer to do their own voice over work. Sometimes they work from a pre-written script but mostly I walk them through it at the shoot. I find it's much more natural and engaging this way.

  2. Before my venture into photography, I was a full-time voice talent in Detroit and once in a blue moon I'd voice something for real estate. My work primarily focused on the automotive industry, commercials, elevator prompts and OnStar. I would still be working as a voice talent but a vocal chord disorder changed my career path about 4 years ago, though I still voice elevator prompts and an occasional short video.

    I would agree with Malia that first-person VOs offer a very personal flavor; a branding opportunity. While a narrated video in third-person context is more like industrial video narration--more matter of fact but hopefully still engaging and warm. One has the authenticity and charm of the owner's voice while the other offers polish and presentation of a pro. The property itself, the local real estate market and vision of the video producer should dictate which voiceover works best for the intended audience.

  3. The discussion topic today prompted me to offer this observation which may result in nothing for some and a shift for others.

    The city where I live is in love with radio and TV personalities. Probably typical of most cities, but especially ours because we lag behind trends, catching up and embracing them 5 to 20 years later. One of the most successful Realtors here is a former TV news, radio and product commercial personality. He loves photography but is awful within what is considered professional photography standards. But he doesn't care. He loves the technology and does a fantastic job of promoting himself, capitalizing on his local fame. He does videos of himself walking through his listings. He has a great, recognizable voice, winging the narrative, describing the home, having fun and showing enthusiasm. Professional quality? Not even close, but effective?, yes. However his success is through recognition and public acceptance, not quality of presentation.

    My point being is that we as Realtors can chase the professional presentation of our product to death. I am a Realtor and a professional photographer. It is a great combination of skills that I can promote. However, Realtors who do not have photography skills, voice over skills, writing skills, etc, etc, must pay for those in order to compete. Photographers who offer services to Realtors are facing cost justification resistance constantly. For those wishing to add video services with voice over services and actors, models, writing, costuming, and continuity producers,....may be dreaming beautifully, but the cost will be to the Realtor. And about 3 in the whole country could afford that, even if it was proven justifiably effective.

    And then there's that great successful guy in my city that just loves doing it for free for himself.

  4. I don't do narration on still photography, but I will tell you that narrated videos (for me) have increased substantially this year. Where it used to be maybe 20% of the videos I did were narrated, it's now easily 50% or more. Agents pay extra for it, and they provide their own script. Oftentimes the homeowner talks about their home. I'm even starting to do Chinese narration and translation, which is a much larger upcharge since it involves translations as well. So they ARE willing to pay for this.

    I've seen a considerable uptick in people choosing narration this year (as well as just the use of video in marketing.... After ten years of doing video, last year was our best year ever, and we surpassed last year's numbers by July of this year - It's been a crazy year.)

  5. I'm a realtor and I do my own photos, graphis, some videos, and voice over. I publish a blog with video market reports for my area (Cape Cod). These all have voice overs. I found that a written script is essential for me, and I write my own. For listings I have just started to do what I call virtual showings. These are multi-media video show a prospective buyer the complete property and surrounding attractions. They also include voice overs, which I script and do myself. It is my honest opinion that I have a pretty bad voice. So, when I first started to the voice overs (3-4 years ago) I had several professional media experts review them to see if I should hire a professional narrator. They all agree to two things. 1. I don't have a great voice. 2. Still, I should do them myself because it would lend authenticity and branding to the videos. After doing this for this time I would add another reason for doing my own voice overs--having a 3rd party do them would make the process more difficult and time consuming. I also find that I quite often will go back and re-record something just to make a small change. You could lose this flexibility with if you didn't do them yourself.

  6. Malia is spot on. A couple facts from a marketers perspective:

    1. We don't make listing videos to show or sell a property. While a few rare cases exist that a buyer purchased sight unseen its rare enough to not play into it at all for me.

    Good photography and a proper price sells a video required.

    I have hundreds of high quality property videos and it is secret Jason commercial disguised as a property video. Sellers see my marketing and I get more listings, the end. Its agent branding and it works. Now make sure you have good photography and a proper price and you have money in the bank!

    2. A documentary style walk through show every nook and cranny may be good for the buyer but I use a much more cinematic approach so I can get me ore listings. My videos are actually NOT good for buyers because it is marketing and not documentation.

    All that being said, what is the point in a professional voice over? It doesn't sell me the agent, doesn't get more listings for me and I don't see any point at all.

    It amazes me to see a video (no matter how good) that doesnt have an agent hosting it. I know professional talent and voice over is better than an agent but you need to remember why we do the video and what accomplishes agent branding best?

  7. Kelvin - that 'droning on' is probably the mechanical script reading voice provided by services such as Animoto, heavily marketed as a cheap tour/video package to Realtors, and nowhere near professional. It is very monotone, lacking inflection and emotion that a professional would give to the script. That said, professional (or live) voice over is difficult. Can't believe how many takes I had to do when creating a community video...featuring me as a Realtor. Of course there were other pressures compounding it as this was a selfie video using Camranger on a iPad to frame and control. That said, after years (almost 2 decades) in Toastmasters and what my wife refers to as "my Barry White voice" when I am in a zone, was really surprised with the hesitations and pauses that I typically don't have. While I have progressed to the highest level in Toastmasters (DTM), while others work on their second DTM, my speeches today are presenting an intended script for video. One I am working on right now - and adjusting with speech feedback - is addressing the classic question "How much is your commission?" which you never give a number as clueless, but vocal, critics will start screaming price fixing. Rather, I abolish the word 'commission' and call it what it is - the seller's marketing budget. Then it becomes a question of how well the Realtor manages that budget (professional photography, video, etc) where the less they spend, the more they make. I don't think the Realtors will appreciate this video when it goes live.

  8. Reading the posts it seems each market has different desires. Almost none of my Realtor clients want to be in front of the camera..though some have an interest. None want to record the narrative either, they do not have the time. I do not think they are missing a branding opportunity by not doing the voice over themselves.. that is what the video itself is for. It's as much as a branding opportunity and point of distinction as it is a vehicle to sell homes and acquire listing.

    We include synchronized narration on virtually ALL of our video walkthru tours(no slide shows at all). This is another point of distinction between VT and video. We feel we can paint a better picture with the narrative, help viewer to imagine the lifestyle perhaps or point out features that do not make it into the video that the seller/Agent feel are important. So we are appealing to the viewer both in visual and voice. Also, I think it helps hold the attention of the viewer. We get great feed back regarding the narration.

    Don't think it is fair to say that narration never sold a home. Who's to say what appealed to the buyer ultimately. We are just trying to get their attention.

    BTW love this site!!

  9. @Larry Gray Nope, it's just a personal taste thing. For me, the voiceover isn't something I like no matter who renders it. (giddy realtor or rambling homeowner) I can already see from the video that it's located in a picturesque canyon and that it has granite counter tops. 🙂 "Disclamer: This narration has been brought to you by Captain Obvious!" hahahaha

    But, Just because I can't watch those with the sound on doesn't mean a potential buyer would object.

  10. I'm a little late to this, but I saved it in my email and I'm just now finding the time to respond. I think narrated voiceovers are very effective. It helps walk the viewer through the property on the agents terms, putting emphasis on whatever it is they want to focus on. However, the scripts - that is the rough part. I provide narration on all of my videos and I use the agent's MLS description as my script - and as my guide to editing. I limit my videos to roughly 60-seconds, which comes out to around 140 to 160 words. So, I have to edit down the description. But, my clients really like it. I spent about five years as a professional broadcaster with Clear Channel Communications and I really enjoy it. It takes 5 to 15 minutes to edit the script, record the audio and edit/process the audio. There are dozens of great voiceover talents on I recently used one for a big commercial job that needed a country sounding voice... which I definitely don't have. I provide me clients with an MLS unbranded link to a full screen video that they use for their MLS Virtual Tour. So, instead of playing some horrible flash based slideshow it actually plays a full motion video that is narrated.

    I find the 1990's based virtual tours to be worthless, and so does every single analytic that I've ever looked at. Especially when they autoplay music. Those tours lose 80%+ of their audience in the first 5-seconds. 80% or more close the tour in 5-seconds. That is an alarming bounce rate. NEVER autoplay content. Especially when 40%+ of users looking for real estate do it while at work. If they want to play a video they understand it will have audio and they can plan for it by turning the volume down. But, when you autoplay it is like you are taking over their user experience... it's a bad idea. Anyhow, I digress.

  11. Think of it this way...
    Why would Realtors hire professionals to perform work Realtors don't normally do?
    To enhances the listing! (Videos, photos, staging, aerials, Voice Over, advertising, marketing, etc.)
    Streamline the home selling process.
    Voice over helps sell the listing, saving the client and the realtor money, but most importantly, TIME.
    Voice over is the same as any other real estate service. It ENHANCES the listing, allowing the potential homebuyers to connect on a deeper emotional level, creating a entirely different experience for the clients on both sides, and again, helps sell the home faster, which saves the realtor and the client money and more importantly TIME.
    When done correctly, voice over adds a higher degree of professionalism to the virtual tours.

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