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Featured Real Estate Video by Joe Zekas in Chicago

Published: 23/02/2019
By: larry

Joe Zekas who runs shoots walk-through video for professional rental management companies. He does not shoot for Realtors.

Joe says:

I stopped working with Realtors about 3 years ago, and turn away requests to do so. Since then I've shot nearly 1,200 apartment walk-through videos. Most of them have been at the luxury end of the market, with rents up to $15,000 a month.

My clients are mostly large, professional management companies that typically hire some of the best photographers in the country for stills for their projects. If they have any concerns about the production quality of my videos, they've never voiced them. What they care about is that a) I reach an audience of renters, and b) the videos make their leasing agents more productive. I shoot photos of the apartments with a Nikon D850 with on-camera flash only while on-site. Clients are free to use the photos however they wish (except for giving them to brokers), no credits required. If a client wants to hire me for photography only, I refer them to a professional photographer.

For the past two years most of my videos, including this one, have been shot with a Panasonic GH5 with the 7-14mm f/4 Panasonic lens and a Zhiyun Crane gimbal. Prior to that, I shot walk-throughs with a GoPro on a Zhiyun gimbal. I've also shot a few video walk-throughs, that clients have been very pleased with, using a Galaxy S7 phone and Osmo Mobile gimbal. Clients have never paid any attention to my gear.

8 comments on “Featured Real Estate Video by Joe Zekas in Chicago”

  1. Great film. Nicely shot (perfect verticals!) and a really clear way to quickly show off the apartment. The quality of the GH5 and Zhiyun gimbal is clear on screen and, for me, elevated this way above GoPro or iPhone work. I like the commentary recorded as you go too. Nice and concise. Tell me, how long do you allow on location for a film like this? Is it simply your first walk round? Or do you plan it and then do the take?

  2. I'll typically be in and out of a unit in about 15 minutes; less if my client already has photos, more if I'm lingering on a balcony to take view shots I'll use for other purposes. I'll spend a minute or two walking around the unit thinking about my walk path for the video and what I'll be saying about the unit. All narration is done with no advance prep. Editing is trimming the beginning and end. If I stumble on my narration, I'll stop and get it right and cut the errors / pauses in the final edit.

    This was shot at the mixed-income redevelopment of a landmarked public housing project, thus my surprise at the level of finishes.

  3. Hmmmm. I am of two minds about this. On one hand it comes off (despite the high end equipment) as amateurish as an impression. On the other hand, it shows the apartment off well coupled with the voice over and thus with that amateurish style, it comes off as authentic. Joe states "What they care about is that a) I reach an audience of renters, and b) the videos make their leasing agents more productive." And that is something I feel is part of the video for real estate discussions and video tutorials that has been missing. Quite apart from how good or bad the video production is, if no one sees them, they are a spit in the wind.

    What I would love to hear from Joe, perhaps as a YouTube tutorial, is what he does to promote the video and get it out where people will see it.

    I want this for my clients. I shoot a video, upload it to Vimeo, send the link to my client, upload it to and then what? The marketing of the video it outside of my control and frankly my skills.

    If video is to become a really viable and cost effective marketing tool for agents, someone in the process needs to know how to make them pull their own weight. Clearly Joe knows how to do that.

    At the moment, video is still so new to the industry on a local level, that I think realtors don't yet really know how to tell a good production from mediocre or bad, they are just delighted to have a video. But that will change as they see more, use more and compare more. My clients tend to use video as a tool to gain more listings instead of maximizing its marketing potential. So I would really like to hear how successful outfits not only shoot video but then turn around and get them to really sell real estate, how to get people to find and watch them and then follow the umbilical back to a client's website or listings. So far, most tutorials I have found are about how to shoot them, deliver them, and then nothing else.

    I don't think it is up to us photographers to do the internet marketing for our clients. We should do what we do best which is to shoot the best photos/video that we can. But on the other hand, I know my clients need a lot of help with how to use them once delivered and if I can help point them in the right direction, that would be great.

  4. I have a controlling interest in another company, Data Based Ads, that provides a wide variety of Internet-based marketing services to major brokers throughout the country. By year's end, based on existing commitments, we will be working with more than 750 high-volume offices throughout the country.

    One of our services is Ken Burns-style "video" that is auto-generated from listing photos, search engine optimized, and distributed in a variety of ways. The offices pay a nominal fee for this service, which applies to all listings and comes at no cost to the listing agent. It doesn't take any of their or their owner's time. See:

    Real world – the videos that the typical real estate photographer produces aren't sufficiently differentiated (except by cost and time commitment) from our automated videos for agents to have much interest in paying for them.

    Also real world – the widespread and growing use of this type of "video" has poisoned the well with home buyers. They see so much of it that they approach a video link with tremendous skepticism and ignore it, assuming it will be a waste of their time. It IS a waste of their time and, even worse, has a music track that they often find annoying.

    If you want to be successful at real estate video, you need an audience-focused approach rather than an agent-focused approach.

    Peter – real estate video is not new. It's been about a decade since Brad Inman predicted the next year as "the year of video" at one of his heavily-attended Connect conferences in San Francisco.

  5. Joe, I am interested in what you say. As always, this is a field about which there are many opinions some based on personal experience in certain markets and some based in an analysis of data. The difficulty for someone like myself on the marketing sidelines, is that most of the data I have read about seems to have holes in it such as user viewing on FaceBook where the videos start rolling as soon as the video comes up in a scroll whether or not the viewer is actually watching it or not, it still is counted as a view if it rolls for over 3 seconds, one article mentioned.

    So all I do know is what I am told by my realtor clients as it affects my local market and am thus anxious to learn all I can about it on a wider national and global scale. So what I do know, not based on data but on what my clients tell me, is that video is so new to them (as opposed to new to the real estate field in general) that I am the first in my market to even offer it. In this last year, some realtors have gone as far as Los Angeles to hire more expensive videographers with the idea that the videos will be better. When I moved out of LA back in the 1970's, clients of my graphic design clients, did the same thing without realizing that these graphic designers had been working for years for the very agencies in Los Angeles that they had just moved to and their job was being handled by the new hire in the LA firm from the L.A. Art Center College of Design instead of the local experienced designer who had graduated from the same school a decade before with 10 or more years experience under their belt.

    I see the same process happening here now with video. So I see a lack of sophistication and understanding amongst many of the realtors in my small market about RE video. And I admit, this is fairly new to me as well. Some clients say the video has to be less than a minute long since it will be used on social media and the attention span for video is less than a minute there. But that data is contaminated by the auto play on FaceBook and perhaps other social media so I find that unreliable. But I take their point. If the first view of an RE video is the first view of the property, I would tend to agree that it should be short and to the point with the intent of not wasting the time of a property searcher. Let them have a quick view and either want to follow it up further if they like what they see or move on. If the former, then you have to provide more content to their satisfaction.

    But if they like what they see and want to see more, then depending on the property itself, a video can actually then be as long as it needs to be to fully show the property which is why I now provide my clients with a 45 second quickie "Teaser" video as well as a Full video that fully covers the property and can be up to 5 or 6 minutes long.

    So the question becomes, in my mind, do the videos actually sell property? Do they just provide a greater sense of being there and thus provide a greater nudge for the potential buyer to pick up the phone and call the realtor or their realtor than just seeing still will do?

    Or, as most of my clients claim, that it helps them secure a listing from sellers who want a realtor who will offer video? I know my clients are reaping the rewards of securing client listing based offering video. My clients say that 80% of the value of the photography/video is getting listing and the remaining 20% might be to sell property. Took me a bit to wrap my mind around that.

    So the gaining listings part of video is working for them now as long as the videos please the sellers. I believe, depending on the ability of any one client to make use of internet marketing, that the rest of the video value is getting washed down the sink. For my client's sake, I would like to find ways to help them get a better return on investment for the selling part. I get paid regardless but I like my clients personally and want to help them.

    This is less of an issue with the younger clients who grew up with cell phone in their hands from conception. But most of my clients are in their 50's or older and just can't wrap their minds around the new marketing technologies. I am seeing many of them mentoring young agents who can navigate the internet, the devices and the platforms but due to lack of marketing training, don't yet know how to actually create effective marketing strategies. I know only one in an office of over 40 agents who is effective and she is not a kid but not geriatric either. Sort of has a foot in both camps.

    So I am searching for information to help them with this, or an organization I could recommend. And I agree, you need an audience focused approach for everything in advertising and communications. A french language video aimed at an American audience is pretty useless. So you have to speak the language of the audience verbally, visually and culturally, give them what they want, not necessarily what you or your client thinks they want. But unless you can afford focus groups to test strategies, ads, videos, still photos to see what the target audience responds to, its kind of hit and miss.

    For example, I recently read that 99% of Millennial's start their searches for a property on the internet. ( The study did not say what platforms they start with. But the average that includes old people its more like 50%+. It's been my experience that while older people like more drawn out videos with longer clips and smooth transitions, younger folk like shorter snappier videos, the sort of thing they make in high school and since. Older people like soothing music while the younger like something more exciting. So hard to make one video that spans all generations. But to find studies that can nail all this down in a scientific manner? I am just not finding them.

    I did find this set of data to be interesting, although you have to comb through to find what relates to this conversation: National Association of Realtors

  6. During the past 28 days my videos, according to YouTube Analytics, had an average view duration of 2:04 and, on average, 46% of each video was viewed. The longest average view duration among the top 25 videos was 6:40; the shortest was 1:36. Average percentage viewed ranged from 23% to 55%.

    Some people drop out quickly after the video begins. I don't have firm stats, but I'm guessing based on looking at stats for many individual videos that 25 to 30% of the audience, on average, watches the entire video from start to finish.

    It makes no sense to me to have a short video and a longer video. People can (and do) turn a long video into a shorter one by skipping ahead / around. That's no different, in my mind, from how people behave at open houses. Some skip out after seeing only a few rooms. Some take a pass during a drive-by.

    I used to do a lot of Realtor videos. My clients didn't view video as a way to get listings. Their primary value was saving time on showings by having prospects pre-qualify themselves via the video before a showing. After a showing a motivated buyer can send the video to influencers (parents, etc) and walk them through the home without revisiting it. Fewer showings also minimized inconvenience for their sellers. I can't recall seeing any discussion here of this important aspect of video's value proposition.

    Selling Realtors on video as a way to get more listings is, in my take, a pipe dream. How many Realtors can do an adequate job of explaining to sellers the value of a bespoke video as opposed to a javascript-driven video? Or explain the value at all?

  7. I can only speak from my local experience. So far it is the sellers who are demanding video and often drone shots and video of their properties if the realtor wants to get their listing. From the bottom up. But regarding two sizes of video, I put both on the property sites I produce for all my clients using The short one goes at the front and runs on the intro slide show followed by selected stills to round it out. Then the full video is listed on the Video drop down button on the nav bar. Few of my clients actually put the videos up on YouTube or Vimeo. This has been working very successfully for them.

    Some will put the Tourbuzz site embedded in their website. Others will link it into their MLS. It allows them to show respect to those who want to have a quick look to see if the property is what they are looking for. If not, they can quickly move on and if it does hook them, then there is much more for them to see or, as you say, to email the link to family and friends to get feed back on. Even on the high end properties, it is often the personal assistant who browses the internet for properties then sends links to their employer to check out.

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