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The Power of Informally Narrated Walk-Through Property Video

Published: 01/02/2018

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I recently noticed a comment in the PFRE Flickr discussion group by Joe Zekas in Chicago that has some very valuable insights. Joe says:

I published our first real estate video 10 years ago and now have more than 3,000 online. Some lessons learned, with an assist from YouTube Analytics and viewer response:

  1. Time limit depends on the home. A two-minute limit is completely arbitrary and should be ignored.
  2. Music kills interest. An informal, unscripted voice-over narrative holds attention the longest and draws the most subscribers/viewers.
  3. Video quality is important to photographers but largely irrelevant to viewers (within limits).

Joe is a videographer who shoots informally narrated walk-through video with a Panasonic GH5, Lumix 7-14mm, and a Zhiyun Crane v2.

A Realtor whom I've followed for many years that has a similar but even more informal style is Julie Kinnear in Toronto. Julie just handholds a point-and-shoot and doesn't even edit the video. Julie's style would drive a skilled professional videographer bananas but it confirms Joe's 3rd point above. What comes through in Julie's videos is the home details and Julie's charm; both important for a Realtor! I think Julie has been doing this style for as long as Joe has.

My main point here is to illustrate that even though a lot of property video is shot in a cinematic style, the less formal walk-through style has been working for many top Realtors for a long time and the style becomes a part of their brand.

Larry Lohrman

10 comments on “The Power of Informally Narrated Walk-Through Property Video”

  1. I have encouraged / offered voice over narration (by the realtor or they provide a script) for a year and a half. The realtors just won't do them.

  2. I've offered them as well and only found one agent who tried it...once. The Orlando area agents I work with are selling modest homes, so perhaps there isn't enough of a commission for them to feel like spending even a few more dollars. I love this informal style, without music and all. It feels more real and less slick. Obviously, his analytics are proving it to be the most effective style. I applaud him for taking an objective approach to learning what works and what doesn't. One of the advantages I see in this is that it's super easy to shoot and edit, and therefore can be done for a lot less money than the slick marketing video.

  3. I've done a lot, but generally with the homeowner doing the voiceover (as opposed to the agent), talking about what it's like to live in the house, etc. I've done a few with the Realtor doing the voiceover, and honestly, it was embarrassing... One I've talked out of doing in the future, the other still enjoys hearing his voice I guess.... But it will make you cringe. Then cry UNCLE.

    The biggest problem is some people are just a natural on camera or off, and others are as stiff as a board. The latter can kill your entire project, and at the same time place you in a position of explaining why the video now sucketh the big one..... It's awkward.

    Doing voiceover OFF camera is easier. We draft a dozen questions or so, and ask ONE question of the homeowner or agent... get ONE answer. Cut. Ask question two, etc. This way they only have to formulate one thought at a time, and the answers are short and sweet and usually done with one or two takes. Then I remove the questioner and string all of the answers together and it sounds fine. For most people though, it's very scary and daunting to think that they have to speak for 2 or 3 minutes solid and get it all perfect, etc. Throw in if they're on camera, and then you have to deal with everyone not liking how fat they look and how they messed this up, etc. It's always easier to deal just with the audio mistakes.

    Generally for me, if I put the agent in at all, it's a BRIEF intro at the beginning, and a BRIEF outro at the end with contact info, etc. It's quick, easy, they can remember 30 seconds of dialogue, and I don't have to sift through 35 takes to find the one that is right. That gets the agent face time on camera, and gives the audience what they really want to see... which is the house itself. The more they do it, the more comfortable they become.

  4. My understanding of the MLS rules in Northern Illinois prohibit ‘branded’ video, like the one shown as an example. How does he make use of these videos if they’re prohibited by the MLS? Zillow seems to be leading the way by promoting amateur video, and professional video once approved, but when the primary providers prohibit them and won’t allow a link in the listing, the usefulness of them is diminished.

    My second point is, getting agents to understand the importance of professional photography is one battle; one that we’re thankfully winning. Getting them to understand (read, ‘pay for’) video is another. This is especially true when the ‘unbranded’ rule applies. If the video isn’t about them, they’re not interested in spending “even more”, especially in the red-hot market we currently have.

  5. Gary: Every MLS is different. In Massachusetts, on video, the agent is not identified as an agent (I specifically request they do not state their name, call it "their listing" etc). Basically they could be an actor for all anyone knows. (it's quick: Hi, welcome to 232 Main Street a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, just 2 blocks from the train. It's in a great neighborhood with a park across the street... come on in and take a look..... DONE) (

    The branded part is at the END of the video, which I cut from the MLS video (but their intro remains). I do that regularly and have done so for 13 years - never an issue. New Hampshire... no go. ANY image of an agent, regardless of whether they identify themselves as such, is forbidden (trust me, I've bucked heads with them several times over the years... and always lose!).

    Put an agent on camera is HUGE for branding. People 'feel' like they get to know and like and agent, and it goes a long way in making that connection with potential buyers. (

    As far as not being willing to spend more for video in a red hot market, that is definitely NOT the case (I shot 1300+ videos in 2017, more than ever). Our market is one of the hottest in the country. Agents KNOW they can sell a property, even without decent photos. But GETTING the listing is very competitive when there is very little inventory. Coming in offering video gets you the listing almost every time as sellers definitely know and understand the value of video. It's a tool for GETTING the listing in this market, not in selling the house. It's about the NEXT house.

  6. I have to disagree with #3. Video quality (or rather, production quality) is important. I see plenty of videos that are just too bad to watch. The camera person is whipping the camera around, pointing it up and down and the camera has an aggressive auto-exposure response so the image is going from light to dark constantly. This doesn't mean that you have to come in with a $20,000 video camera package and a van full of jib, gimbals and sliders, but it does mean having a good camera and, more importantly, knowing how to use it. The usual online training sites have video tutorials that are slanted more for professional productions, but they do cover core concepts.

    I always preferred to do audio separately if the person talking is off camera. If you are willing to re-take segments until the narration is right, you could do that too. The audio environment isn't always very good all through a house. The closer the mic is to the narrators mouth, the less reverb that will be picked up. Just using the mic on the camera is usually a disaster.

    All of the videos in my area have been horrible and I've stopped even looking at them. If you aren't doing a good job, buyers will quickly burn out on watching them too. You want agents to hear that people are using the videos and not "I watched a couple and they made me sea sick".

  7. Yes Larry and Fred, good realtors realise that they can use videos to build their brand and get more listings. Fortunately here in Brisbane Australia we don’t have any restrictions on promoting the agent during the video.

    One of our agents does videos with voiceover for most of his listings and has built up a very high profile in his marketplace because of them. They are part of his brand and he really uses them well as a listing tool.

    Usually does an on camera short intro and outro with voiceover in the middle. Us having a script before hand ensures we video all the bits he wants to highlight. He sometimes pops up in the middle for a short appearance.
    Here is an example:

    And sometimes he does an interview with the seller which is most effective and lends credibility to the video, like this one:

    Our biggest challenge is trying to come up with different intros because this agent does so many videos.
    Would appreciate any suggestions.
    See them on our YouTube Channel Click here: ChristineBickleyPhotography

  8. Yeah totally good agents totally understand the video product. I think though its difficult to pigeonhole agents or areas into a shoebox solution as each area is unique including the personality of the agent. I started doing this gig way back in the Jurassic period of real estate visual marketing in Brisbane's Bayside (12 years ago) during this time I have had the benefit of working and establishing a database of clientele across South East QLD region in all sorts of genre's including real estate as part of my sales mix. It came clear to me that I needed to be flexible with styles to fit location and agent, but also important that I stay across latest trends. However more often and not it's seems to be the most simplest and non-complex formats which tend to give a good result and or outcome for the agent not to mention the easiest to produce.

    For example my agent here orders video and photography with every listing and more often and not it's quicker to do the video than photography. Several minutes to set him up in front of the camera with one lamp, on the lapel and he delivers his pre-written intro and outro including middle narrative which I just keep rolling as he picks up his script to deliver. Another 20 minutes to race around and capture b-roll overlays, then pull out some stock during final edit and jobs done.

    One thing is clear after pushing the video wheelbarrow for over 10 years now, it's a great time to be offering video as all indicators, global talk is about how its set to boOom and revolutionise social media and online marketing right now! Very keen and interested to see how Brisbane and SE QLD video trends evolve more than what it has.

  9. Thanks, Larry, but I am most definitely NOT a Realtor. I run an advertiser-supported website focused on rental apartments, and my videos are part of an advertising package.

  10. When selling real estate video as a service I feel it's necessary to deliver more than a handheld informally narrated production. I would assume that agents with better production may have more listing opportunities, if the quality is noticeably better.

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