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The Purpose of Real Estate Video

Published: 10/12/2019

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Every time the topic of real estate video comes up, the community seems to be very divided on its purpose. On the one hand, there are some that think video should be completely documentary in style, showcasing only the most necessary imagery and information. Others believe that a good real estate video should evoke an emotional response in the viewer.

Personally, I think circumstance dictates which of these two approaches should be taken and the ultimate goal of the video is what usually dictates the circumstance. For example, someone living in California who wants to sell/market luxury homes might choose the cinematic approach as a way of attracting high-end clients by trying to sell a lifestyle, while someone else in a more modest/high volume market may focus on documentary-style videos that cut right to the chase and communicate the information quickly without any additional production value.

Regardless of your stance on this topic, I think we can all agree that video is an incredibly important marketing tool today and will most likely become more popular as time goes on.  According to "Humans find videos more engaging, more memorable, and more popular than any other type of content out there. Video, as a means of storytelling and advertising is no longer a nice option–it’s a necessity. If you want to increase conversion and exposure, a video marketing strategy is the only way to go." Here are some interesting stats on video trends that I think will surprise you.

Additional Insights

I reached out to some prominent videographers in the PFRE Community to get their perspectives on the purpose of real estate video. Specifically, I wanted to get their thoughts on whether real estate video is meant to: (a) simply describe a space; (b) sell a lifestyle; (c) promote the agent; or (d) all of the above. This is what they had to say:

Josh Mais - Sherpa Media

I believe our purpose as photographers and videographers is to serve our clients by promoting their brand (making them look really good) and maximizing their listing's potential online (making their listing look really good). So, I think the answer is (D) all the above. And the ratio of A,B, and C depends on the space being shot.

Ollie PatersonOllie

The purpose of real estate videos for me is a two-part thing. One is to market/sell the listing. Secondly but most importantly, is that it has to be both a good reflection of the realtor's brand and an effective piece of their marketing strategy.

First, in terms of selling the property, I feel as though it is better to showcase the listing in an emotional way as opposed to a descriptive way. An emotional video piece has far more impact on potential buyers than a descriptive video. An emotional video can show the highlights of the property in a compelling way and/or can showcase the lifestyle the property can afford potential buyers. I think that property videos have the luxury of being able to do this as they are part of an overall marketing strategy; or at least should be. My goal with the video is to get people excited about the home and build buzz around the sale. The photos, write up, and eventually a showing can do the heavy lifting in terms of letting buyers know the key stats about the property. I just don't think that videos need to show every nook and cranny. To be honest, online viewers only have so much attention so I feel like it is part of my job to show them the best attributes of the house very quickly.

The second part of the purpose--and possibly the most important--is to help with the agent's own brand and marketing. Great video is a reflection of the Realtor's brand. It helps elevate them from the pack. Obviously, this is not the only factor in an agent's marketing/brand but as we all know, great pics and video can help. A really good video can also help agents gain new leads and convert new clients whether at their listing appointments or online.

In terms of results, I have had multiple agents get offers over the phone from buyers who have only seen the property in the video which is pretty crazy! I have also had many agents comment on how the videos really help them secure new listings. Obviously, the results help justify the extra marketing spent on a video which in turn, gets the agent to do more video and helps me retain and gain new clients."

Joe Zekas - Yo Chicago

I stopped working with real estate agents several years ago and now work exclusively with apartment communities. That gives me far more flexibility in scheduling, much easier-to-shoot and edit videos, and clients who track results better and who commit to more lucrative year-long arrangements. The agents I did work with were top producers who represented sellers almost exclusively. These folks didn't need to promise video to get listings.

City of Chicago agents (or someone on their team) are typically present at all showings rather than relying solely on lockboxes. They view video as enhancing their productivity and resulting in showings to better-qualified buyers who rule out properties as well as those who want to see more. This is an aspect of video's value that seems to be overlooked.

My experience is that most genuine prospects don't/won't watch lifestyle videos. View counts back up that impression. When they do, it has to be about the location rather than the property. I don't do lifestyle videos and recommend other videographers to the few clients who want them.

My perspective is informed by talking face-to-face on the subject of real estate video with literally thousands of agents from coast to coast, and local buyers and renters. Also by paying careful attention to YouTube Analytics, and comments on posts at my website and on YouTube videos.

Narrated, documentary-style videos are the only type that are worth doing from the standpoint of producing results that agents understand and value in the long run. Selling them anything else, even if they want it, is doing them a disservice–and they'll almost always come to realize that and stop buying.

Simple walk-throughs have the advantage of being quick to shoot and edit, resulting in an affordable product at a high hourly rate. Heavily-captioned walk-through videos are a viable alternative to narration for photographers/agents who are uncomfortable talking in the video. Buyers want some basic info and they typically need to have what they see described verbally.

Videos must be posted at YouTube, with a title that includes the address and with a brief description and relevant keywords. It's the #2 search engine after Google, and a key part of the value proposition for video is that you're reaching a broader audience, and reaching it in a way that has real impact. You're also reaching sellers who might be moved to contact an agent as a result of seeing a video.

Nick Swartzendruber - Drone Cowboys

The purpose of real estate video in my eyes is to create an emotional attachment to a particular property that leads to the sale of that property. Other benefits, if done correctly, would be agent/broker branding/impressing homeowner.

Tacey Jungmann - Snowberry Lane

What's the purpose of real estate video? Is it about selling the house or selling the agent? That seems to be the major divide in people's opinions. I say it's both. When you're putting together a multi-media presentation for a listing, you're working to provide a complete and compelling view of the property. Video is unique in that it is the only media we use for real estate that engages multiple senses... obviously, sight and sound, but also a feeling of touch (as we pan along the velvet couch) and smell (as we linger for a few seconds near a fireplace). Every house has a "feel" to it. Video does the best job of conveying that feel. The more senses we can engage, the more likely we are to evoke an emotional reaction that compels the viewer to act.

Video is also about selling the agent. At its simplest, it's about the promise to the seller that s/he can provide all the available marketing tools. At its more complex, it's the ability to add personality and branding--especially when the agent is willing to go on-camera and truly "be" the brand.

Andre Mckenzie - Silverhouse HD

Video is considered to be one of the highest forms of marketing, therefore I believe the purpose of a real estate video is to:

  • provide agents with the richest form of visual content online to be able to market with.
  • connect with viewers on an emotional level and to take action (i.e. see the property/contact the agent/hire the agent etc...).
  • assist in marketing a home for sale online (via social media platforms, agent websites, etc...).
  • keep viewers engaged with your website/content longer.
  • assist in marketing the agent (lead generation, listing presentations).
  • display the caliber of an agent's marketing abilities.

Jordan Powers - Minnesota Home Tours

I believe video serves many purposes that can benefit all parties involved. My pitch to agents is that video will get more eyeballs on their listing, help build their brand, and potentially earn them the listing. When an agent can walk into a listing presentation and say "I will have a professional come through and create a video, as well as photography" that automatically makes them stand out amongst their competitors. Once that agent is posting a video for every single property that they list, potential clients will start to take notice. Also, posting video organically to Facebook versus linking to a video outside of Facebook (or even just a listing) will typically yield more traffic, as their goal is to keep people on their platform so that they can sell more ads.

For us photographers, video also serves as a great opportunity to make our brand stand out. Regardless of the type of videos that we make, whether walk-through, cinematic, or even (gulp) slideshows, every video that we put out is also an ad for our businesses, and the quality or style is a direct reflection of our brand.





Brandon Cooper

7 comments on “The Purpose of Real Estate Video”

  1. Well...for the last 10+ years I have heard the mantra ... "I think we can all agree that video is an incredibly important marketing tool today and will most likely become more popular as time goes on. " Unfortunately it is at a snail's pace and today at the cusp of 2020 it is still far from gaining any kind of foothold to becoming a force of marketing. Does it have potential? Yes, but you need to see if your market will support it.

  2. I look at video in this industry mostly from a business perspective... how can I shoot and edit video that is profitable and scalable for ME, and at the same time, offer something of great value for my clients? Video can be a huge time suck both in shooting and editing, so achieving a workable balance is necessary.

    I also believe video is market dependent…. some markets will support video and it’s pricing fairly easily, others not so much if at all. If you’re selling a home for $200K, video will be a hard sell to many agents if you’re charging $500…. on top of the cost of still photography…. are you really adding that much MORE value with video at that price point?

    I believe that PRICE is the single biggest factor in determining whether a house will sell. You can throw a blurry exterior photo up on a correctly priced house and it will sell eventually. You can throw $10K worth of fancy marketing at an overpriced house and it will sell someday… maybe. But probably not until the price comes down to what someone is willing to pay.

    80% of the value of good photography and video is to market the AGENT. It has been the best listing tool out there for over a decade, and still is. For those agents who primarily LIST properties, having a stellar marketing package just solidifies their brand and wins them more and more listings, making them more money. I see it happen all the time. If you can get an agent comfortable on camera as well, it’s even a bigger win for their branding.

    Video can create an emotional attachment to a property, but it also can show a buyer something they cannot see in any other way - the layout and flow of the home. How the rooms connect. You can show the street, the immediate surroundings and amenities (parks, schools, shopping…) You can create an experience.

    Video gets indexed by search engines almost immediately, and with sites such as YouTube (the #2 search engine on the internet), you can get great exposure on Google almost immediately (the #1 search engine)… also making your agent look like a rock star in the eyes of the seller (my videos on YouTube get hundreds and sometimes thousands of views within a day or two of posting.) 23K subscribers gets you lots of eyeballs… again, making the agent look great and getting ME new clients!

    This year I have shot just over 1000 homes. 10% are video only ; 90% are video AND stills. I literally only have 2 customers for whom I shoot ONLY stills. (another person on my team does ‘stills only’’) I am now also doing interactive floor plans on probably 1/5 of my shoots.

    Fewer homes, more money per shoot, less driving - that’s been my goal this year. By offering video, the quality of your clients goes way up as does the amount of money they are willing to spend. Get a good workflow down so you’re profitable, and that adds to the purpose of doing real estate video: Achieving great exposure and making more money for the agent AND the videographer! Everybody wins!

  3. I agree with all of the above. Each property, each realtor even each market is different in their needs and requirements for their marketing. There is no one size fits all in either still photography or video. And the way video will be used will also be different. Some of my clients only want a video of 59 seconds or less for social media. Others want the whole place fully covered. Few want a purely documentary approach which is just as well since I don't do that. For most I produce a social media short version as well as the full coverage video to use on websites which usually will be viewed after the potential buyer has seen the stills and the short "teaser" video and are hooked and want to see more before they drive a long way or even fly to see the property. I have a separate approach for the cookie cutter houses and properties that are always short videos since there isn't much to see and can be shot quickly and edited quickly so I can produce them quite inexpensively. But they all share the same character of appealing emotionally. First we feel emotions, then our brain tries to catch up by making rational sense out of what we feel. I want to produce images that will make people stop and look whether it is on social media, ads, brochures, property sites and the agency website listings or MLS. But you can't just appeal to emotions, you still have to show the property in its best light, literally and figuratively. You do have to show the property so people can see what it looks like as well as have it emotionally appealing. And all of these have to be supplied branded and unbranded. So all of the above indeed.

  4. I agree with Jerry Miller. Even though my market has a lot of high-end homes/condos agents are still not willing to pay a reasonable amount for video. They just whip out their cell phones and it's good enough. I've got some Sony video gear I'd like to get rid of. It just sits in my office and collects dust.

  5. I've produced roughly 1600 real estate videos since 2012 and have learned a lot in that time. I've done everything from large scale videos with actors involved all the way down to low end condo videos. Video IS becoming more important in certain regions while not as important in others and there are too many variables making it impossible to make a blanket claim on it's level of importance in Real Estate marketing nationwide. One huge variable is the market conditions. If we're experiencing a boom in Real Estate sales, you're likely to get more requests to do video as agents loosen up their purse strings in these conditions. In tighter markets where average days on market hits 90+, you're likely to get less video requests as that's money out of their pocket they might never see back again because home owners get itchy and fire agents more frequently in these market conditions which is always in the back of their minds.

    Where I live (pop 120,000+) if you're an agent not offering video for luxury properties, you're not likely to get the listing unless you're a friend of the owner. If you're not into listing luxury homes that will obviously not affect your marketing approach as much.

    I believe there are right and wrong styles of videos as each property is ultimately being marketed to a different type of buyer. I don't think a 65+ client is going to watch a high paced music video with tonnes of speed ramp walk through footage that skips all over the house? It's important to find out what the agent thinks is the buyer for the home before you plan out your video. Just having video to have it, is wasted marketing dollars in my opinion. It might assist in getting agents listings but ultimately it's not working in their favour long term unless it's in line with the style of home and potential buyer. I find too often agents themselves are more impressed with a certain style of video and want to show off to other agents in their area and end up getting caught up in that when they should be focusing on each listing and how it should be effectively marketed to those who might actually purchase it. Agents should know their audience as that is their job and our job is to create a video that speaks to that potential buyer.

    This brings me to my opinion on the purpose of Video for Real Estate. It should add value to a listing by adding information that photos alone cannot. It adds motion and should spark and emotional response with the intended audience whether it's through nostalgia or through a visual reference to what life looks like in a specific home. If it can't do these things it's perhaps not an added value to a listing. In other words, if it's a vacant or cluttered home with original, dated finishings, you're not doing yourself any favours by spending money on professional video.

    I don't feel video will ever take over or replace photography as it's an additional marketing tool that should compliment the photography and vice versa. Back in April of this year I put together a marketing video representing my company and what I feel is the level of importance when choosing marketing material for real estate. Feel free to have a look and see if you agree or disagree with this approach. I may be totally out to lunch but it's just my opinion.

  6. The greatest reason VIDEO has not grown faster is not the fault or quality or value of the video. Neither is it because agents will not pay the price if it is warranted. It is because Multiple Listing Services (at least where I am in Washington State) and I presume elsewhere, do not allow VIDEO to be published to the MLS servers (Compressed Stills yes,Video No) The main reasons for this is the space video would take would be prohibitive. Our MLS (the Northwest Multiple Listing Service®) does provide a field for publishing a link to Video or other advertising hosts such as Virtual Tours (also why Virtual Tours have not achieved the growth they could have). Our MLS does distribute all of the agreed upon listing information, including compressed photos, however the IDX information available to the members does not include the links to videos or virtual tours. Consequently, video or virtual tours, do not display on the IDX provided by the member websites. Still images are provided in abundance. The result of this is that the Video or Virtual Tours are never seen by the public unless the agent or tour providers publish links or media directly to websites such as Facebook®, YouTube®, Twitter®, etc.

    I personally do not see a change in this policy. The Multiple Listing services are bound by rules mutually agreed upon by all members. Though listing information (at least in our MLS) provides a statement like (Listing information provided by XYZ Real Estate) there is no specific reference to the listing agent or office. On the other hand, if the Virtual Tour or Video links were made available to the public, anyone wishing to contact the listing agent would only need to follow the link (unbranded or not) to locate the listing broker. This would likely violate the terms of the Broker Reciprocity Agreement.

    I hope from this you can connect the dots and see why Video & Virtual tours have not boomed and why they are not likely to. It doesn't mean they do not have value, agents just need to understand how to use them. Sadly, most unsavvy agent/brokers don't even understand the limitations of their own MLS and place values on these products that are just not there. Also why 90% of the business is done by 10% of the agents.

    I would appreciate any comments that contradict what I have presented. I am only reporting what I know from the great state of Washington.

  7. There is no rational debate here. There is one opinion that quite logically trumps the opposing view. A realtor's job (which involves hiring a videoographer) is to sell the home for the highest amount possible. The buyer who will pay the highest amount, higher than any other buyer, is the one who feels an emotional connection to the home. No one will dispute that. The number of beds, baths, square footage, lot size, etc, will not evoke an emotional response. These are simply the facts about the home. Nothing can create that emotional connection between the buyer and the property better than video. The right music, the right framing, lighting, clip length, arial shots mixed in with interior shots, composed in a beautiful way can create tremendous interest from a buyer but simply shooting wide angle shots in every room is the lazy way of doing video and while I think it's better than clearly and absolutely misses the mark on what a video is supposed to do in the first place: create an emotional connection between a buyer and the property. A good video will not only attract buyers to book a showing, but will end up being viewed multiple times by the buyer after they've seen the home in person and are back at home. The only arguments against the more difficult, cinematic and engaging videos are made by 3 parties: realtors in seller's markets who are selling homes for top dollar even with crappy videos of their listings, which has nothing to do with the marketing and all to do with the low stock of homes in relation to the high number of buyers, lame-duck agents who don't want to pay a higher price for a higher quality video, and finally, videographers who don't have the skill to produce the higher quality videos they see their peers producing.

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