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Zillow Announces A Feature That Allows Agents To Create Walk Through Video On Listings

In: ,
Published: 18/02/2016
By: larry

ZillowVideoJoel in Boca Raton, Florida pointed out to me that yesterday (February 16) Zillow announced a new feature that allows listing agents to use the Zillow Smartphone App to shoot a video walkthrough of their listing, edit the video and post it on the Zillow listing. The videos must be less than 2 minutes and are soundless. Because video is only uploaded from the Zillow App you can't upload any other kind of video to a Zillow listing. Here's an example.

The feature is open to any agent with a Zillow profile (free or paid) and who uses the Zillow Premier Agent or Zillow Real Estate App starting on February 16. Here is a post on on the feature.

So far every one of these, walkthroughs I've seen is pretty awful. Some are much worse than others. They are very jerky between cuts which I suspect comes from the App. It's ridiculous to expect the average listing agent to create reasonable walkthroughs with their smartphones. Here is another example.

There may be an opportunity here for real estate photographers get a SmartPhone stabilizer and offer a service of providing a much smoother better edited walkthrough than agents are likely to do. Doing a smooth walkthrough video well requires a lot of practice. Although, if all the jumpiness is coming from the App, there may be no way to make them better.

I have mixed feeling on whether this new feature is of any value.

24 comments on “Zillow Announces A Feature That Allows Agents To Create Walk Through Video On Listings”

  1. Love this article - I am both a real estate photographer and KW REALTOR. This is a huge push at the KW Family Reunion this past week in New Orleans for agent to do their own video walk through's. I find it funny since I just purchased the DJI Ronin M and have been practicing doing video with my heavy Nikon D750 and Nikon 14-24mm glass which makes the entire DJI Ronin weight a ton to walk around with. But it once I get the hang of it - very smooth and nice to have a full frame camera and wide angle lens to showcase a nice listing. Since I use Tourbuzz they only allow 720p on video and my camera does 1080p and has to be around 400MB total, so about 3 minutes long which is actually enough to get a nice overview of a home.

    I did not want to get into video, but agents are asking and my area competitors are doing it, so I have to ignorer to keep and get more business.

    So Zillow's App - not so nice, just like most REALTOR who use their photo to take their listing photos - same thing!

  2. The two sample videos look….ok, but I can see where there is going to be many problems with agents trying to use this feature. The samples were made with a higher quality camera and the second example, being shot with an overcast sky made exposure problems less of an issue than will a cheaper camera in far less ideal situations. The videographer made some effort to minimize bouncing from walking and used smooth pans to show the rooms. I will bet that in the wild agents will be shooting in "portrait" format, with scratched and dirty lenses, lower quality camera, paying little attention to keeping smooth movements and spending time pointing the camera at useless aspects such as the furniture and close ups of ceiling fans. ie, all the bad things they do with still photography. After shoppers slog their way through a couple of these poor productions, they will ignore the feature all together.

    I hope that agents don't just take the obligatory front exterior still, a quick video walk through with their cell phone and think that there done with creating proper marketing materials. When I was shopping for a home, I skipped the videos and "tours" and just looked at the specs, price and photos. Even though I was shopping locally, I wanted as short of a list as possible so I wasn't wasting time looking at properties that weren't a fit. The great thing about stills is it's possible to bang through a reasonably sized gallery pretty fast. With a streaming video, you are almost stuck watching the whole thing to see the home.

    A good set of quality stills remains the best place to start.

  3. Like YouTube, Zillow is a necessary evil due to their sheer size and reach. Most realtors I know are tired of fighting the unrealistic "Zestimates" that no one will sell their home for but buyers insist otherwise. Granted only one video is allowed but not certain from the article if video is now app based upload "all or none" or "in lieu of" with a quality video including sound uploaded through non-app syndication means. As most realtors try to sign people up on their personal/agency site, for enterprising agents, it could backfire on Zillow. Perhaps a scene or two of the home as a teaser within a branded slideshow noting the benefits and directing people to their personal/agency site.
    The other concern I have is the same as my concern of a "free benefit" our local MLS provides to every Realtor member. They provide a low quality tour (first 5 photos in a small frame - not full screen but closer to 1/4 screen). In addition to minimizing quality tours Realtors pay for where every Realtor at a listing appointment can say they provide a tour, my concern is that the trashy photo recycle tours and low quality walkaround videos will condition the public not to waste minutes of their life looking at them.

  4. There are always going to be less expensive or free ways of doing something and ways for agents to do it themselves. Its how we present ourselves to the agents that count - are we on their team, what can we do to help them make it better, what can we do to help them differentiate themselves from their competition. It's not about the images (although it is) as much as the business of being an element in the chain of a real estate sale.

    All photography is headed towards the direction of the smart phone or something like a smart phone. Every genre of photography is being hit from weddings to major agency advertising. It is the hard thinking, innovative photographer that will be able to overcome new technology and incorporate it into their business.

    Some of us are photographers long enough to remember going from film to digital and having to learn to process and create our artwork and commercial images a new way. We must look at how we all came out of that innovation and have improved our industry. We must embrace change. We must network, collect our ideas together and come up with new ways of selling our products and services to agents. It is only through collaboration and innovation together that we will keep our industry profitable and moving forward. It is through a blog like this, classes on new technology, classes on new ways of doing business, groups on facebook and linked in, etc. that we will emerge a stronger industry.

  5. Amazing what cell phones can do today. That being said, it does not matter if its a cell phone or a DSLR or actual video camcorder is being used, ignorance of the skill set necessary to make videos means most will make poor videos. Its not about the equipment but about the skills in video making. In that way its the same as a non photographer trying to take their own stills. Panning in video is always troublesome since unless done well it mostly skips and jumps. Happens in professional movies and TV shows too but exaggerated when doing a continuous video as a "walk through" since so much is so close that you have skipping doors and windows. And there is a natural tendency to "hose" shoot as though the recording device is a visual vacuum cleaner.

    For those of us who are doing real estate videos who are not trained videographers, I am sure most of us have worked through this learning curve too. And even when we have a smooth, great video as shown through the editing software discover, when you the upload it to Vimeo or even worse YouTube and the file is cut down, all these jerking pans get further exaggerated. There is a reason you have to pay money to someone with the skills and experience to do this right.

    On the other hand, for those of us who do this work, these samples are a great way to promote our business as a contrast and example of what not to do and why not to try it yourself. I think most realtors should stick to what they do best, selling property, and not try to take on the time consuming work of creating still and video productions. There has been a reason why companies have gone to advertising agencies to produce their advertising for many decades.

  6. Get ready for a bunch of horrible walkthrough videos created by agents that can't shoot stills let alone video. I have seen a few of these. None were good.

  7. Larry, you hit the nail on the head with the idea to get the handheld stabilizer. I shot my first property video a couple weeks ago. I was using both a GoPro and a handheld stabilizer similar to the one you linked to. Got there and the GoPro was working fine but the stabilizer was not. What do to? I went ahead and shot it anyway with a non-stabilizing handle. The results were not real good. Long story short, I got the stabilizer working properly, went and re-shot the property, and the results were MUCH better.

    You can see the results here:

    It was my intent to produce a realistic walk-thru video and not a hollywood style piece, and the end result reflects that. Further, I am an agent who does his own photo & video work, and this is my first attempt at video, so please be kind 🙂

    As for Zillow's new feature, it is a good idea with a poor execution. Limiting the videos to ones shot thru their app is bad. Limiting it to 2 minutes is bad. And no sound is bad. Really bad, as it severely limits the video's ability to have an agent promotion and branding aspect to it. What they should really do is taking a cue from which (in case you were not aware), allows any agent (paid or not) to upload ANY video to any active listing that the agent may have.

  8. As Bruce Theobald's video illustrates, the other factor that gets in the way of doing property walkthrough video with smartphones or GoPro cameras is quality wide-angle glass. Bruce has solved the stabilizing problem nicely. His walkthrough with a stabilized GoPro is very smooth and well done. However, the fisheye distortion is distracting. Bruce, Isn't there 3 wide-angle settings on the GoPro... did you have it on the widest setting? Perhaps just changing the wide-angle setting on the GoPro would help Bruce's video.

  9. Definitely a step in the wrong direction. I suppose it depends on the home, and maybe the business model of the realtor. An analogy for me is corvette trying to get people interested in their new 2017 lineup and walking around the car with a cellphone as their marketing video. To me, no media would be better than very bad media.

  10. Larry, yes the GoPro does have 3 settings (like wide, medium, narrow, or some such), and yes, it was set on wide when I shot that video. You are quite correct in that the wide angle distortion is quite pronounced. That is definitely something I am going to experiment with on my next video. Thank you for the suggestion.

  11. Those videos were absolutely nauseating! My head still hurts. Larry you're right, they need stabilization at the very least. But the real problem might be the agents doing their own walk-through videos to begin with. There's so much more that goes into a good video, it's not about an app. It's really something that should be left to professionals.

  12. I too am a real estate agent in Australia doing his own videos. I think you have to forget about the possibility of a smartphone being able to do video, and go back to the reality where the only possible medium to shoot video is using a dslr. Sure its big and heavy but it doesnt at all compare with a smartphone. I have around 300 rentals with new ones coming on regularly and I can manage to photograph them and video them in around 20minutes; and back on the computer post edit the photos and produce a video in 30 minutes. The dslr produces fantastic videos, whereas the smartphone cant compare. I am in no way a professional photographer or videographer but please compare your smartphone video to this that I did yesterday and you judge which is better

  13. @DAvid should check this out. This might change your idea about cell phone video. Sony just released a 3 axis in camera stabilzation technology. It blew me away too, But a clever agent could certainly make use of this technology.

    @Eeveryone Else I'm always amused at how some photographers are very threatened by new technology as it presents a clear threat to their current business model. Agents are notorious for being stingy with their commission so of course they are alway trying to in-source rather than outsource. If your so threatened, get an agent's license and take some of their business. You'd be surprized out how much of an advantage you'd have over them.

  14. Yikes. Where to start. I watched the first 20 seconds and that was all I could stand. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. There is a definite art to shooting a walkthrough tour. Having good equipment is only part of the formula. Your walkthrough needs to be planned, logical,level and smooth. This sample was none of that. Crap in,crap out and you get what you pay for.An Agent's time is better off spent developing leads. My clients understand this.

  15. OMG, a 1.4 million dollar listing and the agent is using a smart phone video app. You have got to be kidding. If I were the seller, I would be totally ticked. I could only watch a few seconds of the sample Larry linked to. Geez Louise!

    Like someone said earlier, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

  16. @ Bruce and Larry. If you use the software that comes with the GoPro, there is a check box you can check that will remove the fisheye from the video. It works pretty good. Then after the fisheye is removed you can import the clip to what ever editing software you are using.

  17. There’s a market for walk-through videos of individual unit types at apartment complexes. I’ve shot several dozen recently and wouldn’t be surprised if I did several hundred more before the year is out. They’re easy to edit and don’t require much post-processing. You can see the videos here:

    Some of the videos were shot with a GoPro on a Feiyu stabilizer; others mix GoPro footage with video pans and stills shot with a GH4 on a tripod. Just received a Feiyu MG stabilizer that will support the GH4, and will shoot with that rig beginning next week.

    Renters like these videos and don’t obsess about the quality. The utility / time-saving is much more important to them. Ditto for the property managers and leasing agents.

    The walk-throughs increase the productivity of leasing staff and result in “site-unseen” rentals by people who are relocating.

    We host the videos at YouTube, where we’ve been a channel partner for years. Most of the views come from direct searches on YouTube and YouTube right-column adjacencies. We also promote the videos in blog posts and other content on our website (linked above).

    Creating your own website / blog to aggregate and promote walk-through videos is easily done and enables you to charge a premium.

  18. It doesn't matter how handy the app is, nobody wants to see the equivalent of 'Uncle Joe's home video' as so many agents attempting video will clumsily knock around a house in under 2 minutes and call it a video tour. Consumers deserve better and if an agent cannot do a good job, they just shouldn't do a video.

  19. If it is just the fish eye effect and stabilization that is the issue (its not but it can be no matter what equipment you may use), you might check out a piece of software I have just tested for my own fish eye and ultra wide angle distortion. It also will do some color, exposure, contrast and saturation issues. There is a demo version to test with although it won't save the files for you. It costs $49 USD. I am still testing it so I cannot endorse it just yet but my first test for video was inspiring. But I am mentioning it now since these visual video problems seem to be pertinent: ProDRENALIN V1 at,l-us.html.

    The company seems to support Windows far more than Mac, but I found the Mac version did what I am needing. I am not fond of horizons acting like tennis balls.

  20. One of the brokers I work with tried creating a video with the phone app and it was very problematic. There is no way to edit the video and segments are not assembled in the order they are taken after being uploaded. He was plagued with the auto-exposure blooming and since he doesn't have a background in video production, the scenes were uneven. He also was using a vertical orientation. I have to give him some credit for not taking closeups of the inside of the fireplace and the heating equipment.

  21. Is there not a way to connect a dslr with the phone so that you're bypassing the phone's camera? I know there are apps you can use which allow you to screencapture from a camera into your phone, but I don't know if it's possible to simply reroute the phone's camera capabilities through a dslr. Surely there's a way to do this, right? This Zillow App is really annoying.

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