Why Are Real Estate Agents (except ours) Still Resistant to Shooting Narrated Video Tours?

Narrated video tours of all listings has been a trademark and “value add” for Golden Real Estate since our founding in 2007. Many times in this column I have promoted the value of narrated, live action video tours. Back in 2005 or thereabouts, I even did a presentation at the weekly marketing meeting of the Jefferson County Association of Realtors (since merged into the Denver Metro Association of Realtors) showing my fellow Realtors how easy it is to shoot and edit a narrated video tour.

Yet, 15 years later I still know of only one or two agents outside of Golden Real Estate who create such video tours. Analyzing 100 currently active Jeffco listings on REcolorado, I found that only nine had non-drone video footage (60 were interactive slideshows or just slideshows with or without music).  Only two of the nine had walk-through video footage, but they lacked some factors which meet our standards.

Our standards are pretty simple. It has to resemble an actual showing. That means the listing agent begins the shoot in front of the house, giving its address and perhaps panning to show the street and neighboring houses. Then he or she takes you in the front door, talking all the while, pointing out features that may not be obvious in a still photo or slideshow — this is a hickory hardwood floor, this is a gas fireplace, notice the mountain view out this window, this is a quartz countertop and Silestone sink, etc.

We feel it’s important to do a single clip of each floor, not separate clips of each room, so the viewer gets a sense of flow. Our preferred camera (a DJI Osmo Pocket — $199 on Amazon) has a gimbal stabilizer, so we can walk up and down stairs with Steadicam-like smoothness, but if we make a separate clip of each floor, the first clip ends with a view up the stairs, and the second clip begins with a view down the stairs — again to provide a complete sense of flow for the prospective buyer.

Because our video tours are the digital equivalent of an actual showing, we have sold some of our listings to out-of-state buyers who only saw the home in person when they flew in for the inspection a week later. They felt they knew the listing well enough from the video tour, and none of them terminated after seeing it in person.  Isn’t that what an actual video tour should be like? Click here for an example from one of this week’s featured listings.

So the question remains — why aren’t other real estate professionals taking the time to shoot actual narrated walk-throughs of their listings?

One answer may be camera shyness, but all the agent needs to do is to talk, not be on camera. Just imagine you’re showing the home to a buyer! In fact, being on camera detracts from the video. I used to be on camera at the end of my videos, thanking the viewer for touring my listing and inviting them to call their agent or me to see it in person. I no longer do that, now simply putting my phone number and email address on the screen as I speak from behind the camera lens.

Another reason agents may choose not to shoot a video tour is that we are increasingly drawn to out-source our tasks, including shooting the photos (which we, too, out-source) and even putting the sign in the ground.

Typically, the companies which shoot magazine-quality real estate photos will offer to create a video, but they are typically just offering to create a video file such as an .mp4 file consisting only of a slideshow of the very same still photos that are displayed in slideshow form on the MLS itself. If they offer to add narration, it will likely sound inauthentic because the speaker is someone who hasn’t seen the house. In short, such a “video” simply can’t compare to a walk-through of the home with the listing agent, who can describe its not-so-obvious features.

Real Estate, Oddly Enough, May Be the Last Industry to Adopt Live-Action Video

The term “virtual tour” was introduced to the real estate industry a couple decades ago, but only because photography vendors were able to convince listing agents to hire them and competed to offer the coolest technology.

Early vendors wowed us with 360-degree still photos of each room, although that is now out of style.

The latest “shiny object” is a 5- or 6-year-old product by Matterport. I remember getting a demo of it at a trade show in San Francisco. They call their product an interactive virtual reality (VR) tour of still photos in which you can use your mouse or finger to rotate each photo manually left to right or up and down. Gray circles indicate new photo points. You click or touch them and you are taken to that place where you can, again, rotate horizontally or vertically. Thus, you can, at your own pace, navigate around the entire listing choosing which room you want to enter and leave.

The “coolest” feature of Matterport is the “dollhouse” view, shown here. You remember dollhouses, where one side was open so you could look inside each room? That’s what Matterport’s dollhouse view is like except that it’s on your screen and you can rotate it on any axis. 

Still, it’s only a collection of still photos with no narration.  Personally I find it kind of dizzying and nowhere near as useful as being walked through the home by a listing agent with a video camera who explains the obvious and not-so-obvious features of the home. I wouldn’t call anything less a “virtual” tour.

I have been selling real estate now for 18 years and seen maybe a dozen different variations of the “virtual tour” concept, but almost all of them are nothing more than still photos presented in different, often interactive ways. None have the advantage of a simple video walk-through of a home by the listing agent.  That’s what we do at Golden Real Estate, and have been doing since 2007. Click on any of our listings at www.GRElistings.com to see what a good narrated video tour looks like.

What amazes me is how few agents do what we do. In the article below, I mention that 114 homes listed last week went under contract by week’s end, at a time when in-person showings and open houses were not allowed. Assuming they followed the 2-week-old rule against in-person showings, buyers of those listings had only the photos and “virtual tours” on the MLS to go by in making their decision to submit an offer.

One might assume that those 109 listings had great virtual tours, but almost none of them did. Surprisingly, only 65 of the 114 had any “virtual tour” on the MLS, but more surprisingly only two of them had a narrated video tour. Five of them had video walk-throughs with music. One had no sound track at all, and one really cracked me up. The agent held his smartphone horizontally, but his footsteps and breathing were all you could hear. Imagine if an agent walked you through his listing in person and never said a word about anything — that’s what it was like!

The two narrated tours were quite good in the detail which the agents shared, but they both shot with their phones in vertical mode and one was quite shaky since it was handheld. Too bad she wasn’t using the Osmo camera that we use, which has a gimbal, making the picture totally steady.

About half of th0se 65 listings with virtual tours had Matterport tours, which I found very disappointing. Others were just slide-shows with music, and many were just a collection of still photos or brochures.