Zillow Shortchanges Both Agents & Buyers on Video

Despite the increased emphasis on virtual tours because of stay-at-home orders, Zillow continues to stymie those of us who want to provide narrated video tours of our listings.

Unlike our MLS — and most other MLSs around the country — Zillow does not let us link a YouTube video to our listings on their platform.  Zillow gets those links from our MLS but does not display them.  Instead it wants agents to become Premier Agents (which costs money) and then makes agents use a Zillow app to shoot a walk-through video using their smartphone.

That walk-through is limited to 2 minutes and does not carry sound, which is ridiculous, since the whole point of a walkthrough is for the agent to point out the features of the home. “Don’t worry about barking dogs,” we are advised, “since your video won’t have any sound.”  Isn’t that comforting?

In my opinion, there is simply no substitute for a narrated long-form video tour of a listing.  We’re told that videos should be short to match the short attention span of online lookie-loos, but I do the videos for people who like what they see in the description and photographs and want to take a deeper dive into the features of a home before seeing it.

Last month I sold a $1,250,000 home in the foothills to a couple from Washington, DC, who never saw the home in person. They had a daughter look at it in person, but they only had my 18-minute video tour to go by before signing the contract. They didn’t even come for the inspection or closing.  And that’s not the first such instance of a Golden Real Estate video tour selling a home to an out-of-state buyer who didn’t see it in person until at least the final walk-through.

We can thank Zillow for getting us more comfortable with shooting a two-minute silent walkthrough video, but all agents need to become comfortable with doing a video tour that functions like an actual showing.  Who would show a home in two minutes — and without saying a word?  Not me!

Some agents are simply shy about being on camera or speaking into a recording.  Well, you don’t need to be in front of the camera, so let go of that excuse. And if you simply think of the camera as a buyer that you’re showing the home to, you know exactly what to say as you go through the home. Point out the flooring, the counters, the view out the window.  It will come easily.

Lastly, don’t use your smartphone. Buy an HD video camera such as the Osmo Pocket (shown here), which we use. It has a gimble so that your video does not have the shakiness of a handheld camera. It costs about $350 at Best Buy, where we purchased it.

The Real Estate Market Is Still Active, Meeting the Needs of Both Buyers and Sellers

The Denver real estate market, based on my own analysis of REcolorado listings, showed continued strength last week, despite the imposition of a statewide stay-at-home order by Gov. Jared Polis that Tuesday.

To my surprise, despite the growing COVID-19 threat with all its expected economic impacts, a total of 1,799 listings went “active” on REcolorado last week — that is, between Sunday the 22nd and Saturday the 28th.

Although 53 of those new listings were taken off the market the same week — likely because of the stay-at-home order — and 24 of them were entered as “sold” without ever being active, that left 1,722 new listings on the market, and 387 or 22.5% of them were under contract by week’s end. That does not sound to me like a real estate market that is stalling because of the COVID-19 virus. 

It makes me wonder about those 53 listings that were pulled off the MLS because of the stay-at-home order. How many of them would have been under contract by now had the sellers and their listing agents not been overly cautious?

The homes that went under contract within their first week on the MLS ranged from a 2-bedroom, 1-bath condo for $100,000 in the Windsor Gardens senior community south of Lowry to a 4-bedroom, 4-bath home for $1.3 million in the foothills northwest of Boulder. The median price of those homes was $425,000.

To see how last week compared to “normal,” I researched the listings that were first entered on REcolorado during the same seven days in 2019.

Surprisingly, slightly fewer homes were entered on Denver’s MLS during the same 7 days a year ago — 1,727.  Of those, only 12 were taken off the MLS that same week. Another 73 were entered as “sold” that week. Of the remaining 1,642 listings, 670 or 40.8% went under contract within a week. That’s much higher than the 22.5% this year, but consistent with the slowing of the market which we saw before the advent of the virus. Those 670 listings which went under contract within 7 days last year ranged from a $95,000 condo in Aurora to a $1.5 million dollar 6-bedroom home in South Boulder. The median listing price was $395,000.

As you might guess, I was concerned about whether the new Lakewood ranch listed by me last Wednesday would get any showings, since showings didn’t begin until Friday, three days after Gov. Polis instituted the stay-at-home order. I needn’t have worried. We had five showings by Sunday, with one agent calling to ask if we had any offers yet because his buyer was interested in submitting an offer.

Also on Sunday, a buyer I hadn’t heard from in months called about seeing a new listing.  I set a showing for that afternoon, and the buyer is considering making an offer.

All in all, then, this market continues to surprise me. While it is slower in terms of activity, there are still many serious buyers willing and able to make offers on new listings.  Those buyers who are unable or afraid to make an offer, whether for economic or health reasons, are not calling us. Agents might appreciate the fact that only serious and qualified buyers are going to call about seeing homes for sale.

Meanwhile, sellers who want to sell should recognize that there are serious and qualified buyers out there and consider putting their home on the market. Just make sure you use an agent like us at Golden Real Estate who does narrated video tours of listings.

Video Is Finding Its Way Into Buyer Inspection Reports to Illustrate Issues

Video has been a great listing tool at Golden Real Estate for a decade, but it is finding its way into other aspects of real estate, too. For example, we will often shoot a rough-cut video tour of a listing for an out-of-town buyer who has asked us to preview a property for them.

At a closing last Wednesday, the wife of the out-of-state buyer told me that she saw the listing for the first time in person during the final walk-through. The husband had seen it in person, but she said our narrated video tour was enough for her to agree with her husband to submit an offer..

So, yes, narrated videos like ours are a great listing and selling tool.

But last week, a home inspector came to our office seeking our patronage and said he includes videos in his inspection reports.  What a great idea!

I had been so used to getting printed inspection reports (PDFs) that it hadn’t occurred to me that reports could include video.  But an increasingly common delivery method for inspection reports is to have the report “in the cloud” and provide a link to it.  That approach opens up the possibility of having video clips and not just still photos.  I will recommend that inspector to a future buyer, but you can be sure that I also got on the phone and shared that idea with the inspectors I’ve been referring heretofore, some of them for over a decade.

I’ve received inspection reports that were in the cloud before, but none of them contained links to video clips, which could really help to illustrate some of the defects which inspectors uncover.

I hope this idea takes off and becomes a standard in the inspection industry.  Now that every cell phone and every digital camera has video capability, it would require no additional hardware for an inspector to shoot video instead of still photos when a video would do a better job of illustrating the issue or defect being described.

One of the advantages of videos is that they include sound. It’s a great way, for example, to illustrate an overly noisy fan motor or garage door opener or the sound as well as the motion of water under a plastic vapor barrier.

With narration by the inspector, a video can also provide more context to a problem, such as its location.