Reel to Real Estate

Today's home sales call for video, social media

Back Article Nov 1, 2011 By Samantha Bronson

To sell a house in today’s market, real estate agents can’t simply shove a sign into the lawn, schedule an open house and expect offers to roll in. Competition is fierce. Increasingly, the agents who are successfully selling homes in this marketplace have embraced high-tech marketing, including videos.

When real estate agent Terri Briggs prepared to list an Elk Grove home last December, she knew she would have to emphasize the house’s value. After all, she was asking close to $800,000 in a neighborhood where other homes were selling for $400,000 to $500,000.

“There’s no way I could capture what a house has in a few characters online,” says Briggs of Coldwell Banker, who co-listed the home with fellow Realtor Nadia Zierke. “The video is a showing. I tell my clients, ‘It’s a showing before potential buyers even come into the house.’”

As part of her marketing strategy, Briggs had a video made to showcase every detail of the house, from its custom kitchen and hand-scraped hickory flooring to the master bathroom’s sauna. The house drew multiple offers and sold within a month.”

“The response you get from Realtors is that it’s ugly right now. No doubt about it, they’re struggling,” says Dana Howard, whose company, Sunday Open House, produced the video for Briggs’ listing. “They have to be fairly aggressive in how they market their houses.”

Do they just throw some pictures on the Web and wait to see what happens? The client wants to sell, get out of that property and do it quickly for top dollar.

The use of high-tech marketing in real estate is more than a case of an industry following a fad. A recent survey by the California Association of Realtors found nearly 75 percent of home buyers spent between two and four months online investigating homes and neighborhoods before contacting an agent. The survey also found that buyers use social media in their home search — more than half the buyers surveyed indicated they use social media to garner agent referrals, view home videos, connect to agents through Facebook, get home buying tips and review neighborhood information.

Kris Vogt, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for the Sacramento and Tahoe regions, knows this type of thinking is a shift for many agents who have traditionally relied on face-to-face communication. That’s why he has been giving talks to his brokerage’s agents about the changes.

“I tell them, ‘While we’re having this meeting, odds are there’s a consumer looking at you or looking at your listings,’” Vogt says. “You really have to be a presenter online. That’s the first avenue of exposure in a lot of cases.”

That means presenting themselves well online and at their properties. Today’s homebuyers want multiple photos, virtual tours, comparable sales information, neighborhood profiles and more, Vogt says. His agents can post enhanced listings of properties — including video and two-dozen photos — to top real estate websites plus sites like nytimes.com. The brokerage also recently launched a program to educate agents about videos, offering tips on everything from cameras to editing software.

So does this type of marketing work? On an intuitive level, Vogt says he believes it affects the sale of a property.

“We’re giving each seller we work with the best odds of selling that property quickly and for the best price,” he says.

Of course, he says, that’s something agents should have been doing even during the boom years, but today’s marketplace “has certainly fleshed out the notion that we absolutely must give the best exposure out there to get as many eyes on the property as we can.”

At Century 21 Landmark Network, agents have found that videos of their listings make a demonstrable difference. David Yaffee, an agent who has made videos of his properties for almost three years, says he finds they allow buyers a true sense of the house in a way still images do not. He now helps other agents in his office with their videos, and since the whole sales team has begun creating videos, the average time to get listings into contract has dropped by 30 days, Yaffee says.

But the new marketing involves more than video tours. Erin Attardi, an agent in Dunnigan, Realtors’ Land Park office, also writes a real estate blog and regularly uses Twitter and Facebook as business tools. Not only does she post updates about listings and mortgage rates, she also offers a peak into her personal life. Other agents, Attardi says, often don’t understand why people would be interested in her hobbies, but she says it’s all about building a personal relationship with people.

Half her clients now come from the Internet. “A lot of people who will finally get in contact with me will say, ‘Oh, I’ve been reading your blog for a year,’” she says.

As Colleen Edwards, CEO of EMC Creative, a marketing firm that works with homebuilders, land developers and master planners, explains, “It’s a great opportunity for those few builders and Realtors who decide they’re going to really own this. They can command so much of the market so quickly because no one else is trying. This isn’t just frosting on the cake but actually part of the cake.”

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