Buyers these days go online to discover what’s available. And with the pandemic still very much a concern, they tend to visit the houses they find appealing by taking a virtual tour rather than an in-person look-see.
That’s because many sellers still aren’t comfortable with strangers coming into their homes -- masks or not. But a surprising number of agents -- about 27%, according to a recent National Association of Realtors survey -- aren’t making use of virtual tours at all. Worse, a poll of professionals at a recent town hall sponsored by Inman, a real estate-centric news service, found that 74% had never made a listing video.
Undoubtedly, many of these non-users are part-time agents, or those who only cobble together a few sales a year. So if you’ve mistakenly signed up with such an agent, either jettison him or her as soon as possible or learn how to make your own video. The experts say it isn’t all that difficult. Besides, even top-selling agents may ask you to create a movie of your place because they aren’t crazy about venturing outside yet, either.
Video programs range from the simple to the complex. You can use Facetime, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, Zoom, YouTube, Instagram or any of a host of other apps. You can opt for something more elaborate, but just remember that your production doesn’t have to be incredibly professional.
A smartphone is the only tool you’ll need, says Patty McNease of listing website Homes.com. (Full disclosure: I contribute content to Homes.com.) If you want to produce something more memorable, you also might want to get your hands on a tripod, microphone and light panel.
Otherwise, make sure to turn all the lights on and open all window coverings to allow as much natural light inside as possible. You might even consider replacing all your light bulbs with high-wattage ones.
Before you start filming, send pictures of your house to your agent for advice on what to highlight, what needs to be painted or otherwise improved, and suggestions of what furniture and personal items to remove.
All in-person tours start at the curb, so start your video there, too. The folks at Home Matters, a real estate e-newsletter, suggest picking an eye-catching location to start: say, a corner of your lot that shows your property’s expanse. Of course, make sure you’ve spruced up the yard and front door; a dull door and shabby shrubs will defeat your purpose.
As you move along to the front door, begin a narration to tell viewers about what they are seeing. But be careful not to divulge negative information. Saying the lot is a half-acre, the largest in the neighborhood, is good. But the fact that you pay someone $100 every other week to mow the lawn is not something a potential buyer needs to know.
Once inside, point out the highlights of each room, both visually and verbally. It’s better to stay focused on an attribute or two for too long than to move through too quickly. And camera angles are important, says Allen Alishahi of ShelterZoom. If you are looking to showcase your stone countertops, prop your camera on one side of the kitchen to show them on the other side of the room.
While you’re discussing certain items, try to build an emotional connection to them, says McNease. For example, at the fireplace, you might mention the many nights you enjoyed reading to your kids or grandkids in front of a roaring fire. Or at the rear deck, casually note how the family enjoyed “picnicking” outside when the weather was nice.
Some desirable items to highlight: The size of rooms, as in 20-by-20 or 400 square feet; ceiling heights; trims and moldings; walk-in closets; dual sinks; expansive windows; hardwood flooring; custom tile work or anything else that might set a buyer’s heart fluttering.
If you have vaulted ceilings, show them, too. But don’t mention what it costs to heat and cool your house until you are asked. And if you redid your kitchen, say, or put on a new roof, then mention that. Tell folks when the job was done, and that you secured a permit from the local authorities.
If you’ve already moved out of the house, consider virtual staging: a process of virtually adding key pieces of furniture to your video. Chicago agent Margaret Goss found several companies online that offer this service. This step can be helpful, since many people have trouble visualizing empty houses, especially remotely.
It’s hard to say how long your video should run. Some buyers will want to see and hear as much as possible, but others will lose interest quickly. Jameson Doris of RISMedia suggests keeping it short -- “a couple of minutes at most” -- unless you are using Facebook Live. Then, it’s the longer, the better.
If your photos and video are good enough, they might be sufficient to nail a sale -- some people these days are buying houses without ever stepping inside them -- or at least to whet someone’s interest enough to see your place in person.
Above all, don’t be overly critical of the quality of your work. You might have to take a couple stabs at it before you get it right. Says David Gumpper of the WAV Group consulting firm: “This approach is new, and will only get better over time.”