The Market

Sellers: How to make a killer video of your apartment (and why you should)

By Marjorie Cohen  |
August 27, 2012 - 10:25AM

It's a YouTube world, and that goes for your apartment too. 

“I get more e-mails and web hits from video marketed properties than any other," says Manhattan real estate broker Brian Lewis of Halstead Property.

Doug Heddings, president of the Heddings Property Group, agrees that "video is the best marketing tool I've had at my disposal in my 20 years in the business.”

Contrary to popular belief, video is not about making a place look better than it is; it's about “accurate expectations," says Heddings.

Take for example the dark first floor apartment, facing an air shaft, that proved to be exactly what one Heddings' buyer wanted: dark and pin-drop quiet so he could sleep during the day and work at night.

Lewis notes that video is "especially effective for international buyers who need to narrow their choices down before they come to the city. Photos, floor plans and text just don't cut it any more for listings."

In fact, says Heddings, at the first actual visit, it's typical for buyers to say “I feel like I've already been here.”

He says that one New York Times editor bought her apartment from him without ever stepping foot in the apartment—the video did it

For sellers, since the video works as a pre-screening tool, there’s the added benefit of limiting the number of people traipsing through the apartment.

Heddings says he was the first in New York to use video to sell homes. About a decade ago he was told that it wasn't possible—not enough bandwidth. But, a meeting with Phil Thomas DiGuilio, co-founder of real estate video publishing platform, convinced him that it could be done.

He laughs now at some of the first, “primitive” videos he helped to produce. "They were basically just tours of the homes as if I was walking a customer through them," says Heddings.


Vince Collura, President of Gotham Photo Company, a group that specializes in real estate media and marketing services, says his company is working on a platform that will help to quantify just how much videos influence closings; meanwhile, he's convinced that a good video can make a huge difference in marketing a property.

His videographers work with the broker to “massage” a script and then do the actual shoot, with the real estate broker narrating, because “ultimately it's the agent who knows best how to talk about the property," says Collura.

If there is one example of how real estate videos can almost pass as films, it's this: a $50,000 video being used to market a West Village penthouse by filmmaker Christian Schneider.

Below, some tips from the experts on how to shoot a good video (even if you don't have $50,000 to spend on it):

1.  Tell a story

A good video, according to Collura, is one that's engaging, and tells a story about the apartment and what it's like to live in it (e.g. focusing on a great view from the terrace, or even something more specific, like a built-in wine rack that's perfect for people who like to entertain).

One of Vince's favorites was one that he did of a Central Park West apartment that showed time-lapse video of the sunrise from one of the window.

Heddings has started doing what he calls “lifestyle” videos for his properties, showing not just the physical space but giving viewers a feel for what it's like to live in the space. This an idea much like the video above, in which the viewer sees how the open kitchen makes serving meals in the adjacent dining room easy.

2.  Keep it short

Collura recommends that a video be no longer than three minutes:  "People have no attention span these days.”

3. Pick a good videographer

Collura says about anyone can make a really good demo video—meaning that you can see an amazing sample and then get a mediocre product. He recommends asking to see multiple samples online.  And of course, check references. 

A good videograper will show steady images (no shaky handheld shots), balance the color (with just the right amount of brightness) and use professional microphones and voice recordings, says Robert Hayes, lead producer for Gotham.

4. Show your apartment to its best video advantage

Prepping for a video shoot is much like prepping for listing photos, says Collura. 

  • De-clutter. Get rid of all the small items—the dog's dishes, the kids' toys
  • Leave only two or three things on the kitchen counter
  • Wipe down all surfaces—get out the Pledge and the Glass Plus
  • Clean your windows 
  • Make sure your lighting is consistent—don't mix compact fluorescent bulbs with incandescent. The clash of the two is distracting on a video 
  • Make your bed ("Sounds obvious but on one shoot we did we couldn't get the seller's teenage son out of bed," says Collura)

5.  Get seen

Once you have a good video, you need to make sure it's posted on sites that are going to get eye-balled. Collura suggests YouTube, along with the broker's website. His company gives placement advice. 

Average cost of  a video? $500, which is usually paid for by the broker. 

Collura predicts that before long it will be possible to use special effects techniques to insert furniture where there is none in a video of an empty apartment and to make layered videos, much like DVDs that will have supplemental features like close-ups of the garage, the basement, the gym, etc.


Related posts:

Dear Ms. Demeanor: Can we go against the building's broker?

11 ways to bounce back when your sale falls through

Sellers: How to cut the commission, rock the open house, ace the appraisal and more

5 ways your doorman can help (or hurt) your sale

4 photo staging tips for serious sellers


Marjorie Cohen

Contributing writer

Marjorie Cohen is a New York City-based freelance journalist, editor and author of over seven non-fiction books. Her real estate reporting has appeared in amNewYork, Investopedia, and The West Side Rag. Since moving to New York five decades ago for graduate school at the Teachers College of Columbia University, Marjorie has lived on the Upper West Side, with a brief detour to West 15th Street when she got six months free rent in a new building.

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