Property musings on Facebook - 19 September

by Alistair Helm in

Here are the articles posted on Facebook over the past week - short, spontaneous insights and observations which I felt needed immediate discussion and didn't warrant long-form articles written.


For property buyers Google remains invaluable

Video has its place in real estate marketing

by Alistair Helm in


I stood up at a real estate conference a couple of years ago and challenged the presenter when he expounded the view that the “Next Big Thing” in real estate marketing was videos for individual listings.

Time and technology advancement has not diminished this view, although as ever there are nuances as to the question  “Will video play an every greater role in real estate marketing”?

Here is my perspective on the matter. 

When it comes to property searching, the most critical stage is the early process of filtering. This is where buyers are building up a picture in their mind as to the type of property they want to buy and in doing so examining the various options, undertaking a filtering process. This process of 'include this / exclude this' is largely influenced by images. The brain can scan and process images at an incredible speed (apparently the brain processes images 60,000 time faster than text) and to prove my point here is a simple experiment I carried out.

I took a random listing from today’s property market - “Ripe for Renovation!!!” 65 Court Crescent, Panmure, Auckland a property being marketed by Ray White. (I used this listing simply as an example, not to make any judgement on listing agent or Ray White or the property).

The property has 12 photos a brief description and a video - all on

  • It took me 11 seconds to view all 12 images 
  • It took me 34 seconds to read the description
  • It took me 46 seconds to view the video

The pictures told me all I wanted to know about this property - how it is laid out, what condition it is in. The description to be honest told me a lot about the neighbourhood. However I was looking to buy in the area, I would surely have done my background research or be living locally anyway. The video though was literally a complete waste of 46 seconds - it was not to be fair, a video, rather it was a photo montage set to music with no voice over featuring just 8 of the 12 images.

The fact is that this type of video is the least valuable form of video content and certainly of no value on a property portal like

Home buyers using property portals such as Trade Me Property and are constantly in the state of filtering. Wading through the aggregation of listings. It could be argued that all that is really needed on such sites are the the primary data of the property location, price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and the size and of course the images. In some ways agent contact details and time of open homes as well as method of sale are secondary. The last thing that is needed to be honest is a video.

However I do believe there is a place for video but it is selective usage rather than universal. 

However before I expound on my view as to the best use of video as a passionate technologist I would be remiss if I did not highlight a massive leap forward in the presentation of property listing images in an automated fashion - imagine the video from the last listing on steroids. That is what Redfin has done in the US. In real time when you view a single listing on their site a computer programme creates a video with voice over curated with the primary content - try it out by clicking the Play Video link on this sample listing.

The business model of Redfin is somewhat unique to the US model of an MLS system with buyers and sellers agents and this is why listings offer a rebate! - the key thing is text of the listing has been translated into computer generated voice over and on screen graphics - its smart, very smart! Try any listing on Redfin and you can see the computer programme work on any listing.

Anyway back top my hypothesis of how video can be used in real estate marketing.

Before examining the form of video I want to state that the hosting of a video for a property should be on the real estate listing company website, the agent website or a solus website - this is where interested parties should be encouraged to go once they have "added it to their favourites" from a property portal.

The value of a specialised video is its ability to create in the viewers mind an experience of being in this house. This is undertaken through a professional video shoot that is shot and edited to become a visual story with a clear sense of a beginning, middle and end. My interpretation of this structure would be an opening which creates a sense of context. Where the house is in context to the community and how it is seen from its ‘street appeal’ - the exterior presence. The middle is all about the body of the house, how it is laid out and how it creates a liveable environment, however that might relate to the type of property, recognising this will be different for an city apartment to a lifestyle property. The tail end of the video needs to be that classic ‘close’ in the sales sense of the word - reinforce the key benefits of the property and leave clear message of how to move to actually visit the property as this is the outcome that as an agent is wanted.

Having outlined this is as personal perspective of the ideal video I can tell you what I would not advocate in video production. 

  • Handheld iPhone videos with commentary by the agent are as bad as iPhone photos - best left to the office party video
  • Guided tours by agents who insist on telling you that this is a bedroom and this is a kitchen, its as bad a being guided through in actual house - we are intelligent enough to walk around
  • War and Peace length videos must be avoided, the best videos are short and succinct
  • Hollywood glamour should be avoided - this video has to be the worst, although based on YouTube views its well liked. It is a promo tool for the agent and it certainly created standout!

If you want a great example of a well produced property video have a look at this one:


It’s a style of video that I have not seen before and until I saw it I probably could not have anticipated how much I liked it or even described the style and how it would appeal and why. The key point of difference for this video which I was almost cringing at the beginning was the actors. Once you accept them for what they are and they don’t burst into signing agents or get silly, I think they add a vital component of context. Seeing how people live in a house in a non-intrusive manner became for me both compelling and engaging, that had me viewing the video all the way through.

So I do believe video has a place in the marketing mix of real estate. It is not in my a core part of every listing nor should it be by some default of technology regardless of how smart or fast that technology is. Where it lives and how people access it needs to reflect the place the medium has in the path-to-purchase of home buyers and in my view that means on company websites of real estate operations as well as agent websites of rich bespoke content rather than competing for attention of portals which as pure-play operations should be about efficiency rather than bogging people down.

As a closing comment and example. Here is possibly one of the most extensive (and expensive) multimedia productions I have ever seen for a single property. A US$26m property on the island of Maui. The property has its own website, naturally. It does have which must be unique a 15minute movie that barely shows the home itself (check out the Explore tab) as well as a guide video tour, a virtual reality tour and a Feng Shui appraisal - have 25 minutes to spare immerse yourself in Hale Ali'i

TV advertising in real estate

by Alistair Helm in ,

TV in this country is still the number one media-of-choice when it comes to advertising; accounting for just over a quarter of all advertising spend in the past year. However it is fast being caught by online which sits just over 20% and has risen from less than 1% nine years ago. In dollar terms over the period from 2004 online has gone from a spend of $15m to $471m; whilst TV has gone from $643m to $634m!

Having foretold the potential demise of TV advertising, there is no doubt it remains a very creative medium, ever more so these days as the content has effectively become detached from the delivery medium be it TV, YouTube, Facebook or just viral social sharing.

When it comes to the real estate industry TV or at least video as a package appears to be being used more and more. I commented recently on the advertising campaigns being undertaken by both Trade Me Property and, neither of which for me really made an impression, certainly not enough to make me want to share the content or discuss with friends. 

Over the past month I have been aware of a number of differing approaches to video/TV adverts within real estate across the world, I thought it would be fun to share these and comment on the execution.


Let's start with a real estate company TV commercial. Coldwell Banker is one of the heavy weight players in the US as well as operating in over 51 countries.

Simple concept - take decent handful of happy people enjoying life around a house, add slick editing and slow motion effects place over classic Motley Crue track "Home Sweet Home" and bake in the editing suite for 20 minutes!

This advert has to be the best example of the pure generic advert where the brand is lost and instantly forgettable - switch out the end-frame and you have a commercial for any real estate company, or a life insurance company for that matter. Sure every real estate company would like to think that every one of their clients wants to think, look, feel and live like the actors in the commercial, but the emotion created in the advert is for the home, not the agency. 

Here on the other hand is a very different approach from a UK based real estate company Douglas & Gordon. Created a couple of years ago now and made entirely for online sharing this spoof parody of a real estate firm is distinctly memorable, although again a generic spoof with no brand reference!  

The recurring issue for real estate companies in their advertising is how to establish a point of difference. The feelings they want to engender in their clients has nothing to do with how they operate and everything to do with the outcome of the new home.


From real estate companies, lets turn to property portals. I mentioned earlier the two recent campaigns from NZ; in the USA the market is likely to be heating up significantly with two of the leading players Zillow and Trulia about to slug it out with a total war chest between them of close to US$100m this year alone!

Trulia rolled out their campaign with what they call "Moment of Trulia".

There are many of the same issues here as with the Coldwell Banker advert - what you might call "The path to happy house buying". Trulia does deliver mobile searching and insights into neighbourhoods but the message is till wrapped in the slick edit of "happy home owners".

Zillow began their heavyweight campaign last year with a 'tear-jerker' of a commercial which certainly had in equal measure fans and distractors.

I thought it was a great advert, loads of functional features that make Zillow a great tool for home finding and discovery, love or hate the ending I think the advert works and would make me use Zillow.

From the slick and some would say somewhat 'sickly' US commercials here is a new commercial from the leading Indian property portal MagicBricks. Be aware the advert is not in english but I think you will understand the message pretty well.

I think there is a smart campaign idea here, an iconic and somewhat spoof real estate person and his sidekick James Bond to be the super sleuth of property search pitched against the insight offered by MagicBricks - distinctive, memorable and funny! It is distinctive and for advertising to be effective it needs to create "cut-through" and be memorable and distinctive - this one gets my vote.

From property portals lets look at another side of the industry, that of organisations. Here I think I have found an excellent advert from Canada from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

It is different and the message comes across so well to me - why take a risk of not using an agent?!

And finally to end on a upbeat and happy note - the new industry organisation for young professionals in real estate (YPIRE) have developed a wonderful take on a popular music video by Pharrell Williams - Happy. The video is not trying to send a distinct message but for me it made me think for a minute about the image of real estate agents - no they can't all be like those in the video, but real estate is all about emotion and the best emotion is happiness!

Property Market Update Video - August

by Alistair Helm in

I was today invited by the team at to participate in what they describe as a double-shot interview with David Hargreaves.  As is expected the community that follow are posting their comments to this video - worth checking out.

The topics we discussed were: 

  • The Reserve Bank's move to implement the LVR restriction

  • The state of the property market

  • The real estate industry's continual promotion of auctions as the method of sale and how this potentially might be undermining their inherent value proposition over private sales 

These are coincidentally topics I have covered in previous articles, but great to be able to discuss these issues with David face to face.