It was a very special house in North Vancouver, so Real Estate Agent Kenn Buxton knew he was going to have to do something very special to sell it.
The home's designer is a nut for details, and served as head contractor for the project, so everything is top of the line. The unique design takes advantage of a riverfront setting and features only the finest fixtures and finishings. However, this modernist house fronts on a busy road, and that alone could keep many potential buyers from giving it even a first look.
Buxton decided that video was the best way to show off the house's unique attributes.
It's not your usual real estate video. You don't even see all the rooms. There's no voiceover telling you about the features. And the house isn't empty. There are people living in it.
"I wanted to create a lifestyle video, not just your typical virtual tour. That doesn't give you a sense of who lives here," he says. "We really thought about the psychographic… the demographic… and broke it down, and then I came up with a script of how I wanted it to look. It was basically a day in the life of the home… from getting up, to having some wine, to what it feels like to just hang out in your house. And then in the same shots you get all those architectural features."
Selling a lifestyle is nothing new in marketing. "It's sort of like beer companies," says the video's director, Colter Ripley of Red+Ripley." They don't sell the beer and how it's brewed, they sell the party lifestyle. So in a similar way we created the beautiful lifestyle that's possible in the house."
This kind of video is often done for new developments, but in Canada it is just catching on for single homes (although more commonly done for luxury homes in the US). Time and money are the main barriers.
"We were thinking of this well in advance of the listing date," says Buxton. "It takes a week or two to go back and forth and fine-tune the script. And then the actual shoot was one full day-and-a-half. And then editing took another five to seven days."
But he says even before that, there's a lot of thinking that goes into a video like this.
"You really need to think about who's the buyer, what message do you want to send, and how are you going to send it? What are the characters going to be wearing? What are they going to be doing?"
Colter Ripley says that his company generally expects a video project of this scope to take a month. It begins with an initial, in-depth consultation on the client's goals, target audience and company branding. The concept comes out of that engagement process. As the project proceeds, all the details, down to the smallest prop, are recorded in a production book. In Kenn Buxton's case, the book ran to 20 pages.
One money-saving aspect of a video with no voiceover is that it can be easily translated into other languages, making it an ideal marketing tool for potential buyers from out of town. Buxton used it for both English- and Chinese-language media.
This was the first time Red+Ripley had done such an involved video for a Real Estate Agent. Ripley says, "Part of the challenge for doing video for home listings is that an agent will come with $500, maybe $700 at most, so literally someone has to come in, shoot for an hour, edit for a couple of hours, and that's it."
This video was a different matter entirely.
Ripley says, "We definitely pulled out all the stops. We used three or four different unique techniques while shooting it. We did wide-angle glide cam shots, drone footage, we had actors, and we shot everything on one of the top digital cameras money can buy."
Kenn Buxton realized his vision was going to cost a lot of money, but he was willing to take the risk.
In theory, the seller pays. Buxton's brokerage offers sellers different marketing packages, with the commission dependent on the level of marketing. A video like this is part of the most expensive package, and if the home sells, the cost is covered in the commission.
If it doesn't sell?
"We pay for this up front," he says, "so if this listing doesn't sell before the contract date it comes out of our pocket. In this video, and where we've been placing it, and our time, we're well over $10,000 in personal expenses that are unrecoverable if we don't sell the property."
Buxton says that you could consider this kind of video for a property priced at over $1 million, and once you get up to about a $4 million price tag you could take it to the next level. "You could include neighbourhood shots, you could have a whole family in there, you could have the back yard… you could do so much with it, it's unbelievable."
"The response has been amazing," says Buxton. "I've never had this response from a virtual tour. In the video you can feel yourself being in this house, you can see the people living in the house. It brings the house alive. It's been a very powerful tool."
One serious offer came in two days after the video was posted. That fell through, but within 18 days of posting, there was another solid offer on the $2.18 listing. A dual-agency sale, this one closed at $2.1, while a backup offer for above asking waited in the wings.
Social media spread the video quickly. On YouTube the video was up to 1,000 views shortly after it was posted. A boosted post on Facebook, targeted to people between 30 and 55 who love the outdoors and architecture, received more than 2,000 views.
On top of that, the video was shared on an architecture-themed blog, garnering hundreds more views. One viewer was so impressed he offered Buxton the chance to list his house.
Buxton has also bumped into many people who bring up the video and say they loved it and have never seen anything else like it.
"It's been a real opportunity to set myself apart from other agents," he says. "I think it really helps the public see you as more of a creative person who can come up with creative ideas. And that's great… for my reputation and for my business."