Why Writing Great Property Video Narratives Helps To Sell Properties

January 28, 2008

Property video narratives are not often discussed in blog posts. I find that interesting since there are several conflicting schools of thought about property video narratives:

School of Thought #1 – Property videos should be less than a minute and only have music.  Narration is an unecessary extra.

School of Thought #2 – Property videos are most effective when telling the story of a property or its surrounding community

School of Thought #3 – Property videos should focus on the abstract “lifestyle” that a property brings rather than the specific details that can be found in the listing information 

Have many of these schools of thought are based on user data rather than observation is unknown to me. I dont agree with any of them as I’ve always been nagged by the thought of the size of audience that watches popular real estate TV shows. Many of these shows  may feature only 2-3 properties over the course of 30 minutes. 

Obviously, these TV productions are over a minute in length, narrated, and many people watch them. This indicates that people will watch such shows. We decided to start digging into the visual and asociated narratives of such shows.  We managed to found a number of commonalities that may be applicable to helping you write better narrative to sell your properties or improve your real estate video podcasts.  We wont list everything here but at least get you started on your way.

Create Active Instead Of Passive Viewers: Most agents know that interested prospective buyers look at properties with an active mind. They ask questions, make judgements, and trust the agent to indicate where they should turn their attention. To replicate that experience, TV programs use visuals and narration to indicate attention areas. Music may calm the savage beast but acts as little more than a passive space filler and adds no attention directing value in an active way. Try watching your favorite real estate tv program with the sound turned down all of the way and only soothing music playing. You’ll last about as long as people will watch a series of 6-8 photos or a neighbor’s home movie.

Guide Users By Building An Expectation Cycle: Narration in these shows does more than simply guide the user’s attention and help direct attention. The popular real estate TV shows use narration to continually shift the viewers focus between auditory and visual experiences. Often times, they aren’t even trying to tell any sort of story and the hostory of the home may only be covered in 10-20 seconds of narrative.  They are successful with these shows because they create an expectation cycle for the viewer. This is my made-up term based on dozens of hours of observing.  

The expectation cycle starts with an auditory expectation followed by visual fulfillment, an auditory explanation (usually factual in nature) and then a positive opinion.  The cycle then starts again. The user is therefore guided through a property in such a manner if only for the need to fulfill any pending expectation. 

For those writing their own transcripts, the expectation cycle might begin with a question or comment related to lifestyle such as “there is nothing better than having a space where children can play even on rainy days” (auditory expectation of what the viewer should be thinking about).  The supporting visual imagery may be of a playroom or other common child focused living space. The user absorbs the visual and perhaps is told factual information about the playroom. At this point, the narrator can make some positive judgement about what the viewer has just seen. We’ll see why below. 

Without these auditory and visual shifts, people will generally only watch video imagery as long as they’ll watch regular photos…about a minute or so.  With it, they’ll gladly watch 30 minute shows week after week or repeat after repeat.

Involve Viewers By Way Of Silent Judgements: People are naturally opinionated. Real estate TV programs seemingly create their narrative in such a way that viewers are encouraged to make their own silent judgements in an otherwise non-interactive media format.  These judgements are most often around details and almost always presented in a positive manner.   “Isn’t this balcony wonderful for a lazy afternoon?” now has the viewer thinking about whether or not it is.  This may not be the greatest example but the key is that prospective buyers must actively imagine themselves owning the property in order to make a judgement about the opinion offered.  The narration therefore becomes a key part of getting viewers to that judgement.  

Helping viewers be active viewers of rich media content is therefore the challenge of writing a great property video narrative. Note that we will even be applying many of the lessons here in order to improve our own videos. This post deals more with leveraging the fact that humans like to make observations and judgements…even in silence. Our most popular video watched all the way through is over 7 minutes in length and has been watched over 4770 times…with an amazing percentage of views through the end of the video.

 We like certain elements of the school of thought #3 because it helps viewers to think subjectively about properties and deal with a more basic human need:  desire. We’ll talk more about that in our next installment. 


  1. Technology is changing rapidly and the evolution of Internet and Live Streaming has just squeezed all the TV channels into one site. Check the link for Details

    Online TV Directory

    I am sure you would like it.

  2. Generally I think it is time to really use the video media as a real estate agency. I think that is being done i the states, but in my country (denmark) we lack to use video. But I think time has come to do this.

  3. Video and Real Estate certainly are becoming much more intertwined. I love your point about a Real Estate video not stating the obvious or rehashing what could be found in the MLS. This makes perfect sense. Providing information that the consumer may not otherwise know is way more beneficial than saying “look at this lovely kitchen”.

  4. Peter: Thanks for your comment.

    Hopkinton MA: completely agreed.

  5. Like the Danish contributor, in my country – Australia, we are lagging in the use of video marketing of real estate.
    The main reason is our deplorable broadband speeds.
    Having high tech websites that download video by carrier pigoen would be quicker.

  6. This is certainly one of the bigger challenges with real estate video. Agents used to the limitation of 255 char. MLS descriptions find writing narrative, flowing text a bit difficult. We’ve found that the average agent uses the exact same copy for private comments as they do for the public MLS comments. MLS comments however will not work as a narrative.

    There are some great blogs out there that can help with good marketing copy. Copyblogger.Com being one of them.

  7. Great advice, Michael. Thanks for stopping by.

    For those that dont know, Michael also runs a real estate virtual tour/video company (MLBroadcast).

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