With so much focus on HGTV real estate shows, it’s inevitable that our marketing will go Hollywood too:
A woman in a red dress twirls with a dark and mysterious man through light-filled hallways. Music flutters and surges in a romantically lit courtyard overlooking the twinkling city. A mischievous coda plays, and then the credits roll.
It’s a classic scene plucked straight from Hollywood. But this eight-minute mini-movie is far from a silver-screen blockbuster. It’s a real estate advertisement for an $8.5-million, 1.5-acre compound in Encino:
Successfully marketing a mansion now requires much more than panning shots from an iPhone or even expensive videos shot by drone. Real estate agents with luxury listings are now experimenting with full-on property movies — films featuring actors, story arcs, scores and Tinseltown-caliber cinematography.
“The classic old-school walking tour of the house is becoming more and more obsolete — with all the content that’s thrown at us these days, it’s hard to hold someone’s attention with that,” said Kristine May, who directed the Encino shoot and owns If I May Films in Woodland Hills. “People get attached to a story, and they want to stick around and see what’s happening.”
So what if the narrative and performances are sometimes more Razzie than Oscar? Real estate agents contend that movies showcase their properties in a way that helps buyers envision themselves there.
Real estate agent Ben Bacal, an early innovator of high-gloss property films, worked with married clients Ori and Nafisa Ayonmike to craft a $20,000 film to market their home in Hollywood.
The Ayonmikes star in a fictional narrative that begins with Ori skulking through the sleek, contemporary rooms of his 5,500-square-foot, five-bedroom estate. In the next 11 minutes, Ori tells Nafisa he wants a divorce, a passionate fight ensues, Ori gets kicked out and Nafisa chucks her massive diamond ring into the pool.
Amid all the high drama, production company Rafiki captures the home’s 20-foot ceilings, high-tech security system, marble fireplaces and tony Hollywood Hills neighborhood. The video of the property listed at $3.65 million has generated nearly 61,000 views since being posted on YouTube last year.
Online video platforms have become a key component in property sales. Some 36% of home buyers used YouTube, Vimeo or another video hosting website in their search last year, despite only 8% of real estate agents using film in their marketing strategies, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.
Bacal posted another movie trailer-esque listing video last year for a Bel-Air property, in which two children develop Ferris Bueller fevers and spend the day playing hooky. The pair splash in their infinity pool, shoot golf balls over the Los Angeles skyline from their lawn, try on outfits in their generous closets and have a puppy delivered by drone.
The 14,230-square-foot spread sold in December for $39 million.
Typically, the filmmaking cost is covered by either listing agents, sellers or both. Movie-style real estate videos can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upward of $30,000 to make, directors estimated.
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