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It's Showtime

03/22/2012, By Liana Grey


It’s showtime

11:04 AM, MARCH 22, 2012

By Liana Grey

When Brian Lewis, a broker at Halstead, began producing online videos of his listings several years ago, he kept in mind what he imagined would be the typical viewer: an apartment hunter browsing real estate websites late at night, sipping a glass of wine or beer.

“Instead of watching TV, they’re watching you,” he said. For a clip on Chelsea Stratus, a new luxury tower at 101 West 24th Street, Lewis played the role of a talk show host.

At 180 West 58th Street, he threw in a touch of irony and posed as a script writer brainstorming ideas for a Halstead promotional video.

And in a video on a condo for sale at 317 West 95th Street, the visuals take center stage, with footage of the property changing from black-and-white to color.

No matter the scenario, Lewis makes sure the segments have more in common with a comedy skit or reality show than a virtual tour. The key is to be entertaining, he said, “not a tour guide.”

Several of his listings were picked up by NBC’s Open House, a series highlighting luxury properties in New York, after producers came across his videos online. “I had a weekly segment on NBC for a while when the show was on,” said Lewis, who also served as a host for HGTV’s National Open House. “I always used my own properties as anecdotes.”

Brian Lewis

Of course, television exposure is no longer the holy grail of marketing it once was. “Video marketing has become more and more popular,” said Bruno Ricciotti, co-founder of Bond New York.

Two weeks ago, the firm’s in-house videography department launched an online series called Bond TV. “We find our properties sell faster,” said Ricciotti, who happened to study film in college along with his business partner and Bond co-founder, Noah Freedman.

“Sellers are more responsive.” Bond has been churning out 10 to 15 videos a week, featuring individual listings, footage of events, and buildings like 117 Beekman Street, a boutique condo development near the South Street Seaport. Informational films on entire neighborhoods are in the works as well.

Bruno Ricciotti

Rather than star brokers, the videos shine the spotlight on the properties themselves. “They’re like music videos,” Ricciotti explained. “They’re experiential. The camera floats through the apartment.”

No matter the approach, property videos have been generating buzz across the web. Since Lewis of Halstead began producing his videos, a handful of them have gone viral. “I get emails about them from all over the country,” Lewis said. “People put them on blogs, and I blast them out to my contact list.” Though somewhat costly, he said, the videos ultimately pay for themselves.

Jeffery Schleider, founder of Miron Properties, also receives regular feedback about an online video series he produced and stars in.

Rather than promote Miron’s listings, the short films, which feature some animation, offer basic advice on apartment hunting in New York.

A segment about rentals — which explains, for instance, what documents tenants need to present before signing a lease — received 5,403 hits on YouTube, and has even spawned copy-cat videos. “We’re not so concerned with selling property,” Schleider said of the concept behind the series, which was filmed in front of a green screen at a Lower Manhattan studio and animated in-house. “It’s all about giving away information.”

Miron’s customers, many of whom work at tech startups, appreciate the effort. “They’re of the ethic that information should be free and easily accessible,” Schleider said.

In the process, the videos have helped Miron’s Manhattan office secure additional clients from the tech world. To keep the momentum going, Schleider plans to expand the series to include other members of the brokerage team.

Posting entertaining videos online serves a twofold purpose at Halstead as well. Lewis’ archive of dozens of short films, all produced by a professional crew at Flash Frame Productions, have come in handy for securing clients as well as marketing current listings.

At meetings with sellers, Lewis often pulls out his iPad and plays a couple of videos. “Do you have your own video crew come in and do something like this?” he asks. At Halstead’s office on 79th Street and Columbus Avenue, house hunters can aim their own smartphones at listings displayed in the windows, and Lewis’ videos will automatically pop up.

The tags, which operate much like the QR codes now ubiquitous in advertising, help draw in potential buyers with images rather than lengthy descriptions.

“Real estate is a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ sport,” Lewis explained. “People want to experience the home.”

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