By Curt Nickisch

BOSTON, Mass. - March 12, 2007 - Single-family home sales in Massachusetts hit their lowest level in 2006 in more than a decade. Now this year, the realtors and sellers are trying something new to get more homes to change hands.

They've begun posting video tours of their homes for sale on YouTube and iTunes. WBUR's Business and Technology Reporter Curt Nickisch browsed the online videos, and has this story.

TEXT OF STORY

CURT NICKISCH: For five months last summer, Pierre Bouchard never got a single offer for his half-million dollar home in Hollis, New Hampshire. So Bouchard tried something new. He re-listed last month with different realtor. And it's a different story today, thanks to this showy online video tour:

VIDEO SOUND: "Wow! Right out of magazine! Space, light, high ceilings, skylight. All highlight the Jacuzzi and the walk-in glass enclosed shower. Complete with multiple shower heads!"

CURT NICKISCH: In the five-minute film, the unseen narrator with a Steady Cam glides through the house room by room, selling the best features. Bouchard was taken aback.

 
This $2.8 million home
hopes to sell with
the help of a $300 video

PIERRE BOUCHARD: I was laughing because, it just looked like a professional quality level -- he just used phrases in there like: this is a fabulous bathroom, look at this, wow! So I found myself laughing and thinking: well, gee, this is a great looking house, why are we moving, you know?

CURT NICKISCH: Fred Light produced the video. The Nashua, New Hampshire man started BostonVideoTours.com, and he posts his clips to real estate websites, and also to YouTube for a bigger audience. Light says moving images trump the still photos and the blurry three-sixty degree virtual tours that have been the staple of real estate websites until now.

FRED LIGHT: People buy houses based on emotion. And video creates emotion.

CURT NICKISCH: He charges real estate agents about three hundred dollars for each video. Light says savvy realtors are buying into it -- and in his words, the rest will be working at Sears in a few years.

FRED LIGHT: So many agents got in to the business in recent years. They don't have a clue about marketing, because they never had to market a house! So their idea of marketing is plugging a sign in the front yard and giving the listing to the secretary, and tomorrow you got ten offers. Those days are gone. You know, properties sit on the market for months and months and months. So you've got to step up to the plate with something a little more engaging than putting a sign in the front yard. Sellers know that's not enough anymore.

CURT NICKISCH: Sellers desperate to unload their homes before housing prices fall any further are starting to turn to realtors such as Jeff Groper of Bretton Realty in Brookline.

JEFF GROPER: In the living room here, we have hardwood floors throughout. We have inlaid mahogany, which really makes it quite nice and formal.

CURT NICKISCH: This is how Groper typically shows this Newton home. But ever since he spent the extra money for high-quality videos, he says his showings have become more productive.

JEFF GROPER: We're hoping that the video will create better, quicker sales.

CURT NICKISCH: Groper says this way, instead of taking a buyer to showing after showing, the open house comes to their home computer.

JEFF GROPER: If the kitchen isn't the way they want it or the master bedroom isn't large enough, then they don't want to waste their time, saving the seller time from having to vacate the house, and also the broker's. Time is money, for everybody!

CURT NICKISCH: Groper's also paying for video tours of different neighborhoods -- which he says helps sell his listings to people moving from out of state.

But there's a cost to all those videos, and not every realtor is willing to spend the cash. One in Roxbury, for instance, wants to make his own videos with a digital camera. He plans a low-budget walk-through, much like this one produced by a realtor in California:

VIDEO SOUND: "Gorgeous hardwood floors. And look at the track lighting, isn't that fun?"

CURT NICKISCH: Whether with low-budget clips or highly-produced mini-films, realtors and sellers are hoping to use this new marketing tool to move houses faster and for higher prices. You don't have to sell Pierre Bouchard on it. Ever since he re-listed his house with an online video, he's gotten more interest:

PIERRE BOUCHARD: Ultimately, it's going to prove itself in a sale, and that'll be interesting to see. But on the other hand we have an offer, and that's more than we did in, you know, whatever five months previously, so, that's good.

CURT NICKISCH: Plus, Bouchard says he's enjoying living in his house more now -- the video reminded him how great it is, even when the housing market is not so great.

For WBUR, I'm Curt Nickisch.

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