If you are just starting out in real estate media, then it is quite likely that you may be unfamiliar with several terms that can really be the downfall of good communication with your client, or they can build trust in your competency as a services provider. Although these terms may be interchangeably used in different regions with local lingo, for the most part these terms and their definitions are going to help you communicate more effectively with your clients whether they are commercial, residential, or even retail clients. In fact, retail clients have another entirely different vocabulary that you may encounter on any creative brief from a client, so check out these few terms and start saving them to memory...
Going live is the date that your client hopes to have the listing show-up in the MLS and across all third-party websites if they are trying to reach the widest audience possible. It's the date that the sale price and the details will all be revealed and the clock starts ticking for the realtor. This date is the number one thing you should be asking your client about when you are booking a residential real estate shoot. Everything works backwards from the going live date. By going live this means that the property has been entered into the MLS, get's "launched", and then will be syndicated out to all of the places that a listing might show-up. This would be the MLS itself, and then of course across multiple media outlets such as Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com to name a few.
If your client wants to go live by, let's say, Wednesday, then you would want to schedule them for a Monday or Tuesday shoot so you have time to get photos processed in enough time for them to have everything uploaded in time to make the schedule for that week's Broker's Open/Tour.
Some Realtors don't input the data into the MLS themselves and have admins for this, so they may need media the day before the property is going to go live. You should also know and gauge your client's technical aptitude at this point as well, because a) they may need their brokerage to help them and those admins can get backed up or b) they don't know how to upload the media themselves. I have had many clients over the years that really struggle with images and "Print" vs "MLS" sizes, and so they will need extra time to make the deadlines that they have set for themselves. Working backwards from the going-live date, or "launch" date, will help you both communicate better about expectations. It can also help you prioritize which media to work on first, because maybe the thing you thought was a 24-hour turnaround might not be needed for 3-4 days, so that's really helpful information to have (especially if you're not sure if media is needed back the next day and it's late on a Friday night and you don't want to bother your client to get the answer to a question to which you should have already had the answer).
Apart from the going live date, and the dates of the first open houses, the next most important date is to know when broker's opens happen in the cities where you do your most shoots. A Broker's Open also known as the Broker's Tour, is about a half a day when the new listings are available for Realtors to tour before they hit the market. This is when a new listing will either make or get cut from the short-list, and the more brokers that show-up for a tour, typically the more likely it is that there will be high demand for that property once it has its open house and is going to be ready to take offers. For example, in Berkeley, CA the Broker's Open happen on Thursdays, whereas in neighboring Oakland, they take place Mondays, but on Tuesdays in Alameda. This means that the stress level of your client in wanting to have at least a single photo back by the night before the broker open (so they can show-up to realtors as "coming soon", is going to be extremely high! You can anticipate this, and even be a great ally to them, by providing a single image the night before a broker's open, even if you won't have media back until the next day after the tours. And you can anticipate when they might need that media if you think about where the listing is located an how that will be impacting them. You can even check out the whole list of what's "On Tour" by reviewing what's happening at your local Association of Realtors website like this one for the BridgeMLS.
So the MLS is still a bit of a mystery, because there are so many different MLS providers all over the country, and real estate media professionals usually don't have any access to them other than deep links to specific content, but MLS stands for multiple listing service - and it may be named differently in different regions. The local ones here are the mostly defined by county, but with places like San Francisco having their own (San Francisco Association of Realtors), and the East Bay is represented by the BridgeMLS - which spans Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Within those counties there are yet further distinctions between the different associations of Realtors depending on your address. The BridgeMLS has a great infographic and map of California showing the different MLS regions that helps to make sense of it all. For example, Hopscotch Interactive is headquartered in Contra Costa County, so we are an Affiliate Member of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors, but our clients are spread out between Marin County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and beyond and so we get questions a lot about how to add something to the MLS as if there is only one way and we always say we aren't quite sure, because things are configured differently everywhere. This is also where the backend infrastructure can really hold people back (especially innovative media providers!), because the MLS may only have 1-2 fields for links and so this really limits the cool things we can showcase when a listing goes live through the normal channels. This is an area ripe for disruption from technology, but it would seem that the switching costs are still quite high, because from the outside looking in, it seems that the majority of the innovation comes from the 3rd party providers who simply try to do more with what the MLS makes available.
When a listing goes live on the MLS it will normally be syndicated to a variety of other media outlets and platforms such as Zillow, Redfin, etc. The National Association of Realtors defines syndication as a marketing term as follows: "Syndication commonly refers to an agreement between a broker and a third-party to advertise the broker’s listings on non-MLS websites. The syndication agreement's scope determines how the broker’s listings will be displayed on the Internet and where the listings will be displayed by the third-party." In other words, it's where the listing is broadcast to and where it will show-up outside of the MLS itself. When media is added to the MLS, this is typically what happens to it, depending on the settings that get specified. You will get the question from clients who want to know when something will show-up on Zillow, and to know what they have to do to get their media on there, and usually the answer is just wait about 15 minutes - 1 hour. Unless they did not allow syndication, then the APIs (integrations) between these providers and the MLS will then share that data and it will be pulled directly from the MLS into Zillow. A hot tip is to always "favorite" your properties before they hit the market, because that way you'll get a notification and can revel in the awesomeness of your media, can track and see how a property does and if it sells for a lot over asking, or you can also see if something doesn't look quite right and it can be a great way to do additional quality control over your media delivery. We had this situation this week where we delivered a floor plan and noticed it wasn't added, so we asked the realtor and they had been too busy to tell us, but they actually weren't using it, because it had too much detail of the exteriors and they wanted it simplified. Sometimes you can use the syndication to your benefit by using it as a quality assurance and quality check.
"BRANDED" vs "UNBRANDED"
You may be confused about this, and why this question comes up, and why you feel like you're doing double the work sometimes to deliver branded vs. unbranded media to a client, but the MLS has really strict rules about realtors promoting themselves and if they are caught in violation of this it can actually result in a fine - I have heard of a realtor being fined $1500 by not abiding by the unbranded requirements from their MLS - so it's serious - and you will want to make sure that you understand what media needs to be branded, and what media doesn't need to be branded for your clients like social media reels/shorts and Instagram stories.
Branded is usually what it sounds like - it includes the Realtor and brokerage logo and contact information, and it also will include the realtor themselves. The sky is the limit, but some brokerages have their own style guides that you will want to follow, but typically this is where the Realtor gets to show off in an awesome video and with all of their personalization in the media. That is the same for tours and websites - branded will include the brands and additional info and text. Unbranded is exactly the opposite, it's the same content normally, but with all of the logos, text, and even sometimes the realtor themselves, redacted from all content.
On the MLS there is usually a link for a branded vs. unbranded website or content, so you will want to always make sure and deliver it with that distinction if it's a website, Matterport link/tour, or video. In fact, some clients have the same kinds of rules about unbranded content, because they can then use it to rebrand everything and get the media out to an even wider audience. For some high-profile properties they may be looking to push the media to big news outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. You'll want to make sure you're ready for your client to have all of that media at their fingertips and to make sure that they have all of the chances to get the biggest marketing push for their content! You can easily distinguish between an MLS friendly and unfriendly link by always reading the links closely. However, not all of them are foolproof. Here's an example of the difference between a URL for a website and then a URL from a Matterport model that is ready for the MLS - the URL parameters read really differently, so you'll want to familiarize yourself with the meanings so you can quickly tell the difference and troubleshoot something that may wrong with your delivery. For most people &MLS=1 would not really mean that much, but to someone who has looked at a lot of URL parameters, they would know that it means that it is set for the MLS as opposed to &MLS=0, which would be the same as branded.
Unbranded for MLS:
Unbranded for MLS:
So these are some of the very basic concepts for you to be able to navigate the deadlines, lingo, and differences between some of the media that we work with every day in real estate marketing. Hopefully this will help you understand why your clients may have a particular date in mind, and also why they may seem immovable about the dates that you will be shooting for them.
By getting ahead of the conversation with them and asking about what is needed (branded vs. unbranded) and figuring out what their go-live date is, you will save yourself a lot of grief when booking, producing, and delivering media to your clients!
Good luck and let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We know there are many more definitions and nuances to the above, but we hope this will help you understand the few key phrases that you will probably hear over and over again in your business as a real estate media producer. And if you liked these insights, please head over to our YouTube Channel (and subscribe) where we share lots of other valuable tips and insights, and you might find a video or two that helps answer a question that you have about your business. And you can always follow us as well on Instagram @HopscotchInteractive. Thanks and have a great day!
Neighborhood Stories is a new project and initiative by the team at Hopscotch Interactive to document some of the most iconic imagery from the Bay Area. With Neighborhood Stories, our film crew will be spending time throughout the year building an archive of video footage that can be used to augmented our video portfolio, and can also be used to help tell better stories about the "hyperlocal" communities in the Bay Area.
It's common for our realtor clients to ask us to provide local "location" amenity shots, such as the great shops or public transportation in their area. In our first collection of stories, we will be showcasing video from Marin County, including Belvedere, Tiburon, Mill Valley, and Sausalito.
This collection will be ever-expanding and will be available to our clients to license, or for us to reach to and weave together more interesting content and videos whether for listing, social media, and beyond. All locations will have a combination of aerial drone video and photography/videography images. This gives us a lot of playing room since the Bay Area has so many small neighborhoods and communities that are feature-worthy. The project continue through 2022 and beyond.
View the first footage from Neighborhood Stories here on our YouTube channel and don't forget to like, subscribe, and comment!
CUBICASA GUEST BLOG POST by EMILY OLMAN "A Look forward to 2022 with our Real Estate imaging Experts"
Emily shared her thoughts in this guest blog post for Cubicasa this week, on last year, things she's learned, and the new year ahead! Read the full blog post at the Cubi.casa website here.
As we tick things off the holiday wish-list and are looking at the items we most want as real estate photographers, I decided to put together this list of all of the gear that I can personally say is great and useful to real estate photographers, as well as a higher-end wishlist of sorts for those looking to invest in a bigger upgrade in 2022. I'll put it into a few categories, mostly catalogued by the gear that my team can't live without, and then a few things we think that are worth the expense if you can afford them. Also, please bear in mind we are Canon photographers, but are really agnostic when it comes to gear. We have our preferences, but if you are a Sony person and there's only mirrorless for you, then this list may not satisfy you! But, for years we have used Canon gear for our professional photography and have never been let down. These are workhorse cameras and we think you'll agree after trying them!
Still Photography: The basic essentials
These essentials will cover you for almost every kind of real estate photography that you'll be doing. The choice between the f/2.8 and the f/4.0 is really a question of how much other photography you'll want to use the lens for besides real estate. The bokeh produced by the 4.0 is essentially totally sufficient for 99% of our shoots, but if you want that extra bokeh go for the upgrade and the speed of that lens.
Still Photography: Upgrades!
If you can afford to upgrade to a mirrorless camera we recommend the EOS R6, it's basically the EOS 6D Mark II in mirrorless, but with a lot of other fancy settings. Also, it will be easier for you to monitor the clarity and focus on those manual lenses such as the TS-E 24mm or the TS-E 17mm. If you don't have a telephoto lens, then investing in the 70-200mm will help you get those really far away shots in crystal clear fidelity. We love the 70-200mm for the ability for us to capture key views with excellent results.
Always carry the accessories with you! Especially if you're going to be shooting twilights we recommend both the reflective collapsible cones, and the high visibility vest. You'll also be happy to have a full lens/sensor cleaning kit with you at all times in case the unexpected happens!
Virtual Tour Essentials
If you're just getting started, look no further than the Z1 for almost all major virtual tour software compatibility. We do not recommend the Ricoh Theta V, it's just not professional enough in terms of the image quality and so the Z1 is worth investing in. You can use the Z1 for Matterport, Zillow 3D Home Tours, and also it can be added to an iGuide System (must be purchased from iGuide). If you want to have a great little device for vlogging or for creating Pivo Tours, then the Pivo Pod Black (business) is a good device to keep in your set. Consider their tripod which is not expensive, and is very stable, it just needs additional weight to keep it from tipping over as an extra precaution so we recommend using at the very least, a pair of Ankle weights to wrap around the center column! And, many of you know us for our expertise in Matterport, so we have added the Matterport Pro2 here...which is available on their website and if you can login as a business account on Amazon sometimes you can get GREAT deals like a Pro2 with a case included for less than regular retail pricing, crazy!
Virtual Tour Upgrades (Experience in VR!)
We consider this essential, especially for Metaverse pioneers!
What do you think? Do you feel inspired by the list? What else would you like to see on it? Good luck with all of your photography in 2022 and let us know your thoughts below!!
In November Hopscotch Interactive CEO Emily Olman had the chance to speak at the PFRE Conference in Las Vegas, NV to over 300 members of the real estate photography community. In addition to the panel talk on the conference last day, she also worked on a new presentation that dives into 3D, 360° and Spatial or "Metaverse" marketing for Real Estate. This is the first video of the series, which will be continuing in 2022, more specifically for real estate photographers, but we will also be producing additional content in the New Year for realtors and brokers on Metaverse marketing for real estate.
For the full article on 510 Vincente featured in the New York Times - click here.
Listing by Ira Serkes, staging and home prep by NurtureSource Designs.
Hopscotch Interactive was thrilled to see our photography accompany the recent listing for 564 Dwight Place in Berkeley, CA in Dwell Magazine! Link to the article is here. Please note aerial photography by Open Homes Photography, all other imagery by Hopscotch Interactive! The article first appeared in Dwell digital format on October 29, 2021. Listing by Nancy Noman, staging and home prep by NurtureSource Designs.
Matterport vs. iGuide is a big subject, and I am often asked what the difference is between iGuide and Matterport, as well as what new technologies should we be on the lookout for. Well, a couple of months ago I posted this video about the new iGuide Planitar system and it has definitely been watched and commented on by many folks who find this topic as fascinating and controversial as I do! Take a look and let me know what you think, and if you bought an iGuide system and tried both I would love to hear your thoughts on using this vs. Matterport. We use both in our business and are not quite ready to roll-out iGuide to all of our photographers, but we do think it has filled a missing hole in the coverage that our team wanted and needed to have the widest variety of tools to handle any real estate virtual tour needs. Check it out and leave your comments below, we love to hear from you!
We have just premiered the very first episode of our new show: Talking Walls, which is an exploration of the iconic properties of the Bay Area, hosted by Emily Olman and which first premiered on April 29, 2021 on YouTube.
The show was originally imagined as a way to showcase XR for real estate and as an opportunity to use it as a storytelling mechanism for buildings - making buildings the star of the show. Olman has spent so many years working on real estate and extended realities such as augmented and virtual reality, and yet there has still be a lag from companies and brokerages to embrace the technology or even to know how to use it. In this first episode the show explores 1212 Broadway, or "The Broadway", and features Anthony Shell, Principle Leasing Broker at Avison Young taking Emily on a tour of the property and then imaging the past, present, and future of the building.
There has been a lot of struggle in the commercial real estate market since the pandemic, and finding new ways to connect with potential tenants is really important - so this show can do just that - bring new perspectives to buildings and also share with viewers how new technology is being used to make decisions or to see the buildings in a new light. All of this is happening in a very casual and familiar tone so that it's easy to watch and get into, but the episodes are short enough that they would keep the attention of the viewers for at least a few minutes but not so long as to lose the momentum.
Kevin Kunze, Media Producer, has helped bring the vision to life with both his unique documentary approach to the filmmaking, but also his innate understanding of VR/AR technologies. Additionally, Bart Denny of SpatialFirst, has also contributed to the first episode by helping to bring the "green screen" AR elements into the show's opening scene with the use of PlaceTime Oakland, an augmented reality app for commercial real estate that SpatialFirst developed over the last three years.
So check out the first episode and let us know what you think! We hope that this is the beginning of a great new venture, and we have many more episodes and buildings that we are identifying to be a part of the first season. And thanks to everyone who made this possible!
To view the very first episode of Talking Walls you can view it on YouTube or watch the full episode here, and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all of the updates and notifications!
As of this writing, 2/3 of our main photography staff has already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with both shots, and the remaining 1/3 has already received the first dose. We have been extremely cautious and followed the company's COVID-19 policy for the last year, and fortunately no one has contracted COVID, but after spending a huge portion of our time and energy on getting PPE, cleaning, and preparing for a safe photo shoot (at both our commercial and residential clients), we are simply overjoyed that we have now gotten all of our field photography staff on the way to being fully vaccinated. It's a huge relief and we are also glad to share this news with our clients!
That said, out of an abundance of caution our staff will continue to wear masks and gloves for photography and booties when requested. We always put the health and safety of our staff and clients at the top of our list - and we are relieved that we made it through this year without any major COVID outbreaks within our vicinity. We would like to keep it that way! While the vaccine isn't a fail-safe against exposure it does provide us with a little more peace of mind, especially since already with the first dose it proves to be very effective against the virus.
We have also heard that people can sign-up to be notified here for getting an appointment to receive a dose via the waiting list, where they are offering to give that shot to an alternate if they have an excess of vaccinations at the end of the day. To find out more and to sign-up for alerts go to the MyTurn website at: https://myturn.ca.gov