Earlier this month, Homes.com published a new report about the FAA’S updated regulations on the use of drones in real estate marketing, and that brought about one of the most interesting debates among agents and brokers we’ve ever seen.
To help put the issue into perspective, Homes.com welcomed Raj Qsar, principal of the Boutique Real Estate Group, Corona del Mar, Calif., to a special podcast to discuss his experiences with using drones to capture images for his real estate business.
During the podcast, Qsar spoke about how his company originally owned two user-friendly DJI drones equiped with GoPro cameras, which he used to capture outstanding aerial footage. However, he had to turn the flying over to someone else due to the ever-changing operating guidelines, expensive liability issues and high equipment costs.
“It’s kind of like the wild, wild West with real estate and drones right now, and it’s hard to manage and regulate and all that,” he says. “We have been subbing it out to a very local, super high-end drone pilot here in Southern California.”
When he first started, Qsar says the drone was under the firm’s liability insurance, but it’s no longer necessary since he is outsourcing the flying to a company who uses a more advanced DJI-Inspire 1.
The benefits of using drones for real estate, he believes, include giving a bird’s eye feel to a property, and seperating it from others on the market.
“It’s all about trying to connect that potential buyer to the property someway, somehow, through a story, and one way to do that is with aerial photography and drone videography,” Qsar says.
One example he gives is a recent estate home in a gated Irvine neighborhood that was in his portfolio. At 4,300 square, the 6-bedroom, 4-bath luxury home had a pool, grotto and was part of an amenity-rich neighborhood. By using a drone to shoot aerial footage, he was able to offer potential buyers a true glimpse of what the neighborhood looked like-complete with its walking trails, athletic courts, baseball field, etc.
“With traditional video, you would never see it all,” Qsar says. “By adding in a car going through the front gate and the flying over with views of the community pools, basketball courts and trails, it gives an overall look and feel to the entire neighborhood.”
Qsar believes that using drones, along with traditional video marketing, can help move properties faster than homes that are listed without this new video marketing technology.
According to Qsar, you don’t need a pilot’s license to operate a commercial drone, but you can’t legally do it for real estate anymore. Keeping up with the rules, he admits, can be challenging.
“There are various sites such as DJI with up-to-date rules on their website and there’s also a direct feed for iPad minis and monitors to communicate directly with pilots,” Qsar says.
For his videos, Qsar likes to add music and make it feel more like a movie, even playing with the aspect ratio to add to a “cinematic look.”
Qsar says there’s no easy way to define the cost of using drones, but he feels that for an agent who wants to be on top, it’s going to cost more not to do it than to do it.
“What I try to do is preach for agents to stop thinking about ‘real’ real estate agents because all they think about is cost and that will be a barrier for anything that has the word luxury attached to it,” he says. “It’s going to cost you more not to do this stuff in the long run than it will to put the money up front. Video is not going away, but those agents who aren’t using it, will be.”
Homes.com’s Secrets of Top Selling Agents is rolling out a new podcast series of “unplugged” interviews with some of the heaviest hitters in real estate who have not only found their niche, but are dominating in it. A few weeks back, we published an article regarding the FAA’s new regulations on using drones for real estate. The response was huge, making it quite clear that this is a hot topic among agents and brokers.
After this, we knew it was time to sit down with Raj Qsar, a seasoned pro at using video for real estate, to get more insight into this new technology. Head over to Raj’s website,theboutiquere.com, to see some of his amazing video content and to get a better idea of why there is no better person to fill in the information gaps about using drones to market your listings! Here’s just a little recap of our sit down with Raj:
According to Raj, there’s A LOT that goes into being able to legally fly a drone for real estate. He says that he operated the drones himself when they first became popular and that his company owned 2 DIJI drones (the most user-friendly) that were equipped with GoPro cameras to capture aerial footage. But between the strict and continually changing operating guidelines, expensive liability issues and high costs of equipment, he now hires a company with a lot of experience to do the filming for him.
After traveling across the country and internationally for real estate events, Raj has found that cost has become an agent’s biggest concern when it comes to using drones and video. His response to this was simple, “It’s going to cost you more not to do this stuff in the long run than it will to put the money up front.” He states that agents need to recognize that instead of trying to reduce costs by keeping the use of drones “in-house,” they should invest in someone who specializes in this area. The properties that his team lists using video tend to move faster compared to the rest of the market. This is why he can’t stress enough that agents who invest more money in marketing will ultimately see their listings sell more often and at a faster rate than those who don’t.
These were just a few of the highlights from this exciting interview, so be sure to tune in for the full podcast! Head over to the Secrets of Top Selling Agents website to find even more educational sessions like this.
via Josh Cobb of Stepps
Raj Qsar, principal and owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group, joins Real Estate Pros to discuss How The Boutique Real Estate Group Are Leading The Way With Video. Raj shares his journey in real estate and what it’s like selling high-end luxury homes in some of the world’s most stunning locations.
From amazing photography, video and film production, 360-degree HD v-tours, interior design and staging, custom graphics and design, complete social media engagement and search engine optimisation, The Boutique Real Estate Group do marketing the way it should be done.
With more than 18 years of sales, marketing and leadership experience, Raj Qsar has achieved this outstanding level of production as a result of his unsurpassed commitment for providing superior representation to his clients.
Most recently, Raj was nominated for an Innovator Award for Most Innovative Real Estate Agent in 2014 by Inman News. He was also named Top 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders For 2013 By Inman News, and The Boutique Real Estate Group was recently selected as The 2014 Next Generation Real Estate Brokerage by Better Homes & Garden Real Estate & 1000 Watt Consulting. Their 2013 video called #goodbyehello was named Top 20 Real Estate Videos in the USA.
As a national and international speaker, Raj travels the world educating real estate professionals on the value of technology and social media. As a highly sought after speaker, Raj has taken the stage at some of the most prestigious real estate conferences across the country and he continues to make his mark in today’s ever-changing real estate market.
Join us in this episode of Real Estate Pros as Raj takes us on a journey inside The Boutique Real Estate Group and their commitment to best-in-class marketing and sales.
Who has been an inspiration to you throughout your career?
“Jesus Christ, my personal lord and saviour.”
What are your favourite things in the world to do when you’re not at the office?
“That’s an easy one. I’m a dad with three beautiful kids and a wife, so getting off the grid and spending time with my family without my phone in my hand.”
What is your favourite business book?
“The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive – By Patrick Lencioni.”
What is your favourite technology resource you use daily to help you run a better business?
“I literally couldn’t live without my iPhone.”
What is ‘one thing’ that prevents people in real estate from achieving success and what would your advice be to overcome it?
“Don’t try to do everything yourself. Find people who are strong where you’re weak, team up with partnered professionals and just focus on being consistent at your one strategy.”
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It’s about making a personal connection with marketing made for 2015
What is the deal with recruiting today? We are all talking about changing our industry, yet what we do to attract talent is concerning.
Many of you followed my return to real estate in a series I wrote. After passing my test, I received a lot of mail — 65 pieces and counting — from brokerage companies. These included everything from CDs with information to generic postcards without even a stamp.
I understand there is a list that brokerages can subscribe to that sends them new licensee information. I know the name of the real estate brokerage game is growth, so they are trying to do anything they can to get in front of potential clients (new agents). The question is, do they want butts in seats or do they want incredible, passionate and educated agents?
Let’s take a look at what I received — a lot of generic form letters using my full name (no one uses my middle name unless I am in trouble, which is why my mom wrote “Trouble” down on the birth certificate). I saw a lot about the brand and what the brand offers, but not much about the local affiliate or the people running it. One company spent $4.50 on postage alone, and nothing inside the packet they sent was worth saving; add in the print cost and the cost to create, and you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars per brokerage. Are people responding to these?
A study by Epsilon showed that 77 percent of consumers sort through their physical mail as soon as they get it. Even better data from the U.S. Postal Service showed that 98 percent of people check their mail daily. Clearly, mail is not dead, and as a millennial I love getting mail because it does not buzz, ding or require an immediate response.
I gave the mail to someone who wasn’t in real estate and asked them to give me an opinion. The response: “It all looks the same to me … it is just junk mail.” This mail does not showcase you or your expertise. The mail all looks the same; I can’t differentiate the difference between the brands. Nothing stands out. And “blah” really isn’t the image you want to promote.”
There has to be a better way. Here are my suggestions:
Problem 1: I saw not one personal note; there was no personal connection, and no one did any research on me. This is the age of Google. It isn’t about ego, it is about research. Millennials want you to see what they have accomplished.
Solution: Get the list — don’t mass-mail form letters with it, though. Research the names. Send a personal message to each recipient and talk about how your company can help a budding career. Can’t find them online? There is your lead-in — “Let us make you prominent online.”
Problem 2: None of the pieces appealed to a millennial; few had websites; few had business cards — and they were cheap cards. The ones that sent me CDs just baffled me. I have a new Macbook, and there is no disc drive to play a CD — so now what?
Solution: Update your marketing. No one wants to be with a brokerage stuck in 2005. Think Apple packaging or Mercedes Benz, and make it easy for me to research you and find more information online. I want to know the person sending it to me as well as the company. Don’t send me a CD I can’t play; send me to a landing page where I navigate around. Send me a mail piece and follow up via the Internet whenever possible — on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email if you can. Tell me what you can do for me … and I don’t care if your brand is No. 1 in training — what are you going to do for me at the local level? An online classroom does not count.
Problem 3: The recruiters and managers who are sending materials need to update their own online profiles. For many of them, I could not find more than a half-completed LinkedIn profile. That doesn’t help build my trust. Agents need testimonials; why don’t the people hiring agents?
Solution: Place as much value on personal brand, digital footprint and expertise on our recruiters and managers as you do on agents. Get an updated headshot, biography and recommendations. Be a magnetic ambassador of your brand so people come to you, and if I get a letter from you, I want to meet you.
Problem 4: No more butts in seats.
Solution: Research potential candidates to find out who you are hiring and bring the best into your brokerage, brand and the industry. When you reach out personally, you attract a higher caliber of person. Set the standard of what you are looking for through your first contact.
Let’s get this recruiting marketing past the garbage chute and into the hands of fabulous talent.
Aaron Woodman is the Los Angeles operations manager for The Boutique Real Estate Group and has more than a decade of real estate sales experience as both an agent and a managing broker/owner. Follow him on Twitter.
The Boutique Real Estate Group has been Highlight by Mashable in the article 5 Insanely Creative Ways People Have Used to Sell Houses.
In the future, selling houses might be less about realtors and more about video creators. While traditional open houses and “for sale” signs aren’t going away any time soon, in years to come it could be a viral video that gets a buyer to sign on the dotted line.
Straightforward video tours have been around for some years, but we’ve gone beyond that and taken a look at five fabulously creative ways people have used video to sell property around the world, from music videos to high-tech drones via 3D fly-throughs.
Plain video house tours are all well and good, but what if instead of a dry, room-by-room tour around a property, you used the video to tell a story and sell a lifestyle?
The Boutique Real Estate Group is very good at this, producing a series of glossy ads for houses that engage you with a simple plot device, making them much more interesting than the average tour.
In this example, seeing the kids run through the beautiful rooms as they find a suitable cubbyhole for a game of hide-and-seek is just a genius way to show the home’s family-friendly, attractive living spaces.
Now that the days of paper trenches are (nearly) long gone and you’re swimming in digital options galore, how do you know what works and what might not equal the ROI you had in mind?
Your schedule probably redefines busy, so why sleuth around for the answers? Just come to me for the digital dirt and I’ll set you up with the wisdom and guide you to the tools that actually ramp your business Cloud-bound (i.e. skyrocketing success in all matters ROI and keeping your clients and employees delighted).
For my team at The Boutique Real Estate Group, we’re OCD about providing world-class experiences for our clients; It’s our marching theme for Real Estate Connect NYC. We’re in the business of writing our client’s story. When they look at a property, they imagine and dream and wonder. When you set up your Real Estate business with the right tools, you’re able to kick off their story with a happy prologue.
Excited to get started? Wonderful! We’ve vetted the digital market for ideas that struck magic and tools that did wonders for our client base.
Check out the top five mantras and tools that help us set the bar sky high for client experiences:
Always Keep It Mobile and Tablet Friendly: Give us location independence and freedom to create, share & sign on the fly. We are all traveling 100 mph in a 55 mph world so this is essential to any business. If it’s not mobile it does not exist.
Apps Give you “Crystal Ball Powers” – Gmail apps integrated into your Chrome Browser give you Crystal Ball Powers that allow you to tailor messages, track responses and “big brother” inbound emails so you can work some magic with your clients.
The C in CRM Stands for (Client) Conversion: CRM integrations for your website (SMS notifications & auto-email responders) let you respond & convert clients quickly and track progress seamlessly.
Real Estate Apps –> MLS Touch + RPR Mobile + Property Radar App – Seriously – the entire Real Estate world in the palm of your hands. You are truly a real estate guru…
Invest in a Company Intranet – Creating specific channels to streamline communications to specific topics (Technology, Social Media, Contracts, Staging, Creative Design, CRM, Competition). And it has to be mobile.
We’re the pioneers behind Real Estate digital disruption. Now that I’ve shared my secrets, I pass the mobile phone (i.e. baton) to you to socialize your words of wisdom and tools of choice. Every winning tidbit leads to a massive win-win: inspired agents and brokers who’re empowered to make dreams come true.
Please share away in the comments below.
Get to know my team at The Boutique Real Estate Group:
On January 1, 2013, Raj Qsar launched his great experiment: a brokerage that eschews more traditional real estate methods in favor of a new and creative marketing approach. The Boutique Real Estate Group began its journey on that first day of 2013 with three agents, a creative director, a social media manager and an office manager — and it’s taking southern California real estate to a new level. The experiment worked.
Raj Qsar is the principal and owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group and a 10-year veteran of real estate sales and marketing. Raj shared his vision of the Boutique with me, and it’s a compelling story of the birth and growth of a real estate brokerage that tends to do things a little bit differently. It’s a story of success that provides insight into a free-thinking yet savvy group of professionals who, in Raj’s own words, have formed “a technology company that is super-passionate about creative design. And oh, by the way, sells real estate as well.”
I wanted to tell a story
Ask the people who know Raj and The Boutique to describe what sets them apart, and you are likely to hear “video.”
That seemed a good place to start my discussion with Raj, so I simply asked, “why video?”
Instead of the expected responses — “Video is the future!” or “Real estate is visual, it lends itself to video” — what I heard was, “I wanted to tell the homeowner’s story. A story not just about the home, but about the neighborhood and why they loved living there.”
Raj found a wedding videographer who took a narrative approach to his work: Instead of taking the standard pictures of bride, groom and wedding party, the videographer was telling the story of the couple. Believing that this style could translate to real estate, Raj contacted him and said, “I want you to tell a story. A story about a house.”
“What do you mean, a story about a house?”
This was in 2009, before video was a buzzword, before video was cool. Real estate “video” at that time typically consisted of a fancy slideshow: still images pieced together using zoom effects, with pleasant music playing in the background.
“That’s not video, that’s pictures stitched together to appear video-like. It’s fake video,” Raj told me.
Raj was at a listing presentation for an expired property. It had languished on the market for nine months with only five showings and no offers. Raj pitched the idea of a “real life” video to the sellers, one that would focus on why the sellers had lived in and loved this home for so many years. It would highlight not only the home, but also weave the community and local businesses into its story line. They loved the idea.
Raj walked away with the listing and a promise to create a new kind of video.
There was one problem: he had no idea how to do that. Passionate about creative design, Raj knew where to find the right people to pull this off. They storyboarded some ideas, professionally staged the home, took amazing photos, shot true video footage of the home and neighborhood, created an online marketing campaign, translated that campaign into multiple languages and set off to sell the property.
That was just the beginning.
“We are so OCD about every fine detail that we re-shot and re-edited the video several times, even going through multiple soundtracks and music choices before we went live.”
With the video complete, Raj delivered it to his sellers and asked them to share it with friends, family and neighbors. The home was in a small, tight-knit, gated neighborhood, and the owners shared the video with their Bunko group — which included about 70 of the neighborhood’s 100 homeowners.
Raj is proud of the fact that they took that listing and got an over-list price offer in two weeks.
But he’s prouder of the fact that the video was so well received that over the next three years, they listed 13 homes in that subdivision, setting price records almost every time.
The owners loved the video. They shared it with other homeowners who loved it. It was high quality, it was memorable, and it made the phone ring when people were looking to sell.
In case you think this reception of a property video was just dumb luck, there are other similar stories. A condo association played a video produced by Jeremy Lehman, The Boutique’s CTO, at their board meeting because it highlighted the neighborhood so well. A couple of the board members were considering selling their homes. Who do you think they called? The Boutique group has now listed 15 of those condos.
The video brokerage
Raj considers video a catapult to get in front of sellers. While a video may not sell a home directly, the quality and effort Raj’s brokerage puts into video sets them apart from the masses. It identifies them. They are now locally (and I would argue, nationally) thought of as “the video brokerage.”
As time marched on, Raj took video production in-house. He bought the equipment and brought in experts, lowering the production cost and allowing them to shoot videos on about half of their listings. If there is a story to tell, they will tell it in multiple formats, across multiple platforms, including video.
But Raj stresses that it’s not just video. When The Boutique takes a listing it usually spends about three weeks getting it ready before submitting it to the MLS.
At this point in the conversation, I stopped Raj and said, “Three weeks? Who takes three weeks to get a home in the MLS?”
“We do,” said Raj. They storyboard the property and neighborhood, professionally stage the home, hire select professional photographers, process and edit those photos, shoot and edit video, create a 90-day content calendar that maps out how the listing will be promoted on various social and listing syndication sites and discuss how will they share the home’s story. Then, and only then, is the property ready for the MLS and their marketing push.
The first hire
Ask most fledgling brokers or team leaders about their first hire and they will probably say they brought in a transaction coordinator, buyer’s agent or office manager. In fact, every person I’ve talked to who built their own team or brokerage started by hiring one of those people.
Until I talked to Raj, that is: His first hire was a creative director.
Their graphic designer on staff — on staff, not contracted out — is degreed. “It’s not like we are using the broker’s assistant’s cousin who just graduated from junior college to do our design work,” said Raj.
That attitude defines Raj and The Boutique. He wants the best, and only the best, for his brokerage, his agents and his clients.
This tenet is reflected in part by their technology standards: The Boutique is Apple-based, and all agents must be on Apple products. No agents design their own marketing material; it all goes through the in-house creative designer, and everything goes through the videographer. They have three preferred listing photographers, and those are the only three that agents can use. Before even going into the home, however, it is staged by their in-house stager. Why so much quality control? Raj said, “We make our agents do these things because we know they work, and they give our clients and agents the best chance of success.”
On lead generation
Pretty pictures are nice, but ultimately you need leads. I asked Raj about his strategies for lead generation and listing syndication.
Raj said they are on all of the major platforms: Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Homes.com. “By far and away we’ve seen the most benefit from Zillow. The quality of leads and amount of leads that come in from Zillow is superior to the rest. Our rep makes a big difference too. He’s a partner with us.”
One of the first things The Boutique does when they get a new agent is have them sign up for the “pro” level on all the major search sites. This ensures agent buy-in and facilitates lead management and consistency.
“Speed of response to Internet leads is critical,” Raj informs us. “We used to route leads to agents on a round-robin basis. As we got more sophisticated, and realized that if you don’t reply to a lead in two minutes that you’ve lost it, we brought in an in-house lead incubator whose job is to qualify and curate contacts.” The Boutique generated 3,600 inbound leads in 2014 though portal advertising and in-house lead generation efforts. Staffing a lead incubator position has freed up Raj’s agents and shifted them from receiving brokerage leads to receiving appointments.
There is no Plan B
Talk to Raj for two minutes about real estate and you will see that he is a very passionate man with a strong focus on creative design. This comes through not only in his listings, but in his philosophy on running a brokerage.
“It’s all about the consumer and their experience. We are hired to sell a property, but a property isn’t just bricks and mortar and walls. Every home has a story and if we tell that story well, we can create an emotional response — and when a buyer is emotionally involved in the story, they are more likely to purchase.”
How does that vision scale? Can it scale? What are Raj’s future plans for The Boutique Real Estate Group?
“I’d like to open another five offices in southern California in the next five years,” Raj told me.
“What about expanding outside of SoCal?” I asked.
“I get those calls about once a month. Some big-box brokerage or franchise will approach me about expanding. We love what we do. We hustle, we sell a home and we reinvest than back into the business. We add to our knowledge and technology. I have no Plan B. This is what we love, this is what we do.”
Video marketing in action
The Boutique Real Estate Group is known as “the video brokerage,” so we’d be remiss if we didn’t include some sample videos.
“It’s not all about the price point,” Raj tells us. “Yes, we are focusing on the luxury market by providing luxury services to our agents and clients. These services are what truly set us apart. We respect where our industry has been but we are pushing the envelope and going in a whole new direction — and we are just getting started.”
Visit The Boutique’s YouTube Channel to see how they market their listings — and their brokerage.
Here is a recent listing video that exemplifies The Boutique’s philosophy of storytelling.
And here is a video for a magnificent luxury estate in Hawaii. The Boutique Real Estate Group was brought on as a co-lister for this property due to their skill and expertise in social media, video and creative design.
via Inman Select
No points for tweeting, schmoozing or defending the status quo
In 1982, the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) was introduced which in effect, launched the Internet. Nothing has done more to transform culture, the economy and real estate in the last three decades. In honor of the 33rd anniversary, we are recognizing 33 people who are changing or will change the real estate industry in 2015 and beyond. No points for tweeting, schmoozing or maintaining the status quo; this list includes only those who are poised to change the industry and are taking actions to do so.